Politics
U.S. President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014. Obama, flanked by the parents of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who is being released after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban, said in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday that the United States has an "ironclad commitment" to bring home its prisoners of war. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  U.S. President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014. Obama, flanked by the parents of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who is being released after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban, said in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday that the United States has an "ironclad commitment" to bring home its prisoners of war. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   

Bergdahl’s Army Comrades May Be ‘Psychopaths,’ Says Administration Official

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

An administration press secretary suggested overnight that U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl might have been justified in deserting his battlefield post, partly because his platoon-mates might have been “psychopaths.”

Bergdahl might “be worthy of sympathy” for distrusting his leadership and for having “walked off,” said Brandon Friedman, a Democratic activist, a former Iraq and Afghan veteran and now a top public affairs official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Outsiders shouldn’t jump to conclusion about Bergdahl’s actions, said Friedman, the author of a scathing book about his military experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, “The War I Always Wanted.”

“Here’s the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions [commenters]: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership?” he tweeted late Wednesday.

“What if he grew disillusioned with what he saw, didn’t trust his leadership, and walked off? Legal? No. Worthy of sympathy? Maybe,” Friedman tweeted near midnight at the end of June 4.

“If that were the case, the soldiers in his platoon would have all the more reason to smear him publicly now,” he continued.

“Given other examples, it’s not out of the realm of possibility–and more reason to withhold judgment until after an investigation,” he said.

“I’m not a fan of such speculation, but this story could not be more unbalanced–with so many premature calls of ‘traitor,’” he concluded.

The tweets were initially publicized by The Free Beacon.

White House flacks are betting that public sympathy for Bergdahl will trump concerns about the strategic damage from Obama’s agreement to swap five top Taliban leaders for the soldier. “I think the principle of leaving no man behind will ultimately win out,” a top White House official told The Hill.

The bet is being undermined, however, by many of Bergdahl’s former comrades, who say he deserted them in June 2009. Some of his former comrade also say he collaborated with the local Taliban fighters to attack U.S. forces.

Also, a U.S. Army report unveiled by The Daily Caller said that so many U.S. assets were assigned to recover Bergdahl that other Taliban groups were able to almost overrun an Army base, dubbed Combat Outpost Keating. Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in that attack.

White House officials and Pentagon officials have declined to release the formal investigation of Bergdahl’s desertion, but critical fragments are being leaked to reporters.

GOP legislators in Congress are expected to ask for copies of the investigation.

Friedman has sided with Democratic Party since he quit the military in 2004.

In July 2007 Friedman delivered the weekly national radio address for the Democratic Party, when he urged a full retreat from Iraq, even though President George W. Bush’s “surge” counterattack was destroying the factional and al-Qaida force that were trying to overcome Iraq’s elected government.

“The fact is, the Iraq war has kept us from devoting assets we need to fight terrorists worldwide — as evidenced by the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and al-Qaida has been able to rebuild… We need an effective offensive strategy that takes the fight to our real enemies abroad. And the best way to do that is to get our troops out of the middle of this civil war in Iraq,” he said.

In the same year, he also headed VoteVets.org, which tried to rally veterans to vote Democratic.

In 2009, he started working for President Barack Obama’s administration as a press aide in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In March, he began working as a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at HUD.

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