Beau Bergdahl, a name from the past, 2009 to be more precise, begins the final phase of his Court Martial proceedings today when the presiding military judge begins deliberations on the charges that Bergdahl deserted his post and engaged in misbehavior with the enemy in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl has claimed that he went off in search of some other officer in whom he could confide as to how his own unit was being commanded. Obviously, he thought he was more capable of those decisions than was the commanding officer of his unit. Bergdahl was a Specialist 4th Class, ‘Spec 4’ in Army-speak, at the time if memory serves. His commander was likely either a First Lieutenant or more likely a Captain. In either case, a Spec 4 does not outrank a Loot or a Captain. Bergdahl was a deserter; it is as simple as that in the world of the Army. It is especially that simple in combat.
He found a unit although it was a Taliban outfit rather than another U.S. Army unit and he was held as a prisoner, gleefully no doubt, by the Taliban since they knew he would be worth something somewhere down the line.
It turned out that President Obama thought he was quite valuable and gave in to negotiated demands for the release of five Taliban prisoners that we were holding in Guantanamo. That release occurred in 2014. Obviously, those five were Taliban heavyweights or they’d not have found themselves in Guantanamo. They were no doubt very happy to have regained their freedom so they could go back home and practice on wreaking more havoc someday in their future.
Now, some three years later, Bergdahl is finally coming before a Court Martial Judge, a Colonel, who will hear the evidence and make his decision on what happens to Bergdahl as the result of his decision to walk off into enemy territory as he supposedly tried to find someone to whom he could whine about his own unit.
His defense will be based, essentially, on the supposed ‘fact’ that he can’t be blamed for the subsequent occurrences simply based on his desertion. Those occurrences included men going into the face of enemy positions where six died and two were seriously wounded trying to help their fellow soldier.
How the fact that he triggered the subsequent ‘chain of events’ by his desertion can be claimed not to be the cause of the other things having happened seems to be just about the worst case I can imagine were I to be that Army Colonel hearing the evidence. How the fact that President Obama released five Taliban bad guys for Bergdahl’s release wasn’t directly tied to Bergdahl’s original action of Desertion escapes me, but that apparently is the case the defense will try to present.
Another President, President Trump has made comments on this case and that is also supposed to figure into the Court Martial decision. That would seem to suggest that the military system of justice is identical to the U.S. civilian system of justice, and that simply is not true as I understood that system when I served in that military and was subject to it.
There is no doubt that Bergdahl was a ‘deserter’ who left his post, was subsequently captured and held for five years, and who cost us dead and wounded men due to his bolting to the enemy; and, that resulted in the release of five heavy-duty Taliban bad guys based on the decision by President Obama as he made the deal for Bergdahl’s release to us. This was not an AWOL, absent without leave, case.
There must be a price paid for these actions. Remarks by President Trump ought not to be part of this since the Military Justice system is quite unique and does not involve a seated jury of Bergdahl’s peers. The sole Judge is the Colonel who will hear the evidence and then make his decision based upon what we call the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Bergdahl would be, in my opinion, given a gift for not being found guilty and then being executed by firing squad. But, only time will tell us what decision is reached in this case. Waffling by this Colonel could do harm to the military in future such instances if those were to occur. I doubt we ever would’ve thought someone would do what Bergdahl did in the first place. To soften the penalty would only give life to future such softer sentences.
Discipline is part of life in the military. Without discipline, there can be no assurance that orders will be followed. Bergdahl threatened that entire system with his desertion. It just doesn’t work that way. An entire system of military rules of conduct rides on this decision. It is that important.
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