Bergdahl and Honor

The US Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl apparently forgot these when, on June 30, 2009, he deserted his unit in Afghanistan, where he wanted to, in his words, “make the world a better place.”

SGT Bergdahl also forgot that he was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, and that armies fight wars. He signed up. No one forced him into service, and no one forced him to continue service if at any point he decided he had had enough.

In the Army there are legitimate avenues of redress of grievances, and now more than ever before. Your chain of command, the Chaplain, a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, or even the highest commander above where you think your problem lies.

SGT Bergdahl had whipped himself into an almost psychotic state of isolation, from his unit, from his battle-buddies and even from himself. In the end, the enemy seemed more desirable than the mess he had made in his foxhole.

The circumstances under which SGT Bergdahl was released, the trade of five Taliban leaders, notwithstanding, there is a reckoning on the way. That trade has its own implications of treason, but for another time.

As we enter into the penalty phase of military legal proceedings to determine not whether or not he is guilty of the crimes of desertion and  misbehavior before the enemy, for he plead guilty to those charges, but what punishment he will receive.

Some say SGT Bergdahl has suffered enough.

Some say he is not fit to live, let alone wear the uniform.

Several witnesses have testified about their war injuries and losses they claim happened because of Bergdahl’s desertion.

There were rumors but no evidence that SGT Bergdahl had given the enemy critical information about the unit and its operations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This would allow the enemy to anticipate the unit’s movements and tendencies, deadly information.

Some say while searching for SGT Bergdahl they were hit and men died. One man, a former Navy SEAL, claimed tearfully that his service dog was killed on one such mission.

In my opinion, all this testimony is over-engineering. It’s all good, but shouldn’t be necessary to complete the project. He deserted in time of war.

How do you maintain good order and discipline if you allow folks to just walk away?

There is no claim of insanity. There is no plea bargain. There is no excuse.

The punishment for desertion can be death.

The reason for this goes back to the beginning of human conflict. If you run in the face of the enemy you have abdicated your responsibility as a member of the group to help keep the group safe.

In our own Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts, such as the Civil War, it wasn’t so much power and punch that won the day as which side would run first.

Name a war or conflict, and what wins the day more times than not is the will to win or survive. Fight or flight.

This is why the American Army is so effective; we are trained that in war the mission comes first. We are trained to never leave a soldier behind. We are trained be good teammates. We are trained to care for each other, help each other and protect each other. And in the foxhole, when the bullets are flying, it’s about you and your battle-buddy, fighting for your lives.

The bigger picture is that you are defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part of the oath of enlistment that SGT Bergdahl breached.

But if you allow soldiers to run and then suffer no consequences, what are you telling everyone else who swore that same oath. What then does it mean?

In our politically correct, social media, “If it feels good, do it” society, oaths and promises seem blasé and passé. In fact, they are our life’s blood. If we let one instance of obvious and blatant desertion slip through the cracks, what then do we do with the next one, or the next?

Kneeling for the national anthem and the absence of even one American flag on the opening night of a national political convention are not simply warning signs, they are signs of the apocalypse that feed the idea that SGT Bergdahl did nothing wrong. That he is innocent of desertion because he was oppressed and that somehow his actions were free speech.

It’s not about any of that. It’s about loyalty. The number one most important Army value, and value in life.

The acronym constructed out of the Army Values is LDRSHIP (Leadership). The Army aspires to train every soldier to be a leader, because in the American Army, even E-Private Zero, Snuffy Smith is expected to carry out the mission if all the leaders above him are incapacitated, in the spirit of Audie Murphy, the highly decorated farm boy turned hero from WWII who was battlefield promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant and saved many lives with his heroism, over, and over again, all at 5’4” and 112 pounds.We owe it to the memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe it to those who were injured and may have died while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, and we owe it to the future of this nation that Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment fit the crime.

The only question that remains is whether or not the military court hearing the evidence against Bowe Bergdahl will see it that way.

Advertisements

Was Bergdahl Addicted to Heroin? Why is he Being Sequestered? Detox?

While serving at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Army Captain, and the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, in February 2002, I was aware of a detainee we called “Wild Bill” who came to us from Afghanistan a drug addicted schizophrenic.

It took us a while to figure out what his problems were. We were distracted by his bizarre behavior: eating his flip flops, hanging objects from his genitals, making strange, random sounds, and, like many other detainees, when they got the chance, throwing urine and feces on the guards.

