May 18, 2024
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  • Source: FreePressers
  • 04/19/2024
FPI / April 19, 2024

By Bill Juneau

You may have figured that you'd heard the last of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who deserted his regiment in Afghanistan and subsequently was convicted of the offense in a court martial at which he plead guilty. But the story of the ex-sergeant has taken a new turn as Bergdahl is doing his best to shake loose of his mistakes and misconduct.

Last July, a district judge in Washington D.C. vacated the conviction and dishonorable discharge ordered against Bergdahl because of a "conflict of Interest" on the part of the sentencing military judge, Col. Jeffrey Nance.

The government and the army is appealing, but in the meantime, Bergdahl is just another ex-soldier entitled to medical and real estate benefits and backpay. He is at present a deserter in a time of war who walks free.

After joining the army, Private Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan as war with the Taliban raged. On a cold night in 2009, he abandoned his post and fellow soldiers and surrendered himself to America's enemy, the Taliban. Held in Taliban shelters for the next five years, he learned to speak the Arabic language and found ways to stay on the good side and mingle with America's enemy in the country which was a training center for terrorists in the 9-11 attack in New York.

Reportedly, he became fluent in the Arabic language, and seemingly was treated with tender hands for his five years in their campgrounds in the mountainous country in the Middle East..

Bergdahl's desertion became the subject of massive publicity in America and was scorned by patriots and other soldiers. In 2014, President Obama arranged to bring the soldier home after negotiating with the terrorists. In return for releasing Bergdahl, America released five terrorists being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The five returned, it was reported, to the battlefield and resumed the Taliban mission to kill Americans.

Obama was commended for bringing Bergdahl home, though the fact that he had negotiated with the terrorists and had failed to inform Congress of his backroom deal brought calls for Obama's impeachment by prominent Republicans and GOP reps in the lower House of Congress.

Now holding the rank of Sergeant, Bergdahl was welcomed home in 2014 in a ceremony and party on White House lawn. The soldier's parents from Hailey, Idaho, were among guests. Bergdahl's father, John, had grown a thick, Taliban-style beard and speaking with emotion in the Arabic language, praised Allah for his mercy in bringing his son home. As he spoke, President Obama reacted by laying his hand affectionately on his shoulder.

Shortly thereafter, Obama's National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, appeared on network television stations and lauded Sgt. Bergdahl by telling Americans the fiction that the non- commissioned officer had served his country with "honor and distinction." This, of course, was an enormous lie, but reportedly had been okayed by President Obama whose concern for the nation's military has always appeared questionable.

In December, 2015, Bergdahl was charged with desertion, and misbehavior before the enemy and a general court martial at Fort Bragg was scheduled. He awaited trial while working at a desk on a Texas army base. Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, who was nearing retirement, was named as the presiding judge at the upcoming military tribunal.

As the trial approached in the fall of 2017, President Trump called Bergdahl a traitor and opined that he ought to be shot. Also, the late Arizona senator, John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam fighting, and was considered a true american hero, lambasted Bergdahl for his dishonor to America and called for his punishment.

Honor their memory: The ‘shot heard round the world’

On October 17, 2017, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to all charges against him and in emotional testimony explained that he regretted his actions and would be forced to live his life in the face of being a deserter. Judge Nance entered a conviction against Sgt. Bergdahl for desertion and ordered him dishonorably discharged and fined $10,000. Also he stripped the soldier of all benefits given to veterans who have served their country.

But Judge Nance was merciful and kind in pronouncing the sentence. Rather than send the young soldier to prison for life or for many years, he allowed him to go home and rebuild his life.

Judge Nance who was on the verge of retiring from active duty as a soldier had applied for a job with the Justice Department under President Trump who had railed against Bergdahl as a "traitor," even suggesting that he be executed. Nance's application for the job had not been disclosed publicly.

In June of 2020, attorneys for Bergdahl filed a lawsuit in the district court in Washington seeking to have the convictions vacated since Col. Nance's application for a job in the Trump government constituted a conflict of interest which threatened his ability to be impartial.

Last July Judge Reggie B. Walton , in a 563 page ruling, agreed with the petition, and vacated all charges against Bergdahl, allowing him to walk free with credentials as an ex-soldier entitled to benefits and backpay.

Bergdahl's motion for dismissal "specifically referenced the former president’s desire that the plaintiff be convicted and how he should be punished," Walton wrote.

"Thus, the Court concludes that, based upon the military judge’s job application to an executive branch position -- a situation in which he might reasonably be expected to appeal to the president’s expressed interest in the plaintiff’s conviction and punishment -- 'it would appear to a reasonable person,' 'knowing all the circumstances,' 'that [the judge]’s impartiality was in jeopardy,'" Walton wrote, citing in quotes precedents from previous decisions.

Actually, the question of Nance's impartiality was answered in the punishment he imposed, which included no jail time, and was merciful, and allowed for Bergdahl to return home and rebuild his life. Very likely, President Trump was in favor of a tougher sentence.

According to records, it appears that the justice Department's efforts to reinstate Bergdahl's convictions are ongoing.

Bill Juneau worked for 25 years as a reporter and night city editor at the Chicago Tribune. Subsequently he became a partner in a law firm and also served as a village prosecutor and as a consultant to the Cook County Circuit Court and to the Cook County Medical Examiner. He is currently writing columns and the 'Florida Bill' blog.

Free Press International
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