WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though dozens of soldiers fruitlessly risked their lives, some injured or killed, as a result of former Army Sergeant Bow Bergdahl’s decision to walk off his base and into the hands of the Taliban, the admitted deserter will not face one day behind bars and will still receive some financial benefits from his time in the armed forces.
From Stars and Stripes:
“A military judge’s decision Friday to issue no jail time and a dishonorable discharge for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl unleashed a wide range of emotions.
Several expressed anger that Bergdahl, 31, didn’t get the punishment they thought he should have, while others expressed understanding that he didn’t deserve more jail time.
Leading the charge of angry reaction was President Donald Trump, who went after the decision by the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance.
He sentenced Bergdahl to forfeit $10,000 in pay, a reduction in rank to E-1 private and a dishonorable discharge, barring him from receiving any medical or other benefits entitled to most veterans.
“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Trump tweeted Friday.
Trump played a role in Bergdahl’s case, as public comments he made as a candidate and as president raised questions of unfair influence for the legal proceedings.
In the end, Army prosecutors had recommended that Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for years after walking off his post in 2009, serve 14 years. Some servicemembers were injured searching for Bergdahl. He was released in May 2014 in a controversial prisoner exchange for five Taliban commanders.”
Five Taliban Commanders. A Rose Garden ceremony hosted by then-President Obama. For what? A deserter upset with his platoon, and possibly harboring anti-American views.
““I feel he got off too easy,” said Marine Cpl. James Hoyet, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who believes Bergdahl’s sentencing was too lenient. “Not only did he abandon his post, he endangered the lives of those who went looking for him.”
Hoyet believes Bergdahl should have been given a much harsher sentence.
“People were injured … on that mission.” Hoyet said. “He should be charged as if he caused those injuries himself.”
Army Spc. Tyler Lord, an infantry soldier with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment out of Grafenwoehr, Germany, agreed.
“I think that abandoning your fellow soldiers in a combat zone and putting their lives in danger is treason,” he said.
Lord said that in the past, charges of treason meant the death sentence. And while Lord does not believe it should have come to that, he does believe Bergdahl deserved more punishment.
“It should definitely have been life in prison,” Lord said. “Him being able to walk around free after everything he’s done is abominable.””
The precedent set by going easy on Bergdahl for an arguably treasonous act, not to mention the lopsided negotiation with a terrorist organization to secure his release, will be frame the consideration of future similar cases for years to come.
Meanwhile, the Taliban is again reasserting itself in Afghanistan with such force that it is threatening the Afghan government’s ability to control huge swaths of the country. I wonder how much those five released Taliban commanders have contributed to the Islamist cause since their release?
Read more reactions here.