Bergdahl Says he Was Tortured, Kept in Cage by Taliban Captors

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 8 2014 12:11 PM

Bergdahl Says he Was Tortured, Kept in Cage by Taliban Captors

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In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag

Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl continues to be oblivious to the controversy that was sparked by his release from Taliban captivity as part of a prisoner exchange program last week. But he has apparently started opening up about how his captors treated him. The New York Times talks to U.S. officials who say Bergdahl has told people treating him at a military facility in Germany that he was kept in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time after he tried to escape. It’s unclear whether he tried to escape once or twice. The Associated Press confirms the information with a “senior U.S. official,” who claims Bergdahl has told people treating him that he was tortured and beaten during his captivity. The revelation isn't exactly surprising to U.S. officials. "These are Taliban, not wet nurses," a senior Defense Department official tells the Times.

Although Bergdahl is apparently physically able to travel he isn’t psychologically ready to meet with his family yet. Once he’s ready for the next step, he will be transferred to a medical facility in San Antonio, where he will likely at least speak to his family, who have reportedly been receiving threats since his release. Although Bergdahl has received a letter from his sister, he has yet to respond. The Wall Street Journal hears word from a U.S. official that Bergdahl has refused to speak with his family. In an interesting insight into Bergdahl's state of mind, theTimes also reports that he strongly objects to when hospital staff address him as sergeant, a rank he obtained after two automatic promotions during his captivity, rather than private first class. “He says, ‘Don’t call me that,’” an American official said. “‘I didn’t go before the boards. I didn’t earn it.’”

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Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the prisoner swap on CNN, saying it would have been “offensive and incomprehensible” to leave behind a prisoner of war. “To leave an American behind, in the hands of people that torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things, and we would consciously choose to do that? That’s the other side of this equation,” Kerry said. “I don’t think anybody would think that is the appropriate thing to do.” Kerry also said the former Guantanamo detainees will be closely monitored.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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