Hamilton: The Bergdahl Affair: How will it end?
This writer, a former paratrooper, has zero sympathy for a soldier who deserts his post in a war zone and, by so doing, causes the deaths and wounding of fellow soldiers sent out to try to find him. If Bowe Bergdahl is found guilty of Desertion and also Misbehavior in the Face of the Enemy, then he deserves to be punished in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
The argument that Bergdahl’s time spent under Taliban control should count as “time-served” is bleeding-heart male bovine excreta. Instead of serving out his Army enlistment in a matter of months and going home, Bergdahl, in violation of the UCMJ, placed himself under Taliban control. Unlawful actions should have consequences, past, present, and future.
Bergdahl’s apologists claim the military tradition of “no soldier left behind” made swapping Bergdahl for five of the Taliban’s most senior officers the proper course of action; however, they overlook how the Obama White House and the Hillary State Department left 35 Americans behind and without rescue in Benghazi. Four were killed, to include the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Ten were wounded.
Even though Bergdahl is pictured wearing the Red Beret of the U.S. Army Airborne, Bergdahl never went through airborne training. The soldiers and Marines who have made it through the rigors of airborne training and have earned their Airborne Wings are members of an elite band of brothers (and some sisters) within the military. To be without Airborne Wings inside an airborne unit can be a pretty miserable experience.
To borrow from Henry V’s famous “band of brothers” speech uttered just before the Battle of Agincourt, without Airborne Wings, there was only one way for Bergdahl to “gentle his condition,” and be conditionally admitted to his airborne unit’s band of brothers. Had Bergdahl applied for airborne training, he could have “gentled his condition.”
Normally, personnel who may face a long prison sentence are considered “flight risks” and are placed in pre-trial confinement. Yet Bergdahl, shadowed in the distance by a couple of non-commissioned officers, moves freely about Ft. Sam Houston in south Texas. Do the authorities and Bergdahl’s lawyer see a presidential pardon in Bergdahl’s future? Then why bother to lock up someone who would have little reason to slip over the border into Mexico.
But can someone whose actions left six families grieving the loss of loved ones and left other soldiers with grievous wounds be pardoned? See U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, and The Federalist Papers Number 74. Some legal scholars argue a sitting U.S. President, unless impeached, can even pardon himself.
Can any good be salvaged from the Bergdahl Affair? Yes. If the Uniform Code of Military Justice is allowed to operate without any further undue military command or White House influence, then even “justice delayed” will have upheld the Rule of Law and the UCMJ will remain in force and effect. Otherwise, the UCMJ is toast. And maybe the U.S. Army will learn this lesson: Placing someone who is not airborne-qualified in an airborne unit is prejudicial to “good order and discipline.”
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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