Guy W. Farmer: Deserter/traitor Bowe Bergdahl got off easy
November 11, 2017
Disgraced former U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who abandoned his fellow soldiers on an Afghan battlefield in 2009, beat the rap last week by coming away from his court-martial with no additional jail time. Although he was reduced in rank and dishonorably discharged from the Army, he walked out of a military court as a free man.
President Trump called Bergdahl's light sentence "a complete and total disgrace," and I agree because he dishonored the uniform he wore and put the lives of his comrades in arms in jeopardy. Military prosecutors had recommended a 14-year prison sentence, which would've been a more appropriate punishment for a deserter who tried to depict himself as a victim. At one point he actually said the Taliban treated him better than the Army did despite his accusations of torture.
Victimhood is a recurring theme in civilian and military courts these days as criminal defendants claim to be victims. So think of Bergdahl, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey as victims. Different crimes, same excuse. The devil made them do it.
Bergdahl claimed he walked off his dangerous remote post in Afghanistan because he was concerned about his command's leadership. Of course that's not how honorable, patriotic soldiers express their concerns; they take their complaints up the chain of command. If your immediate commander won't listen, you go to the next higher level.
Bergdahl's apologists say he was held by the Taliban in "brutal conditions" for five years before being released in a 2014 prisoner swap engineered by former President Obama, who traded Bergdahl for five senior Taliban fighters. That dubious decision led to a highly inappropriate and embarrassing Rose Garden ceremony in which Obama welcomed Bergdahl's parents to the White House. That's where Bergdahl's heavily bearded father proceeded to speak Pashtun, the language of the Taliban, in one of the more awkward moments of Obama's presidency.
Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, made the situation even worse by telling the media Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction." But that's not what Army prosecutors thought when they charged the disgraced soldier with desertion and "misbehavior before the enemy," a serious felony comparable to treason that carries a possible life sentence.
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According to the Army, Bergdahl's desertion led to a desperate manhunt that risked soldiers' lives and resulted in at least three serious injuries. A rocket-propelled grenade shattered former Cpl. Jonathan Morita's right hand during an intensive search for the deserter. Despite the military's "no soldier left behind" policy, Bergdahl left his comrades behind when he walked off his assigned post.
An outspoken retired Army officer, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, spoke for me when he asked how "a confessed deserter whose actions brought our Afghan campaign to a halt and led to the acknowledged wounding and alleged deaths of his comrades, can walk out of a military courtroom as a free man." Good question. "Political correctness has infected our military even more profoundly than many of us long feared," Peters added. "Successive administrations have used our armed forces as a laboratory for social transformation." Amen!
I know I'm not alone in expressing concern our top military commanders are paying too much attention to transgender bathrooms and not enough attention to war-fighting capabilities and other priority issues like combat readiness and ship navigation, given the Navy's recent ship collisions at sea.
Convicted deserter Bowe Bergdahl should be shunned by the military and polite society.
Perhaps he and his father can get together and speak Pashtun to one another while watching ISIS propaganda videos.
Guy W. Farmer is a retired diplomat and U.S. Air Force veteran.