Sergeant Bergdahl was captured by the Islamic extremist group Haqqani Network and kept in Pakistan for about 5 years before he was released after the Obama administration arranged for a prisoner swap for five detainees in Guantanamo. The interesting thing here is that the Administration had touted the service of Sergeant Bergdahl as being honorable and worthy of the transaction to be brought back to the United States. “No man is left behind”, a phrase commonly used among soldiers and marines to signify the lengths each member will go to ensure each member is returned to the homeland in dignity, something President Obama stated during the speech announcing Bergdahl’s trade.
The Administration, at the time, needed some good cover, if not a feel good story that would demonstrate the President was for the military down to the last man. This is admirable, assuming the US was able to secure his release without having to give up anything politically. Ideally, the terrorists would have just handed him over; the other possibility would be to just go get him with a special operation that would see a few of the terrorists killed in the process. Everyone loves a feel good story where American’s are rescued.
No one, however, expected this. And the Administration’s effort to try and make it homecoming ended up a PR disaster by any stretch. This left a bad taste for many. Susan Rice, Jay Carney and others went on the offensive, touting Sergeant Bergdahl’s honorable and distinguished service, while literally offering no real evidence he, in fact, had performed any of his duties with distinction or honor. For some time, it was known that members of Bergdahl’s platoon were quite skeptical of how the Administration portrayed him In fact, many of his fellow soldiers stated he actually abandoned his post and his getting captured was his fault at a minimum. Subsequent searches for him led to the deaths of several soldiers, with families upset over how his return took place along with the Administration’s spin.
On Tuesday, the word broke that Sergeant Bergdahl would be charged with desertion. Fox News and NBC both broke the story. Within a few hours, however, the Pentagon backtracked, stating that no decision had been made and that that Army General Mark Milley, the command authority for the prosecution, was still reviewing the case.
From my perspective, this has now gotten worse. The investigation has gone on for an unusual amount of time for something where documents, information, and testimony had all been gathered prior to Bergdahl’s release. The only real testimony that needed to be taken was from Bergdahl himself, and that completed within a few weeks of his return. So it is intriguing that any decision on whether Bergdahl had violated any articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) would have taken this long, now suggests that more is going on behind the scene.
This puts the Administration in a very precarious position. President Obama made the announcement of his release in the Rose Garden with very peculiar, but strategic optics: Bergdahl’s parents were at the Rose Garden, and his father was allowed to speak. His father is another story in of itself, but many in the military noticed that this was very high profile and very photo opportunistic. Bergdahl’s capture was the subject of many conservatives drubbing of Obama, and that he didn’t care about military personnel. Obama obviously wanted to quell that notion. This would be a great way to help also take attention away from the festering Benghazi, IRS, and Holder investigations in Congress.
However, the way in which all this was carried out really bothered many conservatives and military members, including members of Bergdahl’s platoon. It is VERY unusual to swap out captured high value targets, like the ones in Gitmo, with just an ordinary soldier. This seemed to be extremely perplexing for which the Administration tried very much to deflect the narrative. The media gave enough cover to limit the questioning by many Americans who really wanted to know what this was about. Meanwhile, Platoon members were in shock at the whole thing: How is it a guy who deserted his post manages to get five high profile terrorists to be swapped? Didn’t we just fight a war in blood to get these guys?
Now, with a portrait of a President saving an honorable soldier from a terrorist group, and the questions of how Bergdahl’s release was arranged, it now seems the Army has a very different take on Bergdahl’s service during his tour. The fact the Army has had all this evidence for some time, and continues to drag out the process, suggests that the Administration is doing all it can to prevent the Army from releasing its findings. I almost willing to bet that Obama is probably telling General Milley to figure out a loophole that will allow Obama to save face. I would imagine this would be a very legalistic, technical, and possibly liberal reading of the law, or some sort of “command deference” so as to not punish Sergeant Bergdahl and quell any sort of backlash and give Obama supporters some ammunition on the social media front. More easily, Gen. Milley could just say out of compassion, to not put Bergdahl and his family through any more of the process, discharge him with a less than honorable discharge, and allow the General to take any remaining flack. Bergdahl could then file for review and upgrade to honorable after a few years and get any benefits back if the hearing is successful.
If it happens in this way, and it will be pretty evident with then final determination is made, for all intents and purposes, the Army’s credibility will have been diminished. If I were a Congressman, and the decision comes out this way, I would have that General brought to committee and demand to know what kinds of communications were taking place between his office and the White House. If there was impropriety, it needs to be shown and exposed. This would be, yet, another blemish on Obama, and certainly increase the mistrust of the military under this Administration.
Justice is supposed to be blind. The process in place is supposed to not only protect the rights of the accused, but preserve the integrity and dignity of the Armed Service, especially those who lost their lives while searching for Bergdahl. Seems only fitting since five Islamic terrorists were able to go free and, perhaps, be back on the front lines of battle with the USA, all while the grieving families of lost soldiers looking for Bergdahl try to find some reason not to believe their loss was in vain.