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Bowe Bergdahl Speaks: I Saw Myself as Jason Bourne

Image: Bowe Bergdahl Speaks: I Saw Myself as Jason Bourne
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By    |   Thursday, 10 Dec 2015 06:40 PM

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he saw himself as fictional novel and movie character Jason Bourne and walked away from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 in an attempt to draw attention to what he saw as failed leadership in his unit.

Bergdahl can be heard telling his side of the story publicly for the first time in the first episode of the new season of the podcast "Serial." 

"Doing what I did is me saying that I am like, I don’t know, Jason Bourne," Bergdahl tells filmmaker Mark Boal during a series of telephone interviews used in the podcast.

"I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing," Bergdahl said. "You know, that I could be what it is that all those guys out there that go to the movies and watch those movies, they all want to be that, but I wanted to prove that I was that."

Bergdahl said he believed leadership wasn't adequately protecting members of his unit and was going to get them killed, so he wanted to bring attention to the problem by sparking a DUSTWUN, which is an Army acronym for "duty status-whereabouts unknown.

"DUSTWUN" is the title of Season 2 of the "Serial" podcast."

Bergdahl said he quickly realized he had made a mistake, so decided to try to gather intelligence on the Taliban in hopes he would be in less trouble when he returned to base.

Instead, he was picked up by a group of men on motorcycles affiliated with the Taliban who would hold him captive for the next five years. He was part of a controversial trade for five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo Bay by President Barack Obama in May 2014.

"What I was seeing from my first unit all the way up into Afghanistan, all I was seeing was basically leadership failure, to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally from what I could see in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed," Bergdahl said.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth S. Dahl, who investigated the Bergdahl case, testified in September that Bergdahl had an inflated sense of his own abilities.

Bergdahl also described his time in captivity.

"It's like, how do I explain to a person that just standing in an empty, dark room hurts," he said. "It’s like, well, someone asks you, 'Well, why does it hurt? Does your body hurt?' Yes, your body hurts, but it’s more than that. It’s like this mental, like…. You’re almost confused. You know, there was times when I would wake up and it’s just so dark and it’s so dark. Like, I would wake up not even remembering what I was."

Bergdahl said he often wondered, "What am I?"

"Like, I couldn’t see my hands. I couldn’t do anything," he said. "The only thing I could do was like, touch my face, and even that wasn't, like, registering right, you know? To the point where you just want to scream and you can't like, I can't scream. I can’t risk that. So it’s like you're standing there screaming in your mind in this room."

Bergdahl faces a court martial for his actions and could be given up to life in prison, though the officer who oversaw his hearing has recommended against it. 

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he saw himself as fictional novel and movie character Jason Bourne and walked away from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 in an attempt to draw attention to what he saw as failed leadership in his unit.
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Thursday, 10 Dec 2015 06:40 PM
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