A Tale of Two Cities

By Martin Hackworth

Patriot: The person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about… Mark Twain

I post news briefs on my Facebook page every day. I recently posted an item concerning the release of Bowe Bergdahl from captivity at the hands of the Taliban. Sgt. Bergdahl was the remaining POW of America’s longest armed conflict. His release has generated a fair amount of controversy. My own thoughts are simply let’s wait and see. In the fullness of time I am quite sure that we’ll get a full account of Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions and those of the President as well.

I am struck by a couple of things related to the White House about all of this. The first is that Susan Rice should never be allowed to talk on a Sunday morning news show ever again. I am increasingly prepared to accept the criticism of her as an operative who’s principal asset is political loyalty, not chops. The second is the hypocrisy of the White House narrative that Bowe Bergdahl served his country with honor and distinction while Edward Snowden, who by most standards has done much more to benefit the rest of us, is a traitor. Both of those characterizations appear to require a fair amount of moxie.

I just finished Jon Krakauer’s, Where Men Win Glory, a book about the life and times of Pat Tillman. Mr. Tillman was a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals who walked away from a big contract in the NFL and enlisted in the Army to fight in Afghanistan – just because he felt that it was the right thing to do. Tillman eschewed all efforts by the military and the media to manipulate his image as that of an heroic American patriot until after his death – when he was no longer in a position to do anything about it. It was then that the Army shamefully seized the opportunity to portray his passing, by fratricide as it turned out, as a hero’s demise in battle. The treatment of Tillman by the Army that he volunteered to serve will be talking point #1 should my own son ever get the idea in his head to march off and join.

What makes Mr. Tillman a hero to me is not so much that, as a matter of conscience, he walked away from the NFL and joined the Army to fight in a war, it’s that he continued to do what he committed to do well after it occurred to him that the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan was completely FUBAR. Tillman may have been conflicted internally, but as a man of his word he did his job and did it diligently – forgoing several opportunities to return home. A person that wed to their word is rare. Specialist Tillman actually did serve his country with honor and distinction and got shafted for his efforts after his death. Pat Tillman is a hero alright, anyway you care to think about it.

Mr. Tillman was the pride of New Almaden, California. His supporters there, led my Mr. Tillman’s mother, spent years pushing the U.S. Government for the truth behind the coverup concerning his death. And now that the truth is know, beyond any reasonable doubt, those in the Army most responsible for the deliberately false representation of his death have suffered nary an inconvenience so much as a hangnail as the result of their actions.

The release of Bowe Bergdahl, the pride of Hailey, Idaho, has unleashed impassioned commentary on all sides of the political spectrum. A few, who initially argued for and praised the release of Bergdahl, are now vehemently criticizing the conditions of his release. I reckon that some just have a hard time making up their minds. Personally, I don’t know what the story on Bowe Bergdahal happens to be at the moment, and unless you are equipped with the gift of omniscience, neither do you. By all accounts Bergdahl is well-read and intelligent. Beyond that, the narratives diverge.

Bowe Bergdahl is either an incredibly naive young person (enough so to believe that Afghanistan was like Walden Pond, without the hardwoods), or a deserter who thought that smoking hash with the Taliban was preferable to shooting at them. It is possible that Bergdahl’s actions may have resulted in the deaths of other soldiers (though reporting by the New York Times casts some doubt on this). It is a bit troubling that none of his fellow soldiers seems to want to speak up in his favor yet (at least not publicly), but being considered flaky in a fraternal situation often results in a lack of support when things go south.

So when it comes to Bowe Bergdahal, I just don’t know. Pat Tillman, on the other hand, is the man. I’d much prefer to honor one than slag the other.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club Award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist and the editor of MotorcycleJazz.com.