Whatever happened to the investigation of Bowe Bergdahl and his capture by the Taliban? Last year, the Obama administration traded five high-ranking Taliban commanders to get Bergdahl back, but men in his former unit immediately objected to the trade, accusing Bergdahl of having deserted before his capture. Months later, there still has been no final determination of Bergdahl’s status — at least none made public. Last night, retired Lt. Col. Tony Schaffer told Bill O’Reilly that the Army has charged Bergdahl with desertion, but that the White House — and specifically Ben Rhodes, the national-security adviser/speechwriter to Barack Obama — has pressured the Pentagon to delay the release of that news (via Jeff Dunetz):
Shaffer’s key point is that the charges will embarrass the White House all over again for coughing up five big fish for one deserter:
SHAFFER: This is shaping up to be titanic struggle behind the scenes. Believe me, the Army here wants to do the right thing. Factually there is no way they cannot do the right thing regarding Bergdahl, and the White House because of the political narrative, President Obama cozying up to the parents and because of he, President Obama, releasing five Taliban — by the way those five Taliban were never briefed to senior leadership to the Pentagon before it happened. The narrative is White House does not want to have —
O’REILLY: Of course they don’t want it. Look, the White House can’t tell the Army not to charge him with desertion. If what you say is true, they’re going to charge him with desertion.
SHAFFER: He has been– he has been charged.
O’REILLY: They got it. So now, what good does it do, for Ben Rhodes or anyone else, to say, “Don’t tell anybody”?
Yeah … that’s a pretty good question. If the Army has presented a charge sheet to Bergdahl’s attorney, the process is already underway. A hearing will soon take place to determine whether the Army has enough evidence to proceed to a court-martial, and that will be at least somewhat public, especially since there doesn’t seem to be much connection to top-secret operations under way more than five years after Bergdahl’s capture. That can only be kept bottled up for so long; it’s going to come out sooner rather than later, if Shaffer’s sources have the story right. Why drag it out any longer?
That’s not to say that it’s not true. Politicians and administrations do strange things to avoid the unavoidable. No one would consider Shaffer’s scenario to be unthinkable, certainly not in this most transparent administration evaaaah Hopenchangeland. It’s just that the risk-reward ratio is so far off that most rational people would choose to rip the Band-Aid off cleanly at this point than to have people keep talking about it. No matter what happens, this administration will still be the one that gave up the biggest bargaining chips they had with the Taliban to get nothing strategic in return, and suddenly reset expectations around the world that the US will bargain with terrorists for hostages. That wouldn’t change even if Bergdahl doesn’t get charged with desertion. If Shaffer’s correct, it just makes the foolish nature of the trade slightly more obvious.
Update: NBC News confirmed the desertion charges:
BREAKING: Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion for abandoning his post in 2009, senior defense officials tell NBC News
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) January 27, 2015
So the cat’s out of the bag.