It’s week three of our Serial journey, where we, the civilians, get the inside track on the happenings of the Bowe Bergdahl case, from start to finish. When we last left our dispirited dustwun, he was still being held captive Taliban, not so much unlike an abused animal. His conditions had taken some peaks (or as close to a peak as he could expect in his situation) and valleys. Some nights, his chains were loosened or a once-vicious dog he trained came to sleep with him, as though it were a guardian angel. However, he is still being dragged across Afghanistan, unable to eat familiar food, interact with anyone familiar, or even use the bathroom in a dignified manner. What’s worse (more for his mental state than anything), is that he was being forced to create propaganda videos showing support for the Taliban’s method of capturing Bergdahl. In these videos, it is even suggested that the Taliban treated it’s captors better than American bases treat captors from the Taliban.
Pan over to Bergdahl’s fellow troops, and we find them on a mission to find them. At this point, conditions have only worsened. No only is their no real food, but soldier’s uniforms are beginning to actually decay. Each man is slowly but surely losing a bit of momentum each day. And with falsified stories of Bergdahl’s disloyalty to America circulating, it was becoming more and more difficult to feel a sense of compassion or genuine worry for their captured colleague. One such man was a friend of Bowe’s, whose voice was used in an oddly casual plea for him to “please come back”. He went on to explain during a Serial interview that there were compelling pieces that masqueraded as exposés of his disloyalty to the American cause, and his new-found sympathy for the Taliban.
We find Bergdahl later in the narrative, after several escape attempts, still trying to make a break for his life. At this point, he has gotten a hold of a rusty old key that was just the right size to break the locks on the chains that confined him. He rehearsed his escape for several nights, often blindfolded, before executing his plan. Then, he went for it. In one swift, continuous motion he threw his makeshift rope out of the window, dropped 15 feet below, and briskly walked away. A new feeling of what can only be described as pure euphoria washed over him, a feeling he had not felt for quite some time by then. He dodged villagers, ate grass, and ultimately fell off a cliff that left one side of his body virtually shattered, and yet he was free. If only for an abbreviated period, he was free to think… to plan… to reason. To be a man again, and not a wounded animal. Alas, the victory was short lived, as he only was able to keep up this pace for 8.5 days. But he had gotten a taste of freedom, a bittersweet reminder of what he was fighting for.
When reviewing our trusty listening-guide once more, we find two maps labeled The Taliban’s Version of Events and Afghanistan: A Sense of Place. After observing the first map, we discover that the space over which Bergdahl was transported was more tight- knit than expected. What the Taliban soldiers did rather than taking him to much further regions (where he could be recaptured by groups like Al-Qaeda that also found him valuable), they strategized based on their perception of where American troops would hunt for him. In fact, both maps show that he was never really TOO far from OP Mest, which makes their tactics all-the-more intriguing. Even Bergdahl made this observation during his 8-day-escape, when he saw American-owned drones circling overhead with no way of knowing he was directly below.
How long will it take for the short distance between Bergdahl and his home base to backfire on his captors? This blogger hopes that somewhere in our next few installments, I will be able to bring you happy news of an escape.
Until next time,