On June 30, 2009, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left his outpost in eastern Afghanistan with lofty aspirations to blow the whistle on his superiors’ poor leadership.
In about a day, the Taliban found him, locked him a pitch-dark cell, and beat him with rubber hoses and copper cables for the next five years. Bergdahl just spoke about those harrowing years in a revealing interview for the Serial podcast.
On Monday, a top Army commander decided that Bowe will face a court-martial for charges of desertion and endangering the lives of troops who spent weeks searching for him, the New York Times reported.
Bergdahl could face imprisonment once again, but this time, he could spend his entire life behind bars.
In March, Bowe, 29, was charged with one count of desertion, misbehavior before the enemy, and one count endangering the troops who searched for him. In September, a preliminary hearing officer recommended that a misdemeanor-level military court, or a special court-martial, hear his case, CBS News reported. The Army’s investigating officer, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, had testified that jail time wouldn’t be appropriate, nor would a punitive discharge.
The most severe punishment Bergdahl faced under this court was a year’s confinement.
Bowe’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, was clearly upset in a statement he released after learning his client could be court-martialed, criticizing Gen. Robert B. Abrams for not following the hearing officer’s advice.
The Army called Bowe a “cock-eyed idealist,” while others have said he’s a traitor. When Bergdahl left his post in 2009, he thought his disappearance would draw attention to problems in his unit, he said in the podcast interview with interviewer Mark Boal.
“All I was seeing was basically, leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me, were, literally, from what I could see, in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed.
“That was a gutsy move.
“Gutsy, but still stupid… Twenty minutes out, I’m going ‘good grief. I’m way over my head’… suddenly it really starts to sink in. I really did something bad. Well, not bad, but I really did something serious.”
In May 2014, Bergdahl was traded for five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to much criticism from the GOP and reminders that a half dozen troops died looking for Bowe. Army prosecutor Maj. Margaret Kurz described the search that lasted weeks, covered thousands of square miles, and led soldiers to push their primary mission — to support Afghan security forces — to the back burner.
“For 45 days, thousands of soldiers toiled in the heat, dirt, misery and sweat with almost no rest, little water and little food to find the accused. Fatigued and growing disheartened, they search for the accused knowing he left deliberately,” she said.
But a witness in Bowe’s defense, Terrance Russel, said that the sergeant had suffered immensely during his captivity — more so than any soldier since Vietnam — citing his beatings at the hands of the Taliban and uncontrollable diarrhea that he suffered for more than three years.
A report by Gen. Dahl described Bergdahl as an honest but delusional man, that no troops died while specifically searching for him, and nothing backed up claims that he left to walk to China or India, nor that he was a Taliban sympathizer. His defense insists he only went AWOL for a day, since he was captured so quickly, that he never divulged secrets during his captivity, and that the Army knew when they enlisted Bergdahl that he had an “adjustment disorder with depression.”
A date for Bergdahl’s arraignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, hasn’t been set yet, Fox News added.
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