Did Donald Trump make it impossible for Bowe Bergdahl to defend himself against charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy? Or did Bergdahl himself make it impossible by, y’know, deserting and misbehaving before the enemy? Bergdahl pled guilty today, ABC News notes, but last year Bergdahl complained that Trump’s campaign attacks poisoned the court-martial process and left him little hope for justice:
Despite surviving five years in a Taliban cage, Trump had called Sgt. Bergdahl a “traitor” who should be executed in several campaign speeches as a presidential candidate.
In an on-camera interview shot last year by a British filmmaker, obtained exclusively by ABC News and airing today on Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline, Bergdahl says the words of the man who is now his commander-in-chief would have made a fair trial impossible.
“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”
If Bergdahl was hoping to work the refs for his court-martial, it’s a curious way to go about it. He accused military judges and officers in the potential jury pool of having no independence in their conduct of criminal trials at the point where he’ll need to rely on that to get something significantly less than a life sentence. Perhaps Bergdahl thought at the time that by calling its integrity into question, the judge and jury would be forced to bend over backwards to show mercy. That’s a high-stakes gamble — one that Bergdahl eventually discarded.
The developments over the last two months show how transparently manipulative this strategy was. Bergdahl waived his right to a jury trial in August, which would have acted to protect him from a court that lacks independence from the commander in chief. On top of that, Bergdahl chose to plead guilty rather than offer a defense against either charge. If this is a “kangaroo court,” why cooperate with it — especially with the potential of using it as a platform to attack a supposedly biased and corrupt system?
Bergdahl blamed his situation on conservative media, especially Fox News, which has carried some reports on Bergdahl’s supposed attempts to help the Taliban, rumors that military officials have denied. However, a member of his own unit told CNN’s Jake Tapper that intercepted Taliban communications alerted them to Bergdahl’s attempts to contact the Taliban after his desertion:
Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away). He’s looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.
“I heard it straight from the interpreter’s lips as he heard it over the radio,” said Buetow. “There’s a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away.”…
“The fact of the matter is, when those soldiers were killed, they would not have been where they were at if Bergdahl hadn’t left,” says Buetow. “Bergdahl leaving changed the mission.”
And Evan Buetow was suspicious of the Taliban’s improved IED aim after Bergdahl walked off the post:
“Following his disappearance, IEDs started going off directly under the trucks. They were getting perfect hits every time. Their ambushes were very calculated, very methodical,” said Buetow.
It was “very suspicious,” says Buetow, noting that Bergdahl knew sensitive information about the movement of U.S. trucks, the weaponry on those trucks, and how soldiers would react to attacks.
“We were incredibly worried” that Bergdahl was giving up information, either under torture, or otherwise, says Buetow.
Tapper plays it straight, and CNN is hardly a conservative media outlet. Buetow isn’t a rumor — he’s a material witness, and presumably would have been available to tell this story to the court-martial. One has to suspect that the Army has pursued the case this long — including keeping Bergdahl on active duty in order to retain custody of him — because they had a very good case to prosecute, especially on misbehavior. As Brian Ross says at the end of the segment above, no one’s buying Bergdahl’s “whistleblower” defense, and apparently Bergdahl even realizes that now.