So the Bowe Bergdahl saga has now reached a point that, really, has been inevitable since he didn’t answer the muster on 1 July 2009; he’s been charged with desertion and misbehavior in the face of the enemy. There wasn’t any other way for this to end apart from a court martial, because it’s been obvious from the start there were questions Bergdahl hadn’t satisfactorily answered. Now, in the great traditions of the legal profession, he’s hired a lawyer who’s doing his absolute best to make those answers even less convincing than ever, but there are some facts here that shouldn’t be obscured behind courtroom nonsense.
Bergdahl’s lawyer Eugene Fidell is currently saying the US Army shouldn’t even have enlisted him because he quit the Coast Guard 26 days into training. This is legal buffoonery of the most revolting kind, and completely irrelevant. Just because Bergdahl wasn’t psychologically suited to going to sea on a small boat doesn’t mean he wasn’t psychologically suited to being an infantryman. The FACT here is that he managed to pass infantry training and serve for close to a year without any issues.
Fidell also claims that Bergdahl didn’t intend to desert his post that night – instead, the lawyer argues, his client wanted to report misconduct in his unit to another post, and intended to return as soon as he’d done that. To anyone who’s spent any time in the military at all, that’s obvious nonsense. If you want to report misconduct you do it through the chain of command, and if the chain of command is compromised, you go to the military police. To anyone who knows the specific circumstances of Afghanistan, of course, Fidell’s claim would be laughable if it wasn’t so vilely dishonest.
Bergdahl was relieved of sentry duty on an isolated patrol base just after midnight. It was dark. The insurgents, largely, control the countryside in the hours of darkness. Is anyone seriously stupid enough to believe that a loyal, dedicated, US soldier believed this was the ideal time to walk to a base two miles away, on his own, and that before leaving he stacked his weapons and armor neatly in his basha and left the PB with just his uniform, water and a compass? Sorry, Mr. Fidell, but this is utter manure.
Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but the FACTS are not to be disputed; he hated the USA, he hated the US Army and he hated his unit. This is all beyond doubt because he repeatedly wrote it in emails to his family. He deliberately left his post without permission, which is by definition either absence without leave or desertion. In the circumstances, it was not, cannot have been, anything else. Whether or not the search for him resulted in an increased tempo of attacks against ISAF troops in the area and (as is widely believed by survivors of that time) led to six deaths is not relevant legally speaking, but naturally makes the whole mess a lot more emotive. What matters, though, is that the truth comes out now and that it does so without courtroom theatrics and irrelevant nonsense about Bergdahl’s feelings on the ISAF mission.
Bowe Bergdahl went to Afghanistan because the USA sent him there. No matter how he ended up in Taliban captivity, it was right for the USA to do everything necessary to get him back. But now that he is back, he needs to explain his actions and, if as seems likely, they fall short of what they should have been, he needs to pay the price for them.
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