“In the old days, deserters were shot.”—Donald Trump
On January 31st, 1945, with final review and subsequent approval by Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, one Private Edward Slovak was executed by firing squad for the crime of desertion in the face of the enemy. That is the only instance of execution of a deserter in the U.S. Army during WWII.
Sixty years later, the nation is faced with another case of desertion, this time messy and confused, controversial and gray. If you have been meaning to catch up on the Bergdahl case, perhaps poised at the keyboard to conduct some Internet research on the subject, then stand fast! I’ve got you covered. Here are the facts as they pertain to the Bergdahl case status.
- Fact: Bergdahl underwent Title 32 court proceedings, the military’s version of a civilian grand jury. He has a civilian lawyer (Eugene Fidell), who hoped to position his client for a discharge from military service, where Bergdahl would be immune from military punishment and the military would be free of the Bergdahl migraine. Win-win, right?
- Fact: Military council presiding over Bergdahl’s Title 32 hearing advocates that Bergdahl had an altruistic motive behind his departure from his duty post and was acting for the greater good of the soldiers in his unit. Moreover, under the captivity of the Haqqani Taliban regime, he has frankly suffered enough.
- Fact: The charges Bergdahl faces are desertion and misbehavior before the enemy; the latter charge under a general court-martial can carry a sentence as harsh as life imprisonment.
- Fact: Bergdahl’s military and civilian council both advocate moving from a general court-martial scenario to the more lenient special court-martial. This approach would levy a sentence as light as one year in confinement, and discharge from military under less-than-honorable circumstances.
- Fact: Hard, pipe-hittin’ Commanding General Robert Abrams directed that Bergdahl be tried under general court-martial. Done deal. Bergdahl will be tried under general court-martial; his civilian council has already been issued a formal list of charges.
- Fact: Hard, pipe-hittin’ Robert Abrams may be facing career-altering backlash from the Obama administration for his handling of the Bergdahl case. The commander-in-chief would simply like this dinner-party-gone-wrong to just go away. Hey, he already opened up to Bergdahl’s parents—Bowe Bergdahl could have been his son!
- Fact: Bergdahl’s trial by general court-marshall begins December 22, 2015.
Here then, my friends, are some additional facts of a lesser caliber, but are pertinent nonetheless:
- Fact: Bergdahl did suffer during his captivity. How much? Well, during his debriefing it was enough to make Terrence Russell of the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency cry—twice! If an Air Force fellow crying is to be my sounding block of the severity of an event, I am likely better off rooting through tea leaves for answers.
- Fact: Bergdahl’s military career began with an application to the U.S. Coast Guard. The USCG washed him out as unfit for duty due to mental issues. The Army took him though, and the Army was shocked when he wandered from his duty post because…?
- Fact: Obama traded five Taliban commanders from Gitmo for one private first class (PFC) deserter. The return on investment of that capital venture soundly escapes me. Say for sake of argument we compared a single Taliban commander with our single private. A Taliban commander deploys his troops, assesses and develops the battlefield situation, adjusts his troops according to the probability of conflicts and exploits, and maintains pressure until he can advance. Bergdahl has lunch, then deserts (no pun intended). Food for thought: I’m just wondering what folks’ take on the trade might be. Was the grossly asymmetric swap done out of sheer desperation to get back a U.S. serviceman held captive? Did Obama see the open trade channel as an opportunity to flood more Taliban operatives out of Gitmo and back to the homeland? In the absence of any decent or plausible explanation, those are just some of the results that might crop up.
- Fact: Several prominent figures in the U.S. Senate firmly believe that the White House broke the law by releasing the Taliban Five by failing to notify Congress 30 days prior.
The White House offers a cold leftover excuse for their brash actions.
- Fact: The senior Army officers assigned to preside over Bergdahl’s Article 32 reported that there was no clear evidence that U.S. servicemen lost their lives or were even wounded as a direct result of trying to recover Bergdahl. No really, come again?
- Fact: U.S. Navy SEAL James Hatch lost his leg from the thigh down while on an assault operation to rescue Bergdahl. Having served with James Hatch in the Balkan theater, I take extreme issue with the argument that there were no KIAs or WIAs in the recovery of Bergdahl. It begs the question: Just what kind of marching orders were the officers assigned to the Article 32 hearing given?
- Fact: Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, vows to initiate a Congressional investigation into the Bergdahl case if Bergdahl is not punished.
Ladies and gentlemen, now for my assessment and summary:
I believe the key to defining if Bergdahl deserted or not hinges upon his reason for abandoning his post, if that’s at all possible to ascertain. The defense is going to make every effort to squint at this as hard as possible to make it go gray. As for lawyers, they are all vermin regardless if they are commissioned or civilian—one just has to wear a uniform and trim his mustache.
How do we find the truth? We can’t get it from Bergdahl. He’s on trial by court-martial—he’s not going to tell the truth. Perhaps he will actually get sentenced to a year in confinement. He’ll write a book on his version of the truth, make a fortune, and grotesquely maladjusted women will send him marriage proposals while he’s in the pokey. Is this a great country or what?! Is he a prophet out to profit?
I can picture PCF (how did he make sergeant during five years in captivity?) leaving his duty post in the night, perched upon a jackass, shaving basin on his head, off to do battle with a windmill. PFC Berdahl and his quixotic notion that he was the chosen one to bring his unit’s dirty laundry to the attention of higher command, even if it meant a five-year tour through Haqqani hooches, puzzles me on so many levels. I guess there is a right way, a wrong way, an Army way, and then there’s some ethereal Bergdahl way.
Perhaps a divine intervention sent Bergdahl to journey the countryside in search of a commander high enough to reverse the descent of his rifle company into the very vortex of Hell. He was the chosen one that night—a prophet.
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah, 6:8)
And as for the comments section at the end of SOFREP articles…civilian haters who don’t understand military ethics and protocol need not apply. Just have it on good faith from those who do understand, what Bergdahl did was pointless, unprecedented, foolish, cowardly, selfish, asinine to the highest of heights, and finally, it was, by U.S. Army doctrine, wrong.
Here’s to you, Bergie. I look forward to your first book.
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”