Obama is facing backlash for his decision to free Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five top Taliban leaders from Guantanamo. The initial reaction was relief, but now many are questioning the President’s decision.
Bergdahl had been in Taliban custody for almost five years before his release. When Bergdahl was released on Saturday, soldiers came forward and stated that Bergdahl abandoned his Army unit in Afghanistan in 2009 during a combat deployment.
Bergdahl disappeared from his observation post on June 2009. Three men from his 30-man platoon said that they found his night-vision goggles, body armor, helmet, and rifle neatly stacked inside his tent.
Before his disappearance, several soldiers said that Bergdahl had expressed his dissatisfaction with the Army, and had made statements about walking to India or China. Fellow soldiers have called Bergdahl a deserter, and say he should be charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) June 4, 2014
The military is now investigating Bergdahl's reason for leaving his post. According to Army General Martin Dempsey, the U.S. military is being accused of turning their eyes away from misconduct. However, Dempsey said that Bergdahl’s case is “premature.” “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred,” he said.
Obama officials are defending their decision to release Bergdahl by saying that he could have soon been killed by his captors.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that the Pentagon does not qualify whom they try to recover. “It doesn’t matter how he was taken captive. It doesn’t matter under what circumstances he left. It doesn’t matter what his persuasions were, political or otherwise. We have an obligation to recover all of those who are missing in action.”
The soldiers insisted that Bergdahl is a deserter, and many lives were lost while searching for him over the past five years. “More than a handful of soldiers got Purple Hearts looking for him,” former Army Spc. Cody Full, a former roommate of Bergdahl said.
According to Full, Bergdahl mailed home all his personal effects before moving to the observation post in Afghanistan. “Why would you mail your stuff home unless you were not going to ever need it again?” he asked.
The investigation was not completed, since Army officials were not yet able to talk to Bergdahl. He is being treated at a military hospital in Germany. In the investigation, military officers have gathered information that Bergdahl may have walked off voluntarily, but they are still open to the idea that he may have been taken prisoner while using the latrine.
Andy Andrews, whose son was killed while looking for Bergdahl said, “Where is the honor in any of this?” His wife said, “Honorable soldiers risked their lives for someone who was a deserter, a traitor. It devalues their lives.”
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) June 2, 2014
Many are now asking if the five Taliban leaders were released in exchange of a hero, or a deserter.
If hard evidence of desertion is found, Bergdahl could face court-martial. If convicted, Bergdahl could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
The five Guantanamo detainees swapped for Bowe Bergdahl
Image via YouTube