In 2009, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his post at his base in Afghanistan. After being traded for five Taliban leaders, he was brought home and now, according to a senior Defense official, Bergdahl is claiming that he left his post in order to find another post to complain about “order and discipline” in his unit. A second official claims that Bergdahl had “concerns about leadership issues at his base.”
This information is part of the report presented to General Mark Milley who this week decided to charge Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. This information outlines what could be a key part of Bergdahl’s defense, which the army is already aware of.
Both officials declined to be identified because of the legal proceedings against Berghahl, but both have direct knowledge of the information outlined in the report. “This was a kid who had leadership concerns on his mind,” the second official said. “He wasn’t fed up, he wasn’t planning to desert.”
What Bergdahl’s concerns were, and whether they are relevant to the case of desertion the Army is trying to make will be a matter for military authorities to decide. “I can’t tell you if his concerns were valid, but in his mind they were,” the official said.
Both officials said Bergdahl believed he could make it to the next base by relying on wilderness skills he learned growing up in rural Idaho, even though the area was full of insurgents. It was not immediately clear how far the nearest base was during that timeframe in July 2009.
Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
First, consider that in a letter from Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, he clearly regards Bergdahl’s actions as being “in the line of duty” on page one.
“In light of the nearly five years of harsh captivity SGT Bergdahl endured, the purpose of his leaving his unit, and his behavior while a prisoner, it would be unduly harsh to impose on him the lifetime stigma of a court-martial conviction or an Other Than Honorable discharge and to deny him veterans benefits,” the letter reads. “The existing Missing-Captured status determination should not be disturbed and his injuries in captivity should be deemed to have been incurred in the line of duty and not as a result of his own misconduct.”
The letter goes on to express Bergdahl being “eternally grateful” to Barack Obama and adds that he “would likely have been murdered.” Really? The guy was a captive for five years! If they wanted to murder him, they would have done it much earlier.
The letter denies that Bergdahl had any role in the Islamic State taking hostages and executing them after the unlawful prisoner swap for 5 Taliban Islamic terrorists, which should have resulted in Obama’s impeachment. Yet, no one can deny that at least 14 people lost their lives looking for Bergdahl after he abandoned his post.
However, in the midst of the letter, Fidell hits on something that is quite telling. He writes:
“SGT Bergdahl has been vilified as a coward in the absence of a shred of evidence to support that description. There have been calls for him to be executed, a sentence that has not been carried out for any GI for any offense since 1961 or for any deserter since PVT Edward D. Slovik’s execution in France 70 years ago, and that in any event is not authorized because this is not a ‘time of war’ for UCMJ purposes. It has also been suggested that SGT Bergdahl should be sentenced, ‘at the very least,’ to life without parole.” (emphasis mine)
Then if we are not in a time of war, what are we doing? What is this claim that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is making about America is a “battlefield”? How does Graham appeal to the “law of war” in the United States and deny the Fifth Amendment’s protections for alleged “enemy combatants”? What are our military doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is we are not in a time of war, albeit an undeclared war? That is very telling, isn’t it?
Fidell also says that Bergdahl “did not intend to remain away from the Army permanently,” but rather “his specific intent was to bring what he thought were disturbing circumstances to the attention of the nearest general officer.”
Bergdahl also wrote his own letter indicating that he was, “kept in constant isolation during the entire five years, with little to no understanding of time, through periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light and absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door I was held behind.”
Yet, how does that square with things that we know about him? As author Robert Spencer reminds us:
Much of that evidence has been known for years, and more of it came out last year, when Obama traded five seasoned, battle-hardened jihadis back to the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl. Former infantry officer Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, wrote in the Daily Beast that Bergdahl was “a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.” Refuting reports that Bergdahl got separated from his unit while on patrol, Bethea declared: “Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not ‘lag behind on a patrol,’ as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.”
Bethea’s account is in full accord with the Taliban’s 2010 claim that Bergdahl had converted to Islam and was teaching bomb-making to its jihadists. There is no reason to take anything that Taliban spokesmen say at face value, but secret documents revealed Thursday afternoon corroborate the claim. According to one of these documents, dated August 23, 2012, “conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying ‘Salaam’ repeatedly.”
Finally, remembering that Sgt. Bergdahl’s emails to his parents indicated that he was “ashamed to even be American’ and that “the horror that is America is disgusting” should also be considered in the mix.
While I am not a judge nor jury, and I confess that America has fallen far from the principles that she was founded on so long ago when Pilgrims escaped persecution and established our land, Sgt. Bergdahl took a particular oath and his leaving his post, for whatever reason, resulted in the deaths of over a dozen men, at least. Frankly, if there were leadership concerns on his mind, he sure took the worst way out to deal with them, and now it appears as if he will be made out to be the good guy, while those who died searching for him are thrown under the bus. As Lt. Col. Ralph Peters explained, the Obama administration is “pressuring the Army to whitewash” the Bowe Berdahl swap, and I might add his desertion as well.
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