Bergdahl is No Hero, According to His Fellow SoldiersPosted: June 5, 2014
Bergdahl is No Hero, According to His Fellow Soldiers
by JBS President John F. McManus
One late June night in 2009, U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his unit in northeastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. He left a note saying he was disillusioned with the U.S. military, could no longer support the mission he was tasked to participate in, and had left to start life anew. He had earlier sent his computer and some other belongings home to Idaho. In a letter to his parents, he concluded that “the horror that is America is disgusting.” Fellow soldiers recall him gazing at the mountains from the small base his unit had established and wondering aloud whether he could cross them and get to China. For months after his disappearance that was never considered a capture, the mission his unit sought to carry out dwelled instead on finding him and rescuing him from the Taliban who were thought to be holding him.
Now that he has been released, several of the men who served alongside him have spoken out with renewed anger. Joshua Cornelison, a former medic assigned to the same platoon from which Bergdahl bolted, told the New York Times, “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl.” That search turned out to be very costly when two soldiers were killed in an ambush within a week of the disappearance of their lost comrade. Cody Full, another member of Bergdahl’s unit, agrees with Cornelison that their fellow platoon mate ought to be court-martialed as a deserter.
Over ensuing weeks and months, another four to six Americans met death in efforts to find the missing private. For at least 90 days, the American forces in that area of Afghanistan were under orders to abandon whatever mission they were on if they had any indication that Bergdahl was being held nearby. Not only were ground troops searching, they were aided by helicopters, drones, and dogs trained to locate humans.
Now, after five years, Bergdahl has been released by the Taliban and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice say he is in poor health. (Why should anyone believe Rice after her false claim that the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi occurred because of a Los Angeles airing of an uncomplimentary rogue video?) The prisoner swap arranged by the Obama administration has to be of the most-lopsided exchanges in history. For Bergdahl’s freedom, the U.S. released five top Taliban officials from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. All appear from news photos to be in excellent health. Each has a history of top service within the Taliban. Considered leaders of the forces that would impose the strictest form of Islam on their native country (and the world!), their release has led to the widespread conclusion that the Taliban will be energized and become more determined and deadly. Capturing more Americans and bargaining for the release could become a new tactic as the Americans prepare to leave the ravaged country.
Let’s put this into perspective by switching roles. Would it make any sense if we had exchanged a private in the Taliban for five colonels and generals in our armed forces?
The 5 for 1 deal arranged by the Obama team included mediation from the officials in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. It also included official contact with the Taliban, and implicit recognition of their legitimacy. The arrangement also requires Qatar, a Muslim-dominated country, to hold the five for a year and ensure that they will not engage in any contact with their Afghan comrades, all of whom are overjoyed at receiving what they consider excellent news. Will Qatar enforce such an arrangement?
Bergdahl will soon be back in the United States. Already the recipient of praises from President Obama and others, he will be feted as a “hero” by some but not by all – especially many who served alongside him. The Code of Military Justice governing military personnel states that “desertion or attempt to desert” is punishable during time of war with whatever a military court decides, even including death. There is no likelihood that Bergdahl will meet death or even that he will be court-martialed. Nor will there be any happy recalling of their loss by families of the men who died searching for a man who surely disgraced himself while wearing the uniform of his country.
But surely the greater disgrace is that the military continues to be used (and abused) to unconstitutionally fulfill the role of world policeman, “spreading democracy” by interfering in other countries affairs, unnecessarily expending blood and treasure. Bring them home — now.
Mr. McManus served on active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years in the 1950s.