Guy Farmer: Bowe Bergdahl gets what he deserves
Army Gen. Robert Abrams did the right thing earlier this month when he decided Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should face a general court martial for deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the equivalent of felony charges in a civilian court. If convicted, he could face life in a military prison. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow.
To his credit, Gen. Abrams overruled a subordinate’s recommendation Bergdahl receive nothing more than a slap-on-the-wrist lesser charge, which would have carried a maximum penalty of 12 months in confinement. Bergdahl was released from captivity last year in an Obama administration prisoner swap that freed him in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban fighters, at least one of whom has returned to the battlefield. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) criticized Obama for not giving Congress the required 30-day notice on the prisoner swap and former Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey called the swap “a ghastly transaction.”
All of us remember last year’s embarrassing and inappropriate Rose Garden ceremony in which President Obama congratulated himself for engineering Bergdahl’s release. Flanked by the soldier’s parents, Obama justified the prisoner swap by citing the military’s “no soldier left behind” creed. As I wrote at the time, the awkward ceremony reminded me of President George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” fiasco aboard an aircraft carrier. The highlight, or lowlight, of Obama’s ceremony was when Bergdahl’s heavily bearded father spoke Pashto in the Rose Garden.
The Washington Post’s level-headed editorial writer, Charles Lane, opined “Obama made a fool of himself by treating Bergdahl’s return as appropriate for a Rose Garden ceremony … even though he knew that Bergdahl is hardly a hero.” And to compound the error, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who blamed the Benghazi terrorist attack on an obscure video, declared Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction.” But the deserter’s platoon mates soon denounced him for abandoning them at a dangerous and remote outpost in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl recently previewed his court martial defense in an interview in which he compared himself to movie action hero Jason Bourne, a ridiculous and insulting comparison. Actually, he’s more like Benedict Arnold. Bergdahl claimed he walked off his post because of concerns about his unit’s leadership, but soon realized he was in over his head. “I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing,” he said. Anyone who believes that fairy-tale should have his or her head examined.
Meanwhile, Bergdahl continues to draw full pay and allowances as he carries out menial duties at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. He belongs in the brig, however, and the sooner he gets there, the better. His situation reminds me of the Fort Hood shooter, Islamic jihadist Maj. Nidal Hassan, who continued to draw pay and benefits long after he shot and killed 13 fellow soldiers in the name of Allah. I believe in protecting the rights of the accused, but that was a bit much.
As I wrote last year, Bergdahl underwent “a thorough psychological exam to determine whether he resisted his Taliban captors, or whether he converted to Islam and signed on as an Islamic warrior.” Given his father’s weird performance in the White House Rose Garden, I have my doubts about Bergdahl’s loyalties.
I’d like to be more generous and understanding in this season of peace and love, but Bergdahl is a traitor who should be convicted of treason. He’s fortunate to be facing lesser charges. Happy New Year!
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a U.S. Air Force veteran.