Let’s start with what we know. Bowe R. Bergdahl was a Private First Class (PFC) in the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment in 2009. In May of that year Bergdahl’s unit deployed to Afghanistan, and he was assigned to an outpost called Mest-Malek. On the night of June 30, 2009, Bergdahl, without authorization of any kind from anyone, left his place of duty and wandered off into the countryside surrounding the outpost. He left behind his weapon, his body armor and a note saying he had become disillusioned with the Army.
At some point thereafter Bergdahl ended up under the control of the Taliban. He remained under their control for a period of five years. He was returned to the United States in May of 2014 when he was exchanged for five senior Taliban commanders. He is still on active duty and is now assigned to an Army post in Texas.
We know all this because of White House press releases, comments by Bergdahl’s parents and the comments of Bergdahl’s fellow solders who have talked at length to the press and branded him a deserter. We also have the official findings of a US Army investigation, conducted in 2010, that concluded that Bergdahl had simply walked away from his post and vanished. No evidence of any kind exists from any of these sources to suggest that Bergdahl was captured and forcibly abducted or in any other fashion forced to leave his post contrary to his free will.
I was in a previous life a Judge Advocate in the United States Army. It’s been quite awhile, since I represented anyone before a court-martial. It doesn’t take any particular expertise regarding the Uniform Code of Military Justice, however, to understand that in leaving his post and wandering away from his unit in the middle of a war PFC Bergdahl committed a whole string of very serious offenses.
Whether or not Bergdahl intended at the time he left his unit to remain absent permanently or to go over to the enemy may be open to question. It may, therefore, be legally debatable whether he committed treason or deserted. However, by anyone’s definition he obviously went AWOL, that is absented himself without authorization from his place of duty. Just as clearly, in walking away from his place of duty, abandoning his weapon, abandoning his comrades, and placing himself at risk of capture he must have violated a stack of general orders and standard operating procedures, all of which are enforceable under military law.
Under any normal circumstances, therefore, Bergdahl would be sitting in the stockade. He would have already been charged with a host of offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he would likely already have a trial date scheduled. His defense counsel, having long since sized up a loser of a case, would be desperately trying to broker a plea.
These, of course, are not ordinary circumstances.
They are not ordinary circumstances not because of some unusual legal complexity to the case but because of the political dynamics at work. The President of the United States, contrary as usual to the advice of most of his closest advisors, made the decision to release five very senior and very dangerous enemy prisoners for one young man who is at best a coward and at worst a deserter. The President has already faced considerable political criticism as a consequence. Were Bergdahl to be charged now that controversy would rapidly ignite once again. There are hotly contested midterms coming up. Bad press would be politically costly.
And, so, the investigation must remain in limbo. We are told the investigating officer has made his findings, but, for unspecified reasons, those findings have yet to be made public. Bergdahl meanwhile is not in the stockade but a free man, returned to active duty and talking, expansively so the press reports, about his plans for his life after the service. Having been promoted twice while in captivity, he is now Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
How exactly all of this will play out after the midterms is still unknown. Nonetheless, I think the handwriting on the wall is clear enough for me to make a reasonably accurate prediction.
Sometime after the midterm elections the report of the general officer who conducted the investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance will be released. The report will conclude that Bergdahl did, in fact, commit any number of offenses in leaving his post and walking away from his unit in Afghanistan. The report will also, however, play up Bergdahl’s emotional state, the pressure he was under and the nature of the combat environment in which he was serving. The report will, therefore, find that Bergdahl had no clear intent to permanently leave his place of duty or help the enemy and conclude that, given the five years Bergdahl spent in captivity, he should simply be administratively separated from the service.
No criminal charges will be preferred. Bowe Bergdahl will leave the Army and return to civilian life. Within days he will no doubt be offered a sizeable sum for the rights to his story by a major publishing house.
The President, of course, will be spared any further embarrassment. The Army will have perverted the military justice system, but no one will particularly care. All across America the members of Bergdahl’s unit who overcame their fears, stood their ground and did their duty will scratch their heads and wonder if everything they ever fought for was a lie. Hundreds of thousands of other men and women who also served their country honorably will wonder the same.
None of it has happened yet, and somehow it is all so clear already: the comments by the Pentagon press spokesman assuring us the investigation was done by the book, the talking heads advising us that in his own way Bergdahl too is a “casualty of war”, the President swearing that politics had “no role” in the military’s decision.
The smell of whitewash is overwhelming.
- See more at: http://www.epictimes.com/charlesfaddis/2014/10/the-smell-of-whitewash-is-overwhelming/#sthash.2xYZTH0q.dpuf