America debates: Is freed soldier Bowe Bergdahl a hero or a deserter?

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By ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

Last week, following the NBC interview with Edward Snowden, America was consumed with a fierce debate: Should Snowden be seen as a patriot or a traitor?

Now there's a new national argument: Is Bowe Bergdahl a hero or a deserter?

Bergdahl is the soldier and American POW who has been held by the Taliban for the last five years.

His freedom was negotiated over the weekend.

Watch: Former Iraq hostage: 'All I wanted was to see my family'

The prisoner swap was controversial from the start. America was trading with the enemy: Freeing five senior Taliban commanders being held in Guantanamo Bay for the release of Bergdahl.

Republicans were quick to pounce, saying that the deal was done in secret (and without Congressional approval, hence against the law); that the five Taliban prisoners were hard-core al-Qaida operatives who would quickly return to the fight; and that it put in peril other US soldiers who would now be seen by America's enemies as valuable bargaining chips.

But underneath those issues lies a more sensitive question.

Under what murky circumstances was Bergdahl captured? It has long been reported he left his outpost willingly, that in essence he deserted and joined the enemy.

One of his fellow soldiers accuses the Sergeant of putting his whole platoon at risk and says it is ridiculous for Bergdahl to be hailed a hero.

It certainly complicates the narrative and raises the question of whether the secret deal was worthwhile.

The White House has a simple reply: Bergdahl is an American and as the US withdraws from Afghanistan it has a sacred duty to make sure no-one is left behind on the battlefield.

Read: Freed US soldier flown to military hospital in Germany