The Troops vs. Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl was a hero who survived approximately five years of imprisonment amongst the Taliban, so spun the Obama administration. They secured his release by trading five high-ranking Taliban. People cheered his return until his fellow soldiers spoke out, calling him anything but a hero. There are rumors that the Coast Guard turned him down for psychiatric reasons, that he went AWOL while in basic training, that he left the base to go drinking with locals, and that he gave actionable intelligence to the enemy. Just recently the Army decided to charge him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. American Thinker interviewed several military-related individuals about their feelings regarding the Bergdahl controversy.

Kenneth Luccioni lost his son Matthew, one of six who died while on a mission following up leads to find Bergdahl. He is outraged that the president paraded Bergdahl’s parents in a Rose Garden ceremony and that many in the administration called him a hero. He told American Thinker, “I was insulted for a number of reasons. When Matthew died I was not invited to the White House and only received a preprinted auto letter. Then after the firestorm started people were assassinating the character of the men who served with Bergdahl. They were actually heroes twice: when they volunteered to defend this country and when they stood up for the truth about Bergdahl. They are vindicated now, but were accused of being renegades, discipline problems, and liars.”

The Obama administration is still trying to spin it favorably, stating that ‘Bergdahl served his country.’ While that may be true, those interviewed say they will finish the sentence: ‘Bergdahl served his country dishonorably, badly, and instead of served, substitute betrayed.’ Debbie Lee, the mother of Marc Lee, the first SEAL killed in Iraq, cannot believe the gall of this administration. She feels by using that phrase they are putting her heroic son Marc and Bergdahl in the same category. “Think of all those who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They did their job and did not walk away. Those that died or were injured, and who truly served their country never got an invitation to the White House. Just this deserter’s family.”

An active duty major noted to American Thinker, regardless of how this administration tries to spin it, Bergdahl is the direct opposite of others who have served. “He paid no regard to the military code. You don’t just walk off on your fellow soldiers because that is like abandoning your family. We have a brotherhood/sisterhood. We protect and take care of each other, especially in a combat situation. He was not serving his country but was just serving himself. People died because he freely walked off that base.”

Bing West is a renowned military author whose latest book is One Million Steps, about a seven-month-long battle between the Marines and the Taliban. He believes that no American’s life was worth losing over Bergdahl since he made a conscious choice, and that actions have consequences. He does not buy into this administration’s argument that we must bring everyone home. “I just wrote about true American heroes that risked their lives to defend this country. The administration is trying to sell this package of baloney to the American people. I think it was cynical for President Obama to think he could sell this deal, turning over five terrorists in order to bring back Bergdahl. In my judgment what the president did was immoral. The Oversight Committee for Guantanamo recommended we not do this because we would be endangering more soldiers. We are risking more military lives for a traitor who voluntarily went over to the enemy.”

A dissenting opinion is Afghanistan war hero retired Lieutenant Dan Berschinski, who lost limbs and was gravely wounded. He served at the same time as Bergdahl and personally does not have a problem trading the five Taliban for someone he calls “a deserter, sh-tbag, and idiot. The situation is not black and white. We should do everything reasonable not to leave anyone behind. I think it was appropriate to get our soldier back, court martial him, and let the facts come out. We should be the ones to punish him and not let him rot in the enemy’s hands. We have a code in the military to not leave anyone behind. I know I would have wanted the government to trade those five for me.”

Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman disagrees adamantly. “I would rather die an honorable death than know my government was willing to trade for me with the very terrorists I was fighting against. Yet, it is true that the American military will do everything in its power to bring someone home safely. There is no higher calling than to be asked to rescue a fellow military member. But I do not buy into the argument that we should feel sorry for Bergdahl. Guys lost their lives trying to save him and this trade was a slap in the face to everyone who did their duty. How can anyone justify that people lost their lives for a traitor?”

Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient, also regards Bergdahl as a deserter. He is glad that the Army decision-makers did not succumb to pressure from this administration and did what was expected of them. He and retired Marine Colonel Gary Anderson both feel that Bergdahl will not receive a sentence of life. Jacobs speculates, “I think he will get a dishonorable discharge without pay benefits, but I would be surprised if they send him away for a very long time. It would be interesting to see if he demands enlisted men on the jury. I would bet not. No enlisted person would have sympathy for him. However, if they load the jury with a bunch of desk jockey officers he might get a lighter sentence considering they do not know what it is like to serve in combat.”

All those interviewed are hoping that justice is served and that at the minimum Bergdahl is found guilty of desertion. They hope he wakes up each and every day knowing what he did cost people their lives. But the Obama administration also needs to look within, knowing that the release of the five Taliban will have more Americans pay the ultimate sacrifice. As Jason Redman summarized, “If this administration continues down this path of being out of touch with the basic foundations and principles of the military instead of leaving no man behind, they will soon find they will have no one left to fight.”

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.