The Berghdal Contrivance
Yes… I am “on vacation.” That doesn’t mean that the world stops or that I have unplugged. As Pat the Lawyer said the other day, being off for two full weeks will pretty much drive me crazy. So, just a few notes and thoughts on things to keep me occupied while Ben sleeps in and then has breakfast.
You have to understand this basic premise before anything else: the President was going to release as many Taliban from GitMo as he possibly could without regard to any other considerations. When you understand that (and that he subsequently has done so), the Bergdahl swap for four Taliban which could lead to his Courts Martial on charges of desertion begins to make sense in a different way.
So let’s walk through this, shall we?
I believe (based on the evidence presented so far) that the Army KNEW from the first moments that Bergdahl had gone UA. Because of what had to be justifiable concerns about what he was planning to do, the Army launched their “rescue” operation, which was probably more of a manhunt than a rescue. Had Bergdahl been found that day, he would have been drummed out and we would never have heard of him. But he wasn’t, and the bad guys got him first.
When the Army couldn’t get him back initially, the presumption was always that they needed to get him back for two reasons. First, you cannot let a deserter go unpunished. It’s bad for morale. Second, the Army needed to know for certain what had happened and if Bergdahl had given the enemy any useful tactical information. Further, they needed to know if that data was coerced or volunteered. If the the former, perhaps Bergdahl hadn’t been planning this, if the latter, it would simply confirm that he had had planned to desert and become a traitor.
When the President presented to his Defense team that he intended to release the four Taliban Commanders without regard to security or conditions, the adults in the room saw an opportunity to use that to get back what they clearly saw as a deserter at best, and a traitor at worst. The conversations were probably intense, but by appealing to the Presidents vanity, they convinced him that he would look good and even heroic. Somewhere along the way, the Rose Garden presser with the parents was suggested, and the President believed that he had a political winner if they could get Bergdahl back.
But the Pentagon knew differently all along. And when the deal became public, the blowback was, no doubt, not what the President expected. Add in the fact that now Bergdahl was in Army hands, not CIA or FBI. The Army had him and they were going to get to the truth of what happened. The President could not object, because he, after all, had his National Security Advisor tell the world that Bergdahl was a hero who had “served with honor.” The White House tried to “clarify” that statement, but the damage was done.
The Army launched its investigation, which can only be described at this point point as “long,” and therefore probably quite thorough. Rumors now swirl that the report confirms that Bergdahl is a deserter, and the President said – through his Rose Garden Ceremony and his NSA, that he was a hero.
How odd that as the investigation into Bergdