Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer explained that a new report by Fox reporter James Rosen on Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s behavior in Taliban captivity “argues against the speculation that he went over intending to join the enemy.”
On Thursday afternoon — after days of hinting that he possessed evidence Bergdahl worked extensively with his Taliban captors — Rosen released a report containing information from a private intelligence contractor closely tied to the U.S. military.
The report seems to indicate that Bergdahl converted to Islam, declared himself a holy warrior, engaged in target practice with his captors and was sometimes even allowed to carry a loaded weapon.
But it also noted that the Army Sgt. tried to escape from captivity as many as five times, and at one point was put into a cage built for an animal as punishment. Intelligence officials familiar with the secret documents claimed “there was never any evidence of collaboration.”
The report does not address the contention that Bergdahl deserted his post in disgust over the war effort in 2009 — a claim backed by correspondence between Bergdahl and his father and echoed by all of his former comrades who have spoken to the media.
On Fox’s “Special Report” Thursday, Krauthammer explained that five years is a long time, and that some of Bergdahl’s behavior may have been a coping mechanism or an outgrowth of Stockholm Syndrome.
“We have a long history of people held in captivity who toward the end — even at the beginning — become part of those who kidnap them,” said Krauthammer, who is also a trained psychiatrist. “That’s why there’s a syndrome, known as Stockholm Syndrome . . . It could either be true Stockholm, or dissimulation, or a genuine joining of the enemy. No one would know.”
“What’s impressive to me,” he continued, “and what’s new, is if the first half of the report is true — that he tried to escape five times — that would seem to be very strong evidence against the speculation that he defected.”
“Everybody, I think, sort of generally accepts that on the current evidence, he deserted,” Krauthammer explained, “but defection is a totally different thing. You don’t go after a defector in order to rescue him. If you’re dealing with a defector, somebody who joins the enemy, you kill them.”
“But if he is a deserter,” the columnist noted, “then you have a honest debate of whether it’s worth risking a rescue and then giving him military justice. I think this argues against the evidence that he went over intending to join the enemy.”
Conservative columnist and fellow panelist George Will seemed to disagree. “What we know from James Rosen’s report is that there is evidence that he carried a gun, he played soccer with his captives while intermittently trying to escape from them,” he said. “And as condign punishment for that, being put in an iron cage. Now, all of these things cannot have happened at once, it seems to me.”
“Not at once, but over time?” NPR’s Mara Liasson pushed back. “Maybe they told him to play soccer with them and he had no choice? How do we know? There are a lot of missing links between these pieces of reporting.”