In his opening statement before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hit back at the critics of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the POW’s family.
Hagel assured the House panel that the Army will conduct a “comprehensive and coordinated” investigation of Bergdahl’s capture, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since his release. Many of Bergdahl’s former platoon mates have accused him of desertion. Some have argued that the manhunt that followed Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance led to the deaths of fellow soldiers.
Moreover, Bergdahl’s father, Bob, has drawn criticism from conservatives who are suspicious of his unruly beard (grown in solidarity during his son’s five years in captivity), his ability to speak Pashto and an email wherein he encouraged his son to follow his conscience before the soldier disappeared from his base in Afghanistan.
Hagel admonished those critics on Capitol Hill.
“And I think I need not remind anyone on this committee: like any American, Sgt. Bergdahl has rights,” Hagel said.
“And his conduct will be judged on the facts — not political hearsay, posturing, charges or innuendo. We do owe that to any American, and especially those who are members of our military and their families. Like most Americans, I’ve been offended and disappointed in how the Bergdahl family has been treated by some in this country. No family deserves this. I hope there will be some sober reflection on people’s conduct regarding this issue and how it relates to the Bergdahl family.”