Grounding Bergdahl's escape turkey

Now that Bowe Bergdahl is facing the prospect of prosecution by the Army for deserting his post and for misbehavior, his liberal defenders, those who swallowed whole Susan Rice’s assertion that he served with honor and distinction, will be raising defenses for his crimes.  Aware of the leftist media support for its client, Bergdahl’s defense team is already floating tales intended to at least mitigate, if not excuse entirely, the cold fact that this soldier deserted his guard post in the presence of the enemy, sought out that enemy, and remained with them until he was bartered back to this country.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, is quoted by the Seattle Times under this unbiased headline: "Bergdahl charged despite torture, attempts to escape."

“This is a hellish environment he was kept in for nearly 5 years, particularly after he did his duty in trying to escape,” Fidell, a former military lawyer now in private practice, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “There is no question in my mind that a convening authority would not be doing his or her duty without taking into account the circumstances under which Sgt. Bergdahl was held.”

In the same article, Bergdahl claims to have attempted escape about a dozen times.  So it is obvious that despite intelligence reports that he moved about freely among his captors, sometimes armed, a key element of Bergdahl’s defense is going to be that he was held in close confinement from which he tried to escape repeatedly.

And my response is, “So what?”

That response counts, because it’s coming from someone who served as an NCO in infantry units in two sister regiments of Bergdahl’s 501st Parachute Infantry in an earlier war.  In that capacity, I could have sat on his courts martial board at one time.  My response reflects a view that I will wager is ingrained in many of those officers and NCOs who may be called upon for that duty at some time in the future.

Let me explain.  Bergdahl did not like the Army, a dislike he made clear in his writings home.  Those writings demonstrate that like many young soldiers, his very limited view of the big picture led him to erroneous conclusions typical among the ranks.  His self-assured sense of knowing better than his superiors led him to chafe under their leadership, in his case far more than is normal.  Bergdahl likely had a flower-child upbringing, and the rigid and regulated routines necessary to maintain good order and discipline in a military unit may have constrained him to a greater extent than most soldiers.  An example of that is that according to his platoon mates, he harbored some dreamy desire to go out into the mountains in some sort of rite of passage – a walkabout, as the Aussies call it – a pastoral stroll among the primitives to India.

And if Bergdahl chafed under Army restrictions on his freedom, imagine how constrained he felt in his new life among the people he had once idolized.  They would doubtless have proved every bit as determined to curb his transcendental dreams of traipsing through the poppies.

Every officer and NCO has to deal with soldiers like Bergdahl, who simply can’t abide the considerable limitations on their freedom so necessary to preserve good order and discipline.  Some soldiers can have their attitudes adjusted sufficiently to allow them to serve out their time with minimal success.  Others, like Bergdahl, fueled by a self-righteous sense that only their way will ever be the right way for them, simply walk away.  Those are the ones who never come back, which is the essential element of desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

So if Bergdahl did attempt to escape the Afghans, a claim we have but his and his attorney’s words for, what was his motivation?  Was he seeking to return to the American unit he so despised, or was he seeking to continue on his way with his idyllic walkabout through the Himalayas to India, as he had previously told fellow troopers he wished to do?  Were I weighing that question as a member of Bergdahl’s courts martial, I’d have to ask myself, “If he’d already felt so repressed by Army discipline that he’d walked away, would he wish to return to that, or, once free of the Afghanis, would he be inclined to continue his flower-child journey to nirvana on the sub-continent?”  Knowing how much Bergdahl despised my Army, its leadership, and our bedrock concept of good order and discipline, I think I know how I’d come down on this crucial question of that foolish young man’s intent.

Are you listening, Counselor Fidell?  Keep launching that turkey of an escape excuse; like a real turkey, it’s not gonna fly very far among those who count.

Now that Bowe Bergdahl is facing the prospect of prosecution by the Army for deserting his post and for misbehavior, his liberal defenders, those who swallowed whole Susan Rice’s assertion that he served with honor and distinction, will be raising defenses for his crimes.  Aware of the leftist media support for its client, Bergdahl’s defense team is already floating tales intended to at least mitigate, if not excuse entirely, the cold fact that this soldier deserted his guard post in the presence of the enemy, sought out that enemy, and remained with them until he was bartered back to this country.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, is quoted by the Seattle Times under this unbiased headline: "Bergdahl charged despite torture, attempts to escape."

“This is a hellish environment he was kept in for nearly 5 years, particularly after he did his duty in trying to escape,” Fidell, a former military lawyer now in private practice, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “There is no question in my mind that a convening authority would not be doing his or her duty without taking into account the circumstances under which Sgt. Bergdahl was held.”

In the same article, Bergdahl claims to have attempted escape about a dozen times.  So it is obvious that despite intelligence reports that he moved about freely among his captors, sometimes armed, a key element of Bergdahl’s defense is going to be that he was held in close confinement from which he tried to escape repeatedly.

And my response is, “So what?”

That response counts, because it’s coming from someone who served as an NCO in infantry units in two sister regiments of Bergdahl’s 501st Parachute Infantry in an earlier war.  In that capacity, I could have sat on his courts martial board at one time.  My response reflects a view that I will wager is ingrained in many of those officers and NCOs who may be called upon for that duty at some time in the future.

Let me explain.  Bergdahl did not like the Army, a dislike he made clear in his writings home.  Those writings demonstrate that like many young soldiers, his very limited view of the big picture led him to erroneous conclusions typical among the ranks.  His self-assured sense of knowing better than his superiors led him to chafe under their leadership, in his case far more than is normal.  Bergdahl likely had a flower-child upbringing, and the rigid and regulated routines necessary to maintain good order and discipline in a military unit may have constrained him to a greater extent than most soldiers.  An example of that is that according to his platoon mates, he harbored some dreamy desire to go out into the mountains in some sort of rite of passage – a walkabout, as the Aussies call it – a pastoral stroll among the primitives to India.

And if Bergdahl chafed under Army restrictions on his freedom, imagine how constrained he felt in his new life among the people he had once idolized.  They would doubtless have proved every bit as determined to curb his transcendental dreams of traipsing through the poppies.

Every officer and NCO has to deal with soldiers like Bergdahl, who simply can’t abide the considerable limitations on their freedom so necessary to preserve good order and discipline.  Some soldiers can have their attitudes adjusted sufficiently to allow them to serve out their time with minimal success.  Others, like Bergdahl, fueled by a self-righteous sense that only their way will ever be the right way for them, simply walk away.  Those are the ones who never come back, which is the essential element of desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

So if Bergdahl did attempt to escape the Afghans, a claim we have but his and his attorney’s words for, what was his motivation?  Was he seeking to return to the American unit he so despised, or was he seeking to continue on his way with his idyllic walkabout through the Himalayas to India, as he had previously told fellow troopers he wished to do?  Were I weighing that question as a member of Bergdahl’s courts martial, I’d have to ask myself, “If he’d already felt so repressed by Army discipline that he’d walked away, would he wish to return to that, or, once free of the Afghanis, would he be inclined to continue his flower-child journey to nirvana on the sub-continent?”  Knowing how much Bergdahl despised my Army, its leadership, and our bedrock concept of good order and discipline, I think I know how I’d come down on this crucial question of that foolish young man’s intent.

Are you listening, Counselor Fidell?  Keep launching that turkey of an escape excuse; like a real turkey, it’s not gonna fly very far among those who count.