FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will the Military Throw the Book at Bowe Bergdahl?

Photo by United States Army | CC by 2.0

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is likely to get a concentrated taste of military “justice” when he is sentenced later this month for two violations of military law. On Monday, October 16, 2017, he pleaded guilty before a military court to “desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.” Bergdahl claims that he left his unit in the field in Paktika province of Afghanistan in 2009 for what he said was an effort to report a “leadership failure” in his unit. He was subsequently captured by the Taliban and tortured. He repeatedly attempted to escape from captivity, and was ultimately freed in a trade for Taliban prisoners after five years of captivity. He has spent the last three years as a clerk at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and was charged in 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Readers will recall the photographs and news accounts of Bergdahl’s parents at the White House where President Obama explained that the U.S. never leaves prisoners of war behind in defending the prisoner exchange.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump stated, or more accurately ranted, categorizing Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor.” The latter was a curious response from a person who never spent a single day in the military, received a diagnosis of bone spurs that excused him from the military during the Vietnam War, and could best be described as a “sunshine patriot.” While tens of thousands of U.S. lives were ended or placed into years of turmoil and pain as a result of the Vietnam War, Trump did not break a sweat. In Southeast Asia, millions died, as the real estate mogul was being groomed for better and greater things. But, with militarism and the expansion of endless wars, and the explosion of profits and power by the military-industrial complex, the sunshine patriot and commander-in-chief Donald Trump just might get retribution in the case of Bergdahl.

Trump has delegated his authority as commander-in-chief to the military. What then can be expected from the military judge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina when sentencing is passed on Bergdahl? Bergdahl said of his actions while in Afghanistan: “At the time I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations… It’s very inexcusable” (“Bowe Bergdahl Pleads Guilty in Desertion Case, Huffington Post, October 16, 2017). Soldiers searching for Bergdahl after he left his post were wounded. Even though Bergdahl has spent the last three years in a state of semi-confinement while awaiting trial and sentencing, the case of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning might be an indicator of what to expect in terms of a possible sentence for Bergdahl. Manning received a 35-year sentence for transmitting classified information (later commuted by Barack Obama), but Manning, although having served in a war zone, was not a combat soldier. Several soldiers who have fled to Canada in the past several years rather than serve in a war zone or be redeployed to a war zone have been sentenced to relatively short terms of confinement. Bergdahl could be sentenced for five years on the charge of desertion and up to life in prison for the charge of misbehavior before the enemy.  The time that Bergdahl has spent as a clerk at the base in Texas since his release by the Taliban may or may not be considered in any sentencing.

These are possible sentencing considerations that may be factored into any punishment Bergdahl receives based on his scheduled October 23, 2017 sentencing hearing:

+ A state of hyper-militarism exists in the U.S. and has been a factor since the attacks of September 2001.

+ Bergdahl signed up for the military and as a volunteer the fact of his reaction to the war zone in Afghanistan will most likely not be taken into account in his sentencing. The latter is a premise as old as war itself and is why soldiers who make a claim (Bergdahl has made no such claim) for conscientious objector status have an uphill battle while in the military.

+ The commanding officer in this case has a military career to consider and leniency may be considered as a negative within the military environment.

+ The Trump administration and its electoral base are highly militaristic and Trump has given unprecedented authority to military commanders in conducting operations in the many and endless wars the U.S. now fights. It is almost inconceivable that the value of mercy and reconciliation will be exhibited in Bergdahl’s sentencing, but it is an outcome for which to hold out hope.

+ When Bowe Bergdahl left his post, the war in Afghanistan had been going on for eight years. It has now been 16 years since that war was declared in answer to the 2001 attacks and Donald Trump has announced the second troop surge of the war, the first having taken place during the administration of Barack Obama. With no end in sight, massive outlays of money have been spent on a war that has brought little in the way of tangible security or improvement to that society.

The mass media pays scant attention to endless wars unless they furnish a quickly forgotten flashpoint, or raise moral questions that cannot be ignored.

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail