'American Cipher' Author to Speak on Bowe Bergdahl at Ketchum Community Library 

Michael Ames' latest work chronicles the journey of the controversial Idaho soldier

click to enlarge MICHAEL AMES
  • Michael Ames

Bowe Bergdahl's story hits close to home in the Sun Valley area. A Hailey native, Bergdahl came into the national spotlight when he was captured by the Taliban in 2009.

"The story chose me," said Michael Ames, co-author of American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the American Tragedy in Afghanistan.

Published in March 2019 with co-author Matt Farwell, the book tells a story that most Idahoans (and Americans, for that matter) are by now familiar with: Private First Class Bergdahl deserting his post in 2009. Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years, and court martialed for desertion upon his return.

Ames will present on his latest work at the Ketchum Community Library Thursday, July 25 from 6-7:30 p.m.

The question of why Bergdahl left his post haunts the story. He was the subject of the second season of popular public radio podcasts Serial and Speaking of Serial, which, like many other pieces on Bergdahl, sought to answer that question. Other questions remain, like why he pleaded guilty to the charges against him and what the recovery efforts were like during his five years as a captive.

Ames worked as an editor at Sun Valley Magazine when Bergdahl was captured in the summer of 2009. Bergdahl's father was Ames' UPS driver and he saw the hostage ordeal unfold up close.

"I was outraged by what happened after Bowe was recovered in 2014 and specifically the way Hailey was exploited by the national info-tainment complex," Ames said. "Good people were punished, threatened and demonized simply for supporting this family, which they had already been doing for five years."

The book uses Bergdahl's story to demonstrate Ames and Farwell's assertion that the U.S. lost its way in Afghanistan. At his talk, Ames will discuss some of the book's findings, and why Bergdahl's story still matters in the Wood River Valley and beyond. He will read two short sections and hold a question and answer session after the readings.

"There was a lot of pain in the Valley after Bowe was recovered and the town was burned by the political firestorm," Ames said. "I hope this event can provide some useful perspective and maybe even some healing."

Co-author Farwell, a former Army infantryman who fought in the same Afghan province where Bergdahl disappeared, will not attend.

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