Five Quick Things to Know About Bowe Bergdahl

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It’s an open question whether the White House handled the recovery of Bowe Bergdahl well. Probably not, and it’s a legitimate topic for speculation. But on the substantive question of the prisoner exchange itself, here are five things you should keep firmly in mind:

  1. We don’t know if Bergdahl is a deserter. We’ll only know that after the military legal process has run its course and rendered a verdict. Obviously nothing is going to shut up the hotheads and Fox News blowhards, but the rest of us on both left and right would be wise to reserve judgment until that happens.
  2. Either way, we still should have gotten Bergdahl back. We don’t leave prisoners behind to face justice from the enemy. We dish it out ourselves.
  3. The evidence suggests that, in fact, probably nobody died searching for Bergdahl after he left the base.
  4. When wars end, you exchange prisoners. This is always distasteful and contentious: the issue of POWs was so fraught at the end of the Korean War that it actually extended the fighting for more than a year. But eventually you agree to an exchange, and the Afghanistan war is no different. Foreign policy hawks might not like it, but America’s longest war is finally coming to an end, which means our Taliban prisoners would have been exchanged fairly soon no matter what. We didn’t actually give up much in this deal.
  5. As Michael Hastings reported two years ago, Bergdahl didn’t think much of his unit, and his unit didn’t think much of him. Given the rancor between them, it’s not surprising that his teammates have plenty of lurid things to say about him now. They never liked him much in the first place. For the time being, you should take everything they say with a big grain of salt.

Practically everything you’re hearing right now about Bowe Bergdahl is being driven by extreme partisans with a huge ax to grind. You should view the entire feeding frenzy with intense skepticism until we learn more about what actually happened.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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