March 28, 2015

Bergdahl - the deflective media campaign begins

Still images from a Taliban video of Bergdahl's release

It has not taken any time at all for a campaign to be mounted in support of accused U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. It ranges from sympathetic media outlets to his high-powered defense attorney and even a few misguided online support groups.

The motivations for the campaign range from typical lawyer tactics to anti-military sentiments, usually from people who do not understand military service and its unique demands.

Bergdahl at Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio, TX) in 2014

My views on Bergdahl are clear (see my earlier article, Bergdahl - the Army does the right thing). I believe he deserted his post and should be held accountable - let him have his day in court. It appears that he is one step closer to that possibility as the U.S. Army has charged him with desertion and misbehavior in front of the enemy - both serious charges.

There is an Article 32 hearing scheduled for April 22. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, this hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding. The convening officer may refer the case to a general court-martial or dismiss the charges. I hope that the U.S. Army will continue to do the right thing as a result of that hearing, which in my opinion is to convene a general court-martial.

I also hope that the Administration will not put pressure on the Army to dismiss the case in the wake of the White House's two public relations blunders - the Rose Garden ceremony with the President and Bergdahl's parents, followed by National Security Advisor Susan Rice's blatantly false claim that Bergdahl "served the United States with honor and distinction."

On CNN* this morning, I was asked my analysis of the claim made by Bergdahl that he had left his unit so he could report "a breakdown in discipline and order" to senior military officials and did not intend to desert. I wanted to ask CNN anchor Alison Kosik, "Where do I start?"

I enjoy fiction but it has to be good fiction - this does not meet that standard. I have to assume that this claim is part of the legal advice that Bergdahl is receiving from well-known civilian defense attorney Eugene Fidell.

Fidell is well-regarded in military justice circles, and he will do his best to defend his client - I hope that stops short of suborning perjury. His claims that there is a "tidal wave of hostility from the right" toward Bergdahl is just more of his part of the media campaign drumbeat....

First, there is an established chain of command that provides for soldiers to raise the issues Bergdahl claims he was attempting to report. That is best done at an installation to which Bergdahl had access periodically, not by deserting a forward outpost in the middle of the night in search of another unit.

Second, if he was truly looking for another U.S. Army outpost, he would have retained his body armor, night-vision googles and most importantly, his weapons. It is inconceivable to me that he chose to leave his post unarmed in the middle of an area known to be active with Taliban fighters on this mythical quest to report problems in his unit.

We can expect more of the deflection campaign. However, I am not buying it.

* Disclosure: I am a paid military analyst for CNN.