American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan

American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan

by Matt Farwell, Michael Ames


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The explosive narrative of the life, captivity, and trial of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who was abducted by the Taliban and whose story has served as a symbol for America's foundering war in Afghanistan

"A riveting journalistic account of Bowe Bergdahl's disastrous—and weirdly poignant—choice to walk off his military base in Afghanistan. . . . A spectacularly good book about an incredibly painful and important topic."—Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe and War

Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl left his platoon's base in eastern Afghanistan in the early hours of June 30, 2009. Since that day, easy answers to the many questions surrounding his case have proved elusive. American Cipher is the riveting and deeply sourced account of the nearly decade-old Bergdahl quagmire and its place in the larger conflict in Afghanistan. The book tells the parallel stories of a young man's halting coming of age and a nation stalled in an unwinnable war, revealing the fallout that ensued when the two collided. The book's beating heart is Bergdahl himself—an idealistic, misguided soldier onto whom a nation projected the political and emotional complications of service.

Based on years of exclusive reporting drawing on dozens of sources throughout the military, government, and Bergdahl's family, friends, and fellow soldiers, American Cipher is at once a meticulous investigation of government dysfunction and political posturing, a blistering commentary on America's presence in Afghanistan, and a hearbreaking story of a naïve young man who thought he could fix the world and wound up the tool of forces far beyond his understanding.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735221062
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 650,978
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Matt Farwell is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, Playboy, and other publications. He was an Army infantryman for five years, including sixteen months in Afghanistan. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Michael Ames is a regular contributor to Newsweek and Harper's. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, The Daily Beast, and The Believer. He spent nine years in Idaho working as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor, and now lives in Brooklyn.

Table of Contents

Maps x-xi

Prologue 1

Act I A Fantastic Plan

1 Little America 9

2 Blowback 22

3 Adjustment Disorder 32

4 An Army of One 48

5 OP Mest 62

Act II Lost

6 Dustwun 77

7 The Lost Puppy 89

8 River City 104

9 Diversions and Deceptions 116

Act III Trapped

10 Not the Worst News 129

11 The Pakistan Paradox 139

12 Fixing Intel 156

13 Means of Escape 172

Act IV Bring Bowe Home

14 Pawns 183

15 The No-Negotiations Negotiations 203

16 Bob's War 216

17 The Five-Sided Wind Tunnel 231

Act V Codes of Conduct

18 Welcome Home 249

19 Fox Nation 261

20 Debriefing 272

21 Squared Away 283

22 The Noise 300

23 Guilty 314

Epilogue 333

Acknowledgments 339

Image Credits 345

Notes 347

Index 379

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