Once it was determined that this detainee was ill, and his story stuck, he was determined to no longer be a threat to the United States, nor of any intelligence value, so he was scheduled for release.

As it turned out, “Wild Bill,” or Abdul Razaq, admitted to me and a few of my unit mates through an interpreter while hiding from the press before delivering him to his freedom bird on the leeward side of Gitmo, that he was a heroin addict in Kandahar when the Taliban came through and offered to support his habit if he picked up an AK-47, and then fought with them against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in the fall of 2001.

Razaq’s bizarre behavior at Gitmo was a result of a combination of schizophrenia and cold turkey withdrawal from his heroin addiction. The Taliban had used drugs to control him.

It was weeks after he was released that we saw a picture of Razaq in an online Newsweek article written by Sami Yousafzai, picturing him on a psychiatric hospital bed in Kandahar, and telling the interviewer about how well he was treated at Gitmo.

Fast forward to 2009, and the bizarre behavior of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan, and then went in search of the Taliban. It was overheard on a radio monitored by members of his unit that Bergdahl was looking for the Taliban and that a villager thought he might be “high after smoking hashish,” a concentrated hallucinogenic drug. Bergdahl subsequently spent over five years with the Taliban off shoot known as the Haqqani.

While with the Haqqani, Bergdahl was observed carrying a loaded weapon and taking target practice with the Haqqani. Other reports indicate that Bergdahl “happily” played soccer with the Haqqani, and “bounded around the soccer pitch like a mad man.”

We have seen video of Sgt. Bergdahl both when he was with the Haqqani during his absence from his unit, and upon his release, when he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces personnel. In general Bergdahl appeared in decent health, yet mentally subdued and calm. While walking from the vehicle he was brought to his release in, towards the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter that took him away, he seemed to be able to walk brusquely and on his own power. Upon his release the White House even said that he was in “good” condition.

Why then has Bergdahl been sequestered since his release to the point where he has not even been reunited or in communication with his family, namely, his parents who were trotted through the Rose Garden by President Barack Hussein Obama upon the announcement of their son’s return to U.S. custody?

The Taliban are known to sedate hostages with drugs. U.S. Senators commented after seeing a “proof of life” video of Bergdahl that he “had been drugged.” It was reported that during Bergdahl’s time with the Haqqani he escaped and then spent five days away from them, and then after his recapture spent time in a “cage.” Could his return have been due to his need for drugs?

It is possible that Bowe Bergdahl has been drugged regularly either before and/or after his recapture by the Haqqani. It is possible that one of the reasons for his being sequestered since his return, and hospitalized in “stable condition,” is because he is going through detoxification. Until this is done it is highly unlikely that he is being debriefed vigorously regarding his five years with the Haqqani, which would be the next logical step in his reintegration into western and American military culture.

It is almost certain that Bergdahl’s enlistment contract has expired. He has been passed over for automatic promotion to Staff Sergeant probably both for the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan, and the lack of a non-commissioned officer evaluation, which requires no “flags” on his record and certain achievements to have been accomplished. A “flag” could be applied from an unsatisfactory physical fitness test or height and weight evaluation, performance deficiencies, or misconduct.

The next step after detox and debrief could be a hearing before a military Judge Advocate General (JAG) magistrate to first determine his status. Is Bergdahl legally still in the military? Was he summarily discharged during his absence? Why was he never categorized as either a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA)? Will the United States attempt to declare Bergdahl an enemy combatant?

If the latter occurs, Bergdahl could be denied habeas corpus (due process rights) and then subject to trial by military commission. This would be the case if it were determined that he collaborated with the enemy and/or considered himself a “mujahid,” as some reports claim. It could also put him in jeopardy of being charged with treason; aiding and giving “comfort” to the enemy.

Heroin or other drugs may complicate Bergdahls status hearing. His attorney’s may argue that Bergdahl was a victim of being drugged and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. If he was summarily discharged he may be entitled to civilian representation, or either way may choose to represent himself.

It’s accurate to say there are many things we don’t know about Bowe Bergdahl and his current circumstances, but for me, based on my experiences and clues in the evidence available so far, I believe it’s possible he’s a drug addicted enemy combatant. We may only find out what the truth is when the U.S. government wants us to know. Until then, watch and listen for leaking clues to what may turn out to be the most fascinating military defection in history.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID: @mjgranger1