It didn’t surprise me last week when news surfaced that the Army was charging Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion.
After all, the reports on Bergdahl’s disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan are pretty much unanimous: Growing disgruntled about the Army’s presence in Afghanistan, Bergdahl put down his rifle and other gear, and headed toward the mountains.
Now, the big question surrounding the case is what fate is coming to Bergdahl: Life in prison? Five years? No prison?
The coming court-martial will decide that. However, there’s a bigger question hovering around this case: Did any soldiers die trying to find Bergdahl?
Apart from the controversy surrounding Bergdahl’s return — in which the U.S. arranged for his safe return in a prisoner swap for five high-ranking Taliban officials — the real tragedy in this case will hinge on whether any soldier was hurt or killed trying to find him.
Not long after Bergdahl’s release from five years in captivity last year, there were a few unconfirmed reports of soldiers who died while trying to find the missing soldier, although the Pentagon said there’s no evidence anyone died because of his actions, according to The Associated Press.
If any soldiers were hurt or killed, what would the justice be?
Some, such as Bergdahl’s lawyers, are saying Bergdahl should not have been charged — and shouldn’t serve any time — because he has suffered enough. Bergdahl certainly has suffered. In his five years as a prisoner of war, he was beaten with a copper cable, chained and kept in a cage.
“In the beginning of my captivity, after my first two escape attempts, for about three months I was chained to a bed spread-eagle and blindfolded,” Bergdahl wrote. “Around my ankles where the chains were, I developed open wounds. ... During these months some of the things they did was beat the bottoms of my feet and parts of my body with a copper cable.”
Bergdahl has certainly paid a steep price for a dumb, and selfish, decision to abandon his unit, which was deployed to a war zone.
If no soldier was harmed or killed trying to find Bergdahl, I could see a just punishment being a general or other than honorable discharge.
However, if soldiers died or were wounded trying to find him, then Bergdahl has some blood on his hands.
And blood doesn’t wash off easily.