Brandon Friedman, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, expressed dissatisfaction with public debate over the merits of the Obama administration’s swap of five terrorists in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl – who had been held since 2009 by Afghanistan’s Taliban militants.
Writing on Twitter, the bureaucrat argued that some critics have too readily labeled Bergdahl a traitor. “Here's the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership?”
Several members of Bergdahl’s U.S. Army unit have expressed great reservations about attaching any hero status to Bergdahl himself, while also calling him to explain his departure from his post and subsequent statements he made after being held by the Taliban. The Army concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl had indeed deserted his post, having found that he had neatly folded his sleeping bag, and leaving behind his uniform, weapon and sensitive gear.
Friedman is a veteran Army officer who himself grew disillusioned with war and is the recipient of two Bronze Stars for national service in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is the author of The War I Always Wanted, a book that details his disillusion.
Bureaucrat Friedman insists that it is “not out of the realm of possibility” for Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers to be psychopaths, and demanded that critics withhold judgment. “I’m not a fan of such speculation, but this story could not be more unbalanced - with so many premature calls of ‘traitor,’” he said.
Also on Twitter, Friedman scorned critics. “One reason why the Bergdahl thing is so overheated: Many Americans--including military 'supporters'--have a cartoonish view of the military,” he said on June 4. “Actual military people, specifically those who served with--and criticized--Bergdahl, are satisfied he was returned safely.”
“[T]he loudest, most venomous commentary on the topic comes from the least informed,” he said.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.