The USA vs. Bergdahl

The only doc to access Bowe Bergdahl's story

The USA vs. Bergdahl When Bowe Bergdahl infamously walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009 he was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, tortured and kept in a tiny cage. But the nightmare only continued when he was freed by President Obama in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo. Arriving home, he was vilified in the media as a deserter who collaborated with the enemy. Donald Trump called for him to be shot as a “dirty rotten traitor”. So what is his side of the story? Film-maker Sean Langan gets exclusive access to Bowe Bergdahl and to his parents, presenting a moving story of a family caught in a storm of false allegations, and a soldier who made a mistake and paid a terrible price.

Nobody knows what Bowe Bergdahl was planning when he left his post in Afghanistan with nothing but a camera and a compass. He claims he was heading to a military headquarters to complain about ineffective leadership. Others allege that he had plans to collaborate with the Taliban. Whatever the truth, Major General Dahl, who led the military investigation in to his defection describes how Bergdahl was "completely delusional". Evidence suggests he was in the midst of a breakdown, writing 'Velcro/zip/Velcro/zip' repeatedly across pages of his diary.

Dismissed from the Coast Guard for being "psychologically unfit", Bowe joined the military after acquiring a medical waiver and was soon after deployed to Afghanistan. After being captured by members of the Haqqani Network, Bowe recounts how he would tell himself daily, “you’re not making it out of this. You’re a dead man”. After repeatedly trying to escape, the prisoner was too weak to be beaten any more and so he was confined to a seven-by-six-foot cage for over three years.

The celebratory response to Bowe’s return to the USA was short lived as a narrative based on misinformation gained traction in the conservative media. Even his family came under attack, as his father's long beard and speaking in Pashto fuelled rumours of Islamic sympathies. "I was trying to communicate with the people holding my son. If America doesn't understand that, then f**k them” says Bob Bergdahl, before staring down the camera lens to speak in defence of his paternal instinct to use whatever means he could to help get his son home.

Rumours of Bowe’s conversion to Islam, claims that he was responsible for the death of six fellow soldiers, and reports that he helped the Taliban attack American bases flooded the American news. “In the old days: bing bong” said the soon-to-be President, Donald Trump, as he mimed shooting a gun in front of a cheering crowd. "We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs" Bergdahl says. "The people who want to hang me — you're never going to convince those people."


The Producers

BAFTA nominee and British journalist Sean Langan made his name by travelling to many of the world’s trouble-spots – dangerous and volatile environments noted for war, conflict and civil unrest armed with nothing more than a camera. Born in 1964 Sean has been making documentaries since 1997; His first film Video Diaries: Nightmare In Paradise saw him investigate the kidnapping of two British tourists in Kashmir. He joined the relatives of these missing men, who didn’t know if their sons were alive or dead, following them as they took to the streets looking for information and recording their every move with his camera. Ten years later in March 2008, whilst working on a film for Channel 4, Sean was kidnapped in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region by a group associated with the Taliban after trying to make contact with Al-Qaeda’s second in command. He was freed three months later (21st June 2008) after his family had negotiated his release. The BBC drama The Kidnap Diaries which is co-written by Sean documents this horrific ordeal.

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