Infamous Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl plead guilty Monday to charges that he put his troop in danger when he walked out on his post in 2009.
Bergdahl, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time he went AWOL, was subsequently captured by the Taliban and held in captivity until May 2014. At that time, President Barack Obama broke with decades of U.S. policy and negotiated the soldier’s release by letting five Taliban terrorists out of Guantanamo Bay. That trade was harshly criticized at the time, and it has only become more controversial in the intervening years as we learn more about Bergdahl’s circumstances. Not only does it make America less secure to bargain with terrorists, it sticks in the craw of many patriots that Obama broke the cardinal rule for THIS solider in particular.
After securing his release, Obama held a Rose Garden ceremony where Bergdahl’s parents were honored and America was told how their son “served with honor and distinction” in Afghanistan. As it turns out, that wasn’t quite the truth. Bergdahl walked off his post for no good reason at all, fell into the hands of the enemy, and endangered members of his troop by compelling them to perform a dangerous and doomed-to-fail rescue attempt.
As Fox News reports, Bergdahl’s time spent with the Taliban was also subject to scrutiny:
At one point during his captivity, Bergdahl converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, Fox News reported in 2014, citing secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account.
The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.
The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.
We hesitate to put too much importance on Bergdahl’s bizarre time in captivity because we don’t know what the Taliban might have done to mess with his head. After five years of imprisonment by Islamist terrorists – at least some of which were certain to involve the harshest of conditions – even a man of excellent character could be persuaded to do things that might look…unusual…to a Monday-morning quarterback.
But Bergdahl’s crime has little to do with that and everything to do with his original decision to leave his post. He supposedly hoped that his desertion would shine a spotlight on problems within his squadron. Well, that’s simply not the way to go about bringing change – especially when you’re in an active war zone. We’ll see if the judge decides to grant him leniency based on his plea and other extenuating circumstances, but we wouldn’t be surprised or upset if he didn’t. We wouldn’t go as far as to call Bergdahl a traitor…but he’s about as close to one as you can get without earning the title.