While serving at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Army Captain, and the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, in February 2002, I was aware of a detainee we called “Wild Bill” who came to us from Afghanistan a drug addicted schizophrenic.
It took us a while to figure out what his problems were. We were distracted by his bizarre behavior: eating his flip flops, hanging objects from his genitals, making strange, random sounds, and, like many other detainees, when they got the chance, throwing urine and feces on the guards.
Once it was determined that this detainee was ill, and his story stuck, he was determined to no longer be a threat to the United States, nor of any intelligence value, so he was scheduled for release.
As it turned out, “Wild Bill,” or Abdul Razaq, admitted to me and a few of my unit mates through an interpreter while hiding from the press before delivering him to his freedom bird on the leeward side of Gitmo, that he was a heroin addict in Kandahar when the Taliban came through and offered to support his habit if he picked up an AK-47, and then fought with them against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in the fall of 2001.
Razaq’s bizarre behavior at Gitmo was a result of a combination of schizophrenia and cold turkey withdrawal from his heroin addiction. The Taliban had used drugs to control him.
It was weeks after he was released that we saw a picture of Razaq in an online Newsweek article written by Sami Yousafzai, picturing him on a psychiatric hospital bed in Kandahar, and telling the interviewer about how well he was treated at Gitmo.
Fast forward to 2009, and the bizarre behavior of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan, and then went in search of the Taliban. It was overheard on a radio monitored by members of his unit that Bergdahl was looking for the Taliban and that a villager thought he might be “high after smoking hashish,” a concentrated hallucinogenic drug. Bergdahl subsequently spent over five years with the Taliban off shoot known as the Haqqani.
While with the Haqqani, Bergdahl was observed carrying a loaded weapon and taking target practice with the Haqqani. Other reports indicate that Bergdahl “happily” played soccer with the Haqqani, and “bounded around the soccer pitch like a mad man.”
We have seen video of Sgt. Bergdahl both when he was with the Haqqani during his absence from his unit, and upon his release, when he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces personnel. In general Bergdahl appeared in decent health, yet mentally subdued and calm. While walking from the vehicle he was brought to his release in, towards the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter that took him away, he seemed to be able to walk brusquely and on his own power. Upon his release the White House even said that he was in “good” condition.
Why then has Bergdahl been sequestered since his release to the point where he has not even been reunited or in communication with his family, namely, his parents who were trotted through the Rose Garden by President Barack Hussein Obama upon the announcement of their son’s return to U.S. custody?
The Taliban are known to sedate hostages with drugs. U.S. Senators commented after seeing a “proof of life” video of Bergdahl that he “had been drugged.” It was reported that during Bergdahl’s time with the Haqqani he escaped and then spent five days away from them, and then after his recapture spent time in a “cage.” Could his return have been due to his need for drugs?
It is possible that Bowe Bergdahl has been drugged regularly either before and/or after his recapture by the Haqqani. It is possible that one of the reasons for his being sequestered since his return, and hospitalized in “stable condition,” is because he is going through detoxification. Until this is done it is highly unlikely that he is being debriefed vigorously regarding his five years with the Haqqani, which would be the next logical step in his reintegration into western and American military culture.
It is almost certain that Bergdahl’s enlistment contract has expired. He has been passed over for automatic promotion to Staff Sergeant probably both for the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan, and the lack of a non-commissioned officer evaluation, which requires no “flags” on his record and certain achievements to have been accomplished. A “flag” could be applied from an unsatisfactory physical fitness test or height and weight evaluation, performance deficiencies, or misconduct.
The next step after detox and debrief could be a hearing before a military Judge Advocate General (JAG) magistrate to first determine his status. Is Bergdahl legally still in the military? Was he summarily discharged during his absence? Why was he never categorized as either a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA)? Will the United States attempt to declare Bergdahl an enemy combatant?
If the latter occurs, Bergdahl could be denied habeas corpus (due process rights) and then subject to trial by military commission. This would be the case if it were determined that he collaborated with the enemy and/or considered himself a “mujahid,” as some reports claim. It could also put him in jeopardy of being charged with treason; aiding and giving “comfort” to the enemy.
Heroin or other drugs may complicate Bergdahls status hearing. His attorney’s may argue that Bergdahl was a victim of being drugged and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. If he was summarily discharged he may be entitled to civilian representation, or either way may choose to represent himself.
It’s accurate to say there are many things we don’t know about Bowe Bergdahl and his current circumstances, but for me, based on my experiences and clues in the evidence available so far, I believe it’s possible he’s a drug addicted enemy combatant. We may only find out what the truth is when the U.S. government wants us to know. Until then, watch and listen for leaking clues to what may turn out to be the most fascinating military defection in history.
I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID: @mjgranger1