Print Share Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag to the camera at an unknown location in Afghanistan, July 19, Reuters The first episode of the second season of "Serial" had the tentative, almost conservative quality necessary for a good setup. Then you can start letting the oppositions and inconsistencies drive the show forward. Koenig is pretty casual about interviewing a Taliban soldier. Her source, referred to by pseudonym, participated in the hiding of Bergdahl and knew that he was a score.
Kidnapping is a revenue source for the Taliban, and an American is worth more than just any old foreigner. And an American soldier is worth more than just any old American. Bergdahl is worth as much as the Americans are willing to give for him.
The Taliban understands that the Americans are willing to sacrifice a lot for Bergdahl. He was found inside or near a nomad tent. Nomads informed the Taliban that a foreigner was in the area. When the Taliban arrived to check it out, they told Bergdahl that they were the police, and he immediately jumped behind their motorcycles, as if seeking protection from them.
Bergdahl fought a little at first, but he was pretty easily subdued. Our first muddying of the narrative. And she says that there will be more to come, discrepancies that are impossible to fact-check. But the implications of the divergences are huge. Bergdahl is reported to have fought back, or maybe not. Lots of people said he was drunk. Some said he was crying. Some said he was laughing. One guy compared him to a baby cat, another to Buddha. But they had no idea why he left his base.
And neither do the Americans. In fact, this is where certain interesting parallels begin to form between the gossip about Bergdahl spreading through the Taliban, and the rumors being picked up by American surveillance and disseminated among American soldiers.
Both sides seem perplexed, and they speculate wildly in a vain attempt to fill what looks to me like a mental-illness-shaped hole. From my own experiences, that ethos was drummed into my head during basic training.
A bond of trust is broken. I sympathized with the guy who, risking his life and shivering at night in the cold, was asking himself if Bergdahl was worth it. At the same time, I have to sympathize with the pariah. During my first deployment to Iraq I wrote a few dispatches for The New Republic that made me a pariah in my own unit. I suffered for it. I was made to work 20 hours a day in the brutal Iraqi heat, cut off from social connections and conversation.
I built a parking lot. I moved a junkyard from one end of base to another. And I was eventually hospitalized with typhoid. I passed through a crucible and eventually worked my way back into the good graces of most of my brothers. It scares the shit out of him.
The Americans were so off mission, so far from respecting the tenets of counterinsurgency operations, that the Taliban had every reason to believe this.
There was a cultural and political imperative for the military to do everything it could to find him. But as the American military plodded around the country, it got played by intel plants and always found itself a step behind the action.
The Taliban, meanwhile, was nimble and light, and had home-field advantage. An interview with Jason Dempsey, a former major in the 10th Mountain Division, is the highlight of the episode, and it really puts a fine point on the inadequacies of the American military in Afghanistan. We have, Dempsey claims, zero institutional knowledge for the military in Afghanistan. This is, to my mind, where the episode really starts to achieve escape velocity.