What happened on yesterday’s episode of Serial? Read along and you’ll find out.
Sarah begins by talking about Bowe’s time with the Taliban. His story was told in parts with year one being full of action and escape attempts and then the other four years which were much less exciting. After his nine day escape, the Taliban locked him up in a cage. It might have been six feet wide, and they moved the cage as they moved. Bowe’s memories are jumbled because it’s hard to make a timeline since he was just in one room wherever they were. Sarah shares about a journalist named David who was captured along with two Afghans. His seven months in captivity gave Sarah a better idea about the hierarchy of prisoners. David was able to walk around and have conversations, and he wasn’t in the dark so he always knew where he was.
David was taken to the tribal areas which are the most dangerous in Pakistan. The area sounds scary but it’s actually more built up and bustling. The Taliban gave him a newspaper and Nestle water. There’s an astounding difference between the stories of both captives.
David’s captors weren’t avoiding anyone. As long as they had the right password, they could pass through any area in the country. He was with the Haqqani and they are able to move through Pakistan without problem because they’re basically a mob, crime family. They are part of the Taliban and the most effective. At some point, the US gave them money to help them fight back in the 80s. They are useful to everyone and believe that India is the greatest threat.
David described how effective the Haqqani was. They were well run and careful to never be tracked. Sarah asked David if the constant moving of location, like with Bowe, is because they couldn’t stay in one place. David divulged that it was mostly because the families they were staying with, who were mostly activists, would want them to leave out of fear of drone strikes due to the danger housing captives posed.
The last house David stayed at was with a man who would take control of his captivity. David said this man was much more threatening and hated America. They got a lot more harsh with David and began to find him disgusting. At one point, an older gentleman came in and lectured the younger guards that David wasn’t dirty. The old man tried to show that David was also one of god's creations and even said he would allow David to put bread into his mouth and then the old man would take it and eat it because he is clean.
David escaped with one of his Afghan comrades and made it to a Pakistan government group who saved them. Bowe was captured ten days later and their time didn’t overlap. David spent much of his time feeling guilty about how much better he was treated then Bowe. Some believe that Bowe got worse treatment because they didn’t want to make the same mistake again by losing the prisoner, or it might have been because a soldier was worth more than a journalist.
The Taliban told Sammi that originally they wanted ransom for their captives. The learned the US wouldn’t pay so they held on to him. They imagined the US Government didn’t care about one soldier. The Taliban thought about killing Bowe because he was worthless but they decided to wait which meant Bowe waited. Bowe was alone and some say his conditions were the worst conditions any captive had withstood for at least 60 years.
When the US saved Bowe and took him to a hospital, he wanted the clock off the wall because he was captivity had made time bendy and a reminder of the fact that nothing was coming. Time is worrying when you have nothing to think about and he had no schedule with his captors. He never knew what was coming and had no way to keep track of anything. He was just in darkness, alone.
Somehow Bowe never went crazy. A psychologist who was getting ready to rescue Bowe with the army, said that PTSD was a possibility but not going insane. Insanity lessened the chances of survival. Bowe said he never used his imagination to help pass the time. He focused on the pain he was constantly in. His body never quit even with all those terrible circumstances. He was always cold and hungry. Bowe shared that one man was nice and snuck Bowe an extra blanket. Sarah believes that the man was a retired cook who once prepared food for Osama Bin Laden. The cook tried to help him eat by giving him utensils and pain medicine. The cook believed that Bowe was depressed because he wouldn’t take the things and sat with his head on his knees.
Bowe’s story shows Sarah how present Guantanamo Bay is to the Taliban. Some of the captors were kept there and wanted to treat American prisoners the same way they’d been treated. Sarah describes people who we kept in Guantanamo and maybe turned some of them into worse terrorists than they had been. Sarah got back to Bowe and described the torture he received like 60-70 slow cuts a session. They wanted to know why he came there when he could’ve left the army and never come. Bowe lost count of the cuts he received when he got to 600 cuts. They hated him for being American and they hate America for what our Government did in our prisons. Bowe never responded to what they said, just listened until it was over. He rode out his torture and only gave simple nods in response to their stories.
Bowe made one last escape attempt in his fourth year from the cage out of anger. It’s amazing that Bowe was still a fighter after all that time in captivity. It didn’t work though. Join us next week for more of Bowe Bergdahl’s story on Serial.