Shakespeare and the Exchanged Prisoner Bergdahl

Thus may poor fools Believe false teachers: though those that are betray'd Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor Stands in worse case of woe, Shakespeare quotation applicable to the liberation of soldier Bergdahl“Thus may poor fools
Believe false teachers: though those that are betray’d
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
Stands in worse case of woe”

Cymbeline, act 3, sc. 4

Sometimes an episode, like a good novel, sheds more light on the history of the times than academic essays written by experts. Such is the event of the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, released in Afghanistan after 5 years of captivity, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo.

For whatever reasons, Bergdahl  broke the chain that linked him to the official authority, by following his conscience.

He was not the only one to have severe doubts about the justification, let alone the legitimacy of the invasion of Afghanistan. Other soldiers in his unit, interviewed before he walked away from his post, expressed similar opinions, as recorded in a documentary viewable on line.

Nor it was the first time when members of the aggressor-nation publicly and visibly denounced the crime – for example, Jane Fonda’s well-publicized visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War.  But she was protected by the shield of celebrity, however powerful her symbolic defiance turned out to be.

Bowe Bergdahl, instead, had no such shield of notoriety, he was the proverbial nobody as in “nothing new on the Western front”. But he had his conscience. Besides, from what we learned so far, he initially committed some improprieties, such as, for example, informing himself, reading and becoming interested in the history of Afghanistan.

He then observed the plight of the Afghan people and the terror and the death inflicted upon them by the invading army. Striking a parallel with the phony justifications given for the invasion and destruction of Iraq, he concluded that an equivalent reasoning applied to the invasion of Afghanistan. He even started teaching himself the local Pashtun language.

9/11, as we know, justified the Afghan invasion. Bergdahl probably realized, as many already have, what is the real conspiracy theory about 9/11. Namely, that a man in a remote cave on the other side of the world brought down the US air defenses, attacked the heart of the industrial-military complex and eluded the most elaborate, state-of-the-art detection system, put in place after the probably-already-forgotten first terror attack at the World Trade Center in 1995.

Bergdahl’s dangerous feat of independent thinking led him to write home the now famous e-mail, “I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid. I am ashamed to be an American and the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.”

Coincidentally, Bergdahl’s liberation almost overlapped with the US-led coup in Ukraine, the resistance in the South East of that country and the vociferous launching of a campaign against Russia by the regime media. Interestingly, if the statistics are true, one in six Americans can locate Ukraine on the map – one in twenty, Afghanistan. And the staunchest and loudest promoters of the pro-Ukraine and hate-Russia sentiments are among those who cannot find the country on the map.

Furthermore, programmed ignorance, as we know, is one key implement of regime propaganda. Three out of the five Taleban prisoners exchanged were members of the Afghan government, captured at the beginning of the invasion, twelve years ago.

But according to Senator McCain, fiery war propagandist, the Afghan government did not exist. Proving that the US administrations only recognizes subservient governments. Especially if the people in the non-conforming countries have brown skin and an Oriental look.

Also observable during the broadcast of Bergdahl’s liberation, was the dramatic difference between the uniforms and attire of the US soldiers and those of the Afghan resistance. The former with bullet-proof vests and helmets laden with state-of-the-art electronics. The latter with one AK 47, wearing a turban on the head and the traditional galabyas, (essentially long-skirt night-gowns) for uniforms. And, more in general, without helicopters, tanks, planes, drones, missiles and other implements of death.

It is still early to determine how the liberation of Bergdahl will play out. He dared to detect what his employer desired to conceal. To the point that soldiers returning from Afghanistan were requested to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the Army and refrain to speak about Bergdahl.

Showing that this extraordinary employer is rather arrogant than blind. He does not hide its faults from itself, but persuades us that it is for our own good that they should not be noticed – and resents censure, lest he should confess them to be just.

All in all the episode teaches or reinforces some important truths,

** Knowledge is a danger to authority.

** Conscience is equally dangerous, because he who can withstand conscience, is frighted at infamy.

** Reasoning is useless.  The government that is reminded that empires crumbled under their own weight, still catches at the next imperial venture, because neither advice or history have force to suppress its vanity.

Perhaps the only practical conceivable remedy is the non-violent revolution advocated by Martin Luther King. Following our conscience is (not yet) a crime and maybe, just maybe, there will be enough Bergdahls to trigger the swarming of the bees away from the branch of servitude to authority. And that is an image by Leo Tolstoy.

Martin Luther King had just this in mind – which is, perhaps, why he had to be killed.

In the play. Imogen’s reaction to the letter from husband Posthumous Leonatus requesting Pisanio to kill her for presumed adultery. The poor fool is Leonatus, who believed the tale he was told.

Image Location. http://www.thinklikeabride.com/theagency/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/5587715_f520.jpg

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This entry was posted in Philosophical, Psychological & Historical Considerations, Presentation Ideas, Shakespeare and Politics, Shakespeare in Politics, Shakespeare on Mass Psychology and Group Behavior, Social Exchanges Shakespeare style. Bookmark the permalink.
  • MissCostello

    Well said! What an absolutely superb article. And here’s me thinking the bards quotes (wonderful tho’ ‘He’ & they are) was all I was going to get when I subscribed here. A clearer picture of the most warmongering nation on earth, could not be given. G-d help Bowe Bergdahl, the poor sod will need it; they’ll rip him apart.

  • solerso

    “But she” ( Jane Fonda) “was protected by the shield of celebrity, however powerful her symbolic defiance turned out to be.”

    She was protected by her privileged class status. Its an important difference. Mr. Bergdahl is also a “celebrity”. So are Messrs. Assange and Snowden. If Mr. Bergdahl and his family were members of the ruling elite its very unlikely this media lynching would be happening now. If Mr. Assange belonged to one of the 80 families that control over half the material wealth on Earth, he would not have had to flee to sanctuary in the Ecuadoran embassy building where he remains imprisoned.