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The story surrounding the return of Bowe Bergdahl to US custody is still developing but the more we learn the more it seems like Bergdahl willfully deserted his post and comrades and sought some type of refuge among the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan. All the major media are leading with the story line of Bergdahl as a potential deserter rather than a freed prisoner (CNN || WaPo || CBS || The Hill || Time || etc., etc.) Adding to the suspicion that the desertion story is the truth is an administration official saying that releasing Bergdahl would bring political benefits:
On May 1st, in a surprise visit to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, President Obama announced that the United States will now pursue “a negotiated peace” with the Taliban. That peace is likely to include a prisoner swap – or a “confidence-building measure,” as U.S. officials working on the negotiations call it – that could finally end the longest war in America’s history. Bowe is the one prisoner the Taliban have to trade. “It could be a huge win if Obama could bring him home,” says a senior administration official familiar with the negotiations. “Especially in an election year, if it’s handled properly.”
Sending the hapless Susan Rice out to ritually lie to the Sunday Morning show audiences, a la Benghazi, is also a “tell.” When this is coupled with the devastating series of Twitter messages (you have to read them) from Bergdahl’s former bunkmate at the OP from which he disappeared (the “disappeared while on patrol” story never made any sense to me and now has been made, as a former administration used to say, inoperative) there is at least enough doubt that Bergdahl should be required to answer the questions under oath.
The only effort at pushback against the narrative that will turn this would be triumph to ashes in Obama’s mouth faster than Dead Sea fruit was by lefty shill, Michael Tomasky, in The Daily Beast. Even he doesn’t bother to make the case that Bergdahl was not a deserter but rather that the GOP will use the prisoner swap as an excuse to impeach Obama. His only defense is:
He wandered away from his unit. A Fox News commentator called him a “deserter.” He is officially in good standing in the Army and has even received the promotions due him during his time in captivity, but some consider him a deserter and traitor. Get ready to start hearing more of that.
In the case of USMC private Robert R. Garwood (pdf), he deserted to the North Vietnamese Army on September 28, 1965 and did not return to US control until he engineered his own repatriation on March 22, 1979. For that time, Garwood was carried as MIA and in good standing… right up until his court-martial conviction in 1981.
For those expecting some type of justice for Bergdahl should the seeming preponderance of evidence represent an actual accounting of what transpired on OP Mest in Afghanistan. Garwood did not serve a single day in confinement. The Vietnam POWs who collaborated with their North Vietnamese captors similarly escaped punishment, indeed, the subject has been studiously avoided at all costs since 1973. A US Marine who collaborated with the Iranians when the Tehran embassy staff was held hostage was punished by not giving him a medal. In 1961, the US Supreme Court heard the cases of Otho Bell, William Cowart, and Lewis Griggs who were captured during the Korean War and declined repatriation in 1953. They returned to the US in 1955 and were given dishonorable discharges. The SCOTUS ruled that they were owed pay an allowance for the entire period of their absence up until given a dishonorable discharge.
Currently, Bowe Bergdahl is scheduled for promotion to the rank of Staff Sergeant based on the rank he would have presumably attained had he not been captured, reenlisted, and performed satisfactorily (the last two items seem a huge question mark). At the very least his promotion should be held until the story is sorted out. The only good thing to come out of this is not having to watch Obama do another victory dance in honor of a non-existent triumph.