Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Taliban's controversial ex-captive, was speedily dismissed from the Coast Guard for psychological reasons before the Army recruited him, and was reading Atlas Shrugged shortly before he disappeared from his base in Afghanistan.
Those revelations come from Kim Harrison, a close friend of Bergdahl's, who provided the Washington Post with a trove of his correspondence and said she was appalled at the conservative media's portrayal of the troubled erstwhile soldier as a calculating, pro-Taliban traitor:
Harrison and others close to Bergdahl said his writing and the events surrounding the Coast Guard discharge raise questions about his mental fitness for military service and how he was accepted into the Army in 2008. Typically, a discharge for psychological reasons would disqualify a potential recruit.
According to Coast Guard records, Bergdahl left the service with an "uncharacterized discharge" after 26 days of basic training in early 2006. The term applies to people discharged before completing 180 days of service. No reason is specified in such discharges, and a Coast Guard representative said no further information was available.
An Army official told the Post that the service had been aware of his prior military record before he enlisted. As the paper notes, that sort of a discharge usually precludes future military service. But 2008 was the year of the surge in Iraq and a low point in the Army's recruiting efforts, and it offered waivers for previously disqualifying conditions—criminal records, academic underachievement, tattoos, health issues—at an unprecedented pace to keep the ranks filled.
Bergdahl began to communicate with friends about his disaffection with war and other people generally, focusing on his personal development and sharing a passion for Ayn Rand, the intellectual defender of capitalism and selfishness, and a favorite of many conservative thinkers and politicians:
On June 27, he sent an e-mail to his friends titled "Who is John Galt?," a reference to the hero of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," about individualism in a dystopian America.
"I will serve no bandit, nor lair, for i know John Galt, and understand . . ." Bergdahl wrote. "This life is too short to serve those who compromise value, and its ethics. i am done compromising."
Three days later, Bergdahl walked off his post.
The intimation is that Bergdahl didn't desert as a liberal peacenik with pro-Taliban tendencies, but rather that he was "going Galt"—dropping out of modern society to pursue individual freedom in the mold of Rand's capitalist hero.
[Photo credit: AP Images]