Army commander approves no prison time for Bergdahl

Army gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, has endorsed the decision of the court martial board who decided not to sentence Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl to prison for abandoning his post in time of war.

Army Times:

Bergdahl was reduced in rank from sergeant to private and ordered to forfeit $1,000 a month in pay for 10 months.  The judge also gave him a dishonorable discharge.

The fine and rank reduction were effective two weeks after the judge's sentence was delivered.  The case is now referred to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which automatically reviews any punitive discharges.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held for five years.

There were several searches for Bergdahl after he had been captured, including one by Navy SEALs where two were wounded.  Six men from his unit died while in Afghanistan, and some of the families are blaming Bergdahl because so much manpower was being used to look for him 


The diversion of these men and their units to the hunt for Bergdahl thinned the ranks of U.S. troops elsewhere in the region, contributing to several more American KIAs, U.S. soldiers who were there at the time believe.

Military justice can be swift and merciless, although that appears unlikely in this case.  But the past cannot be erased, and it's that legacy that gives the troops involved a markedly different view of Bergdahl and his rescue than [sic] that of most Americans sitting at home, paying scant attention to the nation's only soldier missing in action in Afghanistan until Saturday.

The reason, for anyone who has been in combat, is pretty simple.  Soldiers never forget.  Civilians rarely remember.

The bottom line in this case is that Army command believed that Bergdahl had "suffered enough" after being held for five years by the Taliban and didn't deserve prison time.  But the sentencing of the man convicted of desertion was always a question of public relations and politics, not what might have been best for the military.

Former president Obama and his administration set the tone for treatment of Bergdahl by referring to him as a "hero."  And despite the pleas of families of soldiers who fell looking for him, the Army chose what was politically expedient rather than what was right and just.  It just wouldn't have looked good imprisoning a former POW regardless of his behavior in the face of the enemy. 

The "he suffered enough" meme does not take into account the suffering of those who went looking for Bergdahl and suffered wounds.  Those loyal, dedicated soldiers still went looking for him even though he was outspoken in his opposition to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.  It still isn't clear whether he was captured by the Taliban or tried to join them.

The Army ignored all of this, and the court martial board handed down a sentence that would generate the least amount of criticism.  Bergdahl will no doubt  be popular in certain anti-war circles, given his opposition to our intervention in Afghanistan.  Maybe he can make a living on the liberal lecture circuit.

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