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December 11, 2015

Podcast renews controversy over soldier who abandoned post


The popular “Serial” podcast has reignited a public debate about the Obama Administration’s decision to approve the exchange. The first episode of “Serial” premiered Thursday, featuring Bergdahl speaking publicly for the first time since he was freed in 2014.

Bergdahl said he left his base because he wanted to raise concerns about bad leadership he believed put the lives of his fellow soldiers in danger. Securing his freedom came at a price: five high-level Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay were released in exchange for him.

“We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind,” President Barack Obama said several days after Bergdahl’s release.

Some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl criticized his desertion, saying the lives of those who searched for him were put in danger after he disappeared.

On Thursday, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee released a 98-page report finding the Taliban exchange violated several laws, including the stipulation that Congress be given 30 days’ notice of the transfer. Democrats called the report unbalanced and partisan.

The Army originally charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy before the charge was changed to a misdemeanor. Bergdahl awaits a decision on whether he will be court-martialed.


Taliban — an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country

desertion — the action of physically abandoning a person, cause or organization

court-martial — a judicial court for trying members of the armed services accused of offenses against military law

Warm up questions
  1. Who is Bowe Bergdahl?
  2. What happens when a U.S. soldier abandons his post?
  3. What happens when an American citizen is taken hostage by a militant group?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why did President Obama go to such lengths to bring Bergdahl home?
  2. Under what conditions is it acceptable for a soldier to desert his post without telling anyone?
  3. Do you think five years of Taliban imprisonment is punishment enough for Bergdahl’s decision to leave his post? Why or why not?
  4. What are some positive aspects of learning about Bergdahl’s case through a podcast? What about negative?
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