Guest Opinions

Army, media, public should back off Bergdahl charges

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C. on Jan. 12. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C. on Jan. 12. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. AP

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can’t get a break. From Coast Guard washout to Army waiver enlistee, to soldier in the field, to fantasy mission, to POW, to being beaten and caged, to prisoner exchange, to venom-spewing veterans, to media pundit debates, to Army whipping boy, to Army sacrificial lamb — Bowe seemed to have touched a few nerves.

The United States Army listed Bowe Bergdahl as AWOL, for leaving his post without authorization, and as a POW for five years during his captivity. Upon release, the charges were upgraded to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

AWOL is exactly that, absent from your assigned post without authorization, which Bergdahl was. After 30 days AWOL can be upgraded to desertion, but that can be waived. Desertion also means it has to be proved the soldier had no intention of returning to his unit. This was never the case of Bowe Bergdahl.

In the Army’s investigation of Bergdahl, they did not dispute his captivity, his escape attempts, his torture and caging, or his permanent physical and psychological injuries. The lead investigating officer recommended no jail time and a nonpunitive discharge. Sgt. Bergdahl is no hero, no action figure, no role model. He was a young man who made a decision based on fantasy, and the result quickly turned to cruel reality.

Various people want Bowe’s scalp, but the reasons are not clear. The U.S. Army has repeatedly stated no soldiers were lost looking for Bergdahl, yet the hypotheticals abound: “Soldiers were/could have been killed looking for Bergdahl.” The hypotheticals even extend back to the Vietnam War: “Soldiers went AWOL on R&R, I wonder how many less names would be on the Wall if they had not gone AWOL?”

Well here’s some hypotheticals for you: How many less names would be on the Vietnam Memorial Wall if President Lyndon Johnson didn’t engage the U.S. military in an unnecessary, illegal and immoral war in the first place? There would be zero names on the Wall — the Wall wouldn’t even exist. How many fewer soldiers would have been killed/wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq if President Bush didn’t engage the U.S. military in two unnecessary, illegal and immoral wars? Answer: No soldiers would have been killed or wounded.

While the Bowe haters are building his gallows, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who have more blood on their hands than could even be washed off — the three most evil men ever to occupy the highest positions in our government — are free men.

As I previously stated in a letter to the editor, give Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl an Article 15 (reprimand) for being AWOL, let him keep his pay and sergeant rank, VA benefits, an honorable discharge and a commendation for surviving a brutal captivity. Stay tuned — we’ll find out Bowe’s fate at the show trial in August.

Tom Yount, of Boise, was a U.S. Army MP and served with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1968. He is a retired federal government employee.

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