I’m honestly surprised, not because the evidence against him is thin — ask any of the guys in his unit — but because this is so humiliating for the White House. Five Taliban degenerates in exchange for a guy who wandered away from the safety of his base, huh?
I wonder if the commander-in-chief, who thought that nutty prisoner swap was going to be some sort of political victory for him, is surprised too.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who was recovered in Afghanistan last spring after five years in captivity, faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, according to his lawyer.
Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, told The Washington Post that his client was handed a charge sheet on Tuesday. Army officials announced they will provide an update in his case at 3:30 p.m. at Fort Bragg, N.C., but declined to discuss new developments ahead of the news conference.
According to one intel estimate last year, four of the five Taliban freed to obtain Bergdahl’s release are expected to return to the battlefield. Now, you tell me: Was today’s decision to charge him made with the White House’s (grudging) support or effectively against their wishes? I can see it both ways. Obama took a beating in the media once Bergdahl’s comrades started coming forward to accuse him of desertion. The outcry was loud enough that maybe O thought he had no choice at this point but to seek formal charges, to show that Bergdahl wasn’t going to enjoy a double whammy of having his freedom purchased at great cost and being let off scot free on a desertion charge. This is damage control, in other words, a gesture towards accountability. On the other hand, it would have been far better for Obama politically had the Pentagon declared that there’s not enough evidence to prove willful desertion, notwithstanding the dubious circumstances in which Bergdahl went missing. As it is, the White House — and the presumptive Democratic nominee — are going to eat mountains of shinola for very stupidly insisting last year that it doesn’t matter why Bergdahl went outside the wire. We bring our people home, even if they trotted into the enemy’s camp, even if the price is letting hardened killers back into Afghanistan.
But maybe none of this matters. The deeper point of the Bergdahl swap, as Sean Davis reminds us, was to create a pretext for starting to empty Gitmo. Getting Bergdahl back wasn’t as important as getting the Taliban out. The desertion charges don’t change that, although it’s a safe bet that the next time the White House sends jihadis back out into the field in a swap, they’ll vet the American on the other side a bit more closely. Anyway, exit question: What are the odds that Obama will pardon Bergdahl? Seems hard to believe he’d take even more heat over this fiasco by letting him go free after he’s been credibly accused by so many soldiers not only of deserting but of indirectly costing several troops their lives during the ensuing search. But then, we already know that O’s in the “WGAF” phase of his presidency; letting Bergdahl go will anger people, but he can spin it with some nonsense about how poor Bowe’s suffered enough, how it’s time to move on, etc. Which, for the White House, it is. The sooner they can put this clusterfark behind them and move on to the next clusterfark, the better.
Update: Jake Tapper remembers the White House victory lap over a prisoner swap. For a deserter.
Does this rollout make sense to anyone? https://t.co/smshSQOTFd
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 25, 2015
Update: Better that they not charge him at all than convict him and still give him the same sort of honorable discharge that honorable men receive, no?
But it still remains uncertain whether Sergeant Bergdahl will be court-martialed, the Defense Department official said.
Another question is whether the Army will give Sergeant Bergdahl an honorable discharge if he is found guilty of desertion. For members of the military, an honorable discharge is no small matter, and not getting one can hinder not only a veteran’s job prospects, but the entirety of how a service memberlook back on his or her career.
Update: Presented without comment.