As we move through the preliminary court proceedings for Bowe Bergdahl we’re beginning to get his side of the story from the defense and it’s certainly standing in stark contrast to all of the reports we’ve seen since his initial capture and later release when he was traded for the Taliban Five. (Still, incidentally, the record holder for worst boy band name of the 21st century.) Rather than a story of a guy who was looking to either go find the enemy or “walk to China” as he claimed in a letter he left for his comrades, as well as saying that he was ashamed to be an American, in this new version of the story he was looking for another American base. (Washington Post.)
Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was fed up. He was five weeks into a deployment in southeastern Afghanistan and frustrated with his mission and his leaders. He and his fellow soldiers weren’t going after the Taliban as aggressively as he wanted, and his sense of disillusion added to the disgust for the Army that he had begun developing while still in basic training.
Looking to make a stand, Bergdahl hatched a plan: He would run away from his platoon’s tiny outpost in Paktika province late on June 29, 2009. He would stay away from the Army a day, maybe two, and then reappear about 19 miles away at a larger installation and demand to air his grievances with a general. He knew that the region was crawling with insurgents, but he had “outsize impressions of his own capabilities,” according to an investigating officer, and was determined to create enough chaos to get the attention of senior commanders.
According to the defense scenario, Bergdahl left his post carrying only a knife, some sort of disguise and some food. (He has reasons for not bringing a weapon which make very little sense.) Assuming this scheme had worked he would have reached another base where he could report on the evil activities of his fellow soldiers and the officers in charge. I’m not sure if he’s painting himself as some sort of whistleblower here or what.
Also, we’re now getting conflicting reports about whether or not six of our troops died looking for him after he took off. This was the story we heard repeatedly shortly after his release and it was confirmed by members of his unit, some of whom were understandably very upset. Now we’re being informed that there were many searches and a great upheaval in previous planned operations, but nobody was killed “as a direct result” of the search. That one is a bit of a head scratcher as well.
I’m not sure how much luck Bergdahl is going to have with this line of defense. The guy had been telling multiple people about his plans. He left a letter which they supposedly still have. His parents turned over his emails while they were trying to get him rescued or returned home. In order to pull this off he’s going to either have to claim that it was all an elaborate ruse to allow him to escape to the other base to complain about the Army or that he’s crazy. Of course, he’s got a start on the crazy defense since they are saying that he was rejected from Coast Guard training for “depression” prior to being given a waiver and allowed to enlist in the Army.
In terms of the sentence, the defense is claiming that, under the circumstances, both the desertion and misbehavior charges should be dropped. According to them he should only be charged with going AWOL for one day, ending when he was captured at roughly 10 o’clock the next morning. (A charge that would only get him 30 days in the brig.) That would obviously be a great argument… if the rest of this new story were true. From the sound of things, though, he’s going to have a tough row to hoe with this defense.