WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 — The U.S. military says that a person is guilty of desertion if he abandons his duty or post without permission and intends to remain away from the military “permanently.” After months of deliberation, the military has charged Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and, more seriously, with misbehavior before the enemy.
The disgrace is how the Obama administration has handled this entire episode.
Last year, President Obama released five known terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and exchanged them for Sgt. Bergdahl without notifying Congress. The president claimed that Bergdahl was in eminent danger if this exchange was not made. There is some doubt whether that was true. Most say this action was disgraceful.
Shortly after the exchange, national security adviser Susan Rice went on numerous national television networks saying the exchange was justified because Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” Clearly a deserter who leaves the battlefield voluntarily and puts the lives of his fellow soldiers who search for him in danger is not serving with honor and distinction. Her spin was disgraceful.
Rice further said that the five known terrorists who were exchanged for Bergdahl “in all likelihood, will not pose a significant risk to the United States. And that it is in our national interests that this transfer has been made.” Evidence now indicates as many as three of the five terrorists have begun to make contact with other terrorists, which could lead to further activities harmful to Americans. Rice’s statements are disgraceful.
At the same time that Rice was spewing the disgraceful narrative on national television, President Obama welcomed Bergdahl’s parents to the Rose Garden, saying that their son was “never forgotten” and that the U.S. “does not leave our men and women in uniform behind.” While that sounds good, the reality is that it doesn’t make sense to risk and lose soldiers because the president does not want to leave behind a deserter. Obama’s action was disgraceful.
At least six soldiers who served with Bergdahl and were included in the search for him concluded that Bergdahl clearly deserted his post and put the lives of fellow soldiers in danger. They felt Obama’s actions were disgraceful.
Just days after these soldiers spoke, State Department spokesman Marie Harf suggested that the six soldiers who served with Bergdahl were misinformed. Harf’s behavior was beyond disgraceful.
And now, after the military released its findings, spokesperson for the State Department Jen Psaki was asked if the trade was worth it in light of the charges of desertion. She answered, “Was it worth it? Absolutely.” Psaki continues to spin this action on the “no soldier left behind” theme. She says that even if he was a deserter the swap was worth it. Psaki’s behavior is a disgrace.
Berdahl’s defense team wrote a lengthy letter to Gen. Mark Milley, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command who authorized the deserter charges. In the letter, they urged leniency in light of his time in captivity. Leniency for a soldier who freely walked away from his duties on the battlefield is a disgraceful request.
In addition, a statement from Bergdahl was released by his lawyers, in which he described his five years in captivity as a torturous situation where he was kept in isolation, chained to a bed and deprived of food and often light. While he wants the public to be sympathetic, it is difficult for Americans to feel sympathy toward a soldier who deserted his unit while on the battlefield, perhaps leading to the death of fellow soldiers. Bergdahl’s lawyers, who are trying to mount a defense, are behaving disgracefully.
This entire episode from Bergdahl’s desertion to the president’s illegal prisoner exchange to the State Department’s talking points is a disgrace for the American people. We should be upset at these happenings and hope something like this never happens again.