Tuesday, Bowe Bergdahl did not get his wish in an attempt to appeal his case inside the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Two out of the three judges released the ruling President Donald Trump’s comments “did not constitute unlawful command influence” when he called Bergdahl, “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.” Other comments were taken into consideration but were rejected by the judges’ decisions. Bergdahl will not be receiving clemency or any possible reconsideration.
The opinion stated, “Although there was some evidence of unlawful command influence adduced at trial and in the post-trial process, the government met its burden to demonstrate that an objective disinterested observer would not harbor a significant doubt as to the fairness of the proceedings.”
Bergdahl’s lawyer stated, “We are confident that one judge saw the UCI issue our way. We will be seeking review by the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and we are working actively on the required papers.”
In 2017, President Trump tweeted, “The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.” Trump has been very vocal about the sergeant when he was released and through the entire court marshall.
Sergeant Bergdahl abandoned his post and was captured by insurgents in 2009 while in Afghanistan. Former President Obama cut a deal to have Bergdahl released in 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Bergdahl pleaded guilty for misbehavior before the enemy and desertion. The judge in charge of the case fined Bergdahl $10,000, demoted his rank from sergeant to private and gave him a dishonorable discharge. He had $1,000 deducted from his salary for the following ten months. No prison time was given at the trial. All Bergdahl said at the trial was, “I left my observation post on my own. I understand leaving was against the law.”
At the time, Bergdahl’s civilian lawyer Eugene Fidell told reporters, “Sgt. Bergdahl has looked forward to today for a long time. As everyone knows, he was a captive of the Taliban for nearly five years, and three more years have elapsed while the legal process unfolded. He has lost nearly a decade of his life.” The court marshall judge took this into consideration, and this was the most likely reason Bergdahl was not given any jail time.
Along with the time he spent captured by the Taliban, his psychiatrist Dr. Charles Morgan stated on his behalf, “Bergdahl suffered from numerous mental illnesses, including schizotypal personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bergdahl was raised in a tense and sometimes scary household that contributed to social anxiety and cognitive defects that he was suffering from before he enlisted in the Army.” Captain Nina Banks was one of Bergdahl’s military defense attorneys stated, “Hypothetically, he probably should not have been in the Army.”
In 2015, Major General Kenneth Dahl was investigating the desertion of Bergdahl’s post. He testified at a preliminary hearing stating spending time in jail would be “inappropriate.” His final conclusion after interviewing Bergdahl for almost two days was, he “did not find any evidence to corroborate the reporting that Bergdahl was sympathetic to the Taliban, but rather, Bergdahl wanted to call attention to what he considered poor leadership of his unit.”
Back in the 17 and 1800s, the charge Bergdahl was faced with was of the harshest, death by firing squad. Bergdahl’s actions put his life and the lives of his platoon, along with the entire unit stationed in that area at risk. Captain John Billings was a witness and stated, “The platoon searched for the then-private first class for 19 days, going without food or water.”
Retired Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the court, “I thought I was dead,” after being shot in the leg and his K-9 partner was shot in the face and killed in action. They both were under enemy fire while trying to find Bergdahl. Hatch had to undergo 18 surgeries and has a heavy limp for the rest of his life because of the carelessness of one soldier. The entire platoon knew Bergdahl had left his post willingly. Hatch was questioned by his men why do they have to search for a deserter? Hatch replied, “He is an American. He had a mom. This led Bergdahl to break down in the courtroom as he apologized to all who looked for him, “My words can’t take away what people have been through. I am admitting I made a horrible mistake.”