Bowe Bergdahl and Mercy

How horrified are we by canniballism? One of the most profound taboos in our society is eating another person. So can that act be forgiven? There is a famous court case in the mid-1880’s in Britain dealing with the survivors of a shipwreck. In this case some surviving members of the crew, adrift on a lifeboat killed a terminally ill member of the crew to eat him and drink his blood. They were convicted of murder, but there sentences were commuted from execution to a short term of imprisonment. The idea was that in unusual and extreme circumstances the survivors had to do something generally considered horrible, but that in any case they had already been punished by their horrific ordeal.

Bowe Bergdahl did something incredibly stupid when he ran away from his base and was captured by the Taliban. I understand the anger of his comrades who were exposed to increased danger but it seems clear that he should not be punished further. While not a perfect analogy, Bowe Bergdahl did something terrible but he also suffered terribly at the hands of his captors. It would be proper in his case to say, “He has already suffered enough.”

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