Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army soldier who abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently captured by the Taliban, has pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. According to the New York Times, the charge of desertion carries a punishment of up to five years in prison if the military court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina finds Bergdahl guilty. The latter charge, however, could put the sergeant behind bars for life — especially since, as the case against him argues, his desertion “[endangered] the troops who were sent to search for him” during his five years in captivity.
Bergdahl, whose story briefly became the subject of the Serial podcast’s second season in 2015, was rescued from Taliban control by a controversial trade engineered by President Obama’s administration. The U.S. soldier was traded in 2014 for five Taliban detainees previously held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Needless to say, the circumstances of Bergdahl’s trade didn’t sit well with many Americas during the ensuing presidential election. (Donald Trump called him a “traitor,” thereby earning himself a place in Bergdahl’s defense strategy.) This was especially true of rescue operations, which resulted in “serious wounds”:
Army prosecutors have argued that Sergeant Bergdahl’s departure forced the military to drastically alter its operations during the manhunt. They also say that two soldiers and a Navy SEAL suffered serious wounds searching for the sergeant in two separate operations.
Defense lawyers have said those injuries cannot be directly tied to Sergeant Bergdahl. Military investigators later found grave faults with the leadership and planning of one mission, they say, adding that evidence indicates that the other mission “targeted a well-known enemy combatant” and thus had a purpose apart from rescuing the sergeant.
Bergdahl’s plea on Monday seems to signal he and his defense team’s desire to move on from these prickly matters. Considering Fox News contributor Tony Shaffer’s contention that the incarcerated soldier is “damaged goods,” and that President Trump should “rethink the deal that was made with the Taliban,” however, it seems not even a guilty plea will appease Berhdahl’s critics.
(Via New York Times)