A big story in the Washington Post indicates that U.S. Army guy Bowe Bergdahl had some possibly serious mental issues that may have contributed to his walking off his base in 2009, and possibly should have kept him from even enlisting in the first place. And we are talking about serious mental issues besides his newly exposed love for Ayn Rand and desire to Go Galt.
We’re not sure if this will make any difference at all to the Barking Classes (what’s one more flip-flop between friends, as the Teabaggers suddenly discover Bergdahl’s inherent worth as a human being and American soldier who maybe wasn’t worth leaving behind after all?), but it certainly complicates the picture of Bergdahl as an Evil Jihadi Traitor who didn’t deserve to be brought back to the United States. Not that wingnuts have any problem calling for the execution of the mentally ill, either, because after all, that’s just demonic possession anyway.
WaPo was given a journal and a collection of Bergdahl’s writings by a friend, Kim Harrison, who had received them after his disappearance; he had designated her as the person to whom personal effects should be sent, and she contacted the Post in an effort to counter the rightwing image of Bergdahl as a dangerous Taliban sympathizer who somehow planned to desert and Destroy America.
Among other things, the story shows that Bergdahl was “discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard for psychological reasons” in 2006, which actually should have disqualified him from joining the Army in 2008. But by that point, the military needed lots of warm bodies in Iraq and Afghanistan, so apparently the recruiters were willing to overlook a bit of mental instability.
According to Coast Guard records, Bergdahl left the service with an “uncharacterized discharge” after 26 days of basic training in early 2006. The term applies to people discharged before completing 180 days of service. No reason is specified in such discharges, and a Coast Guard representative said no further information was available.
A senior Army official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Army was aware of a prior “administrative discharge” when Bergdahl enlisted. A separate Army official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Bergdahl would have required a waiver to enlist under such circumstances. The official could not immediately confirm that Bergdahl received one.
The Post notes that the staff shortages at the time were severe enough that the Army issued waivers to people with criminal records and health problems that would normally disqualify them; 1 in 5 recruits received such waivers at the time.
Bergdahl’s journal includes entries that mention hearing voices, worries about losing his mind, slipping into blackness and so on. Nothing in there about his desire to declare jihad or betray his country. He sounds like a very messed up young man who’s deeply in need of help. He fantasized about walking away to China, or into the mountains, or into
the artist’s painted world, hiding from the fields of blood and screams, hidden from the monster within himself.
He also was a big fan of Ayn Rand, and on June 27, 2009, emailed friends a message titled “Who is John Galt,” which included this passage:
“I will serve no bandit, nor lair, for i know John Galt, and understand . . .” Bergdahl wrote. “This life is too short to serve those who compromise value, and its ethics. i am done compromising.”
Three days later, Bergdahl walked off his post.
To us, it sounds like he was a pretty screwed up kid who badly needed help; we’ve already seen a couple of blog posts from the wingnuttosphere that have dismissed the notion of having any sympathy for him — if anything, says one thought leader, it just makes “the idea that we gave up five of the Taliban’s 5-star Blue Chips in exchange for this rambling nutcase … all the more disturbing.” The same blog hopes that maybe the news that Bergdahl liked Ayn Rand “will kill the Lefties’ love for Bergdahl,” which we would say maybe misses the point just a little bit.
Not that it’s any big surprise, but we are reminded once again that a Disney movie has a more highly developed moral sense than some teabaggers.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. Damned cartoons. Then again, “Lilo & Stitch” also has a more highly developed moral sense than “Atlas Shrugged.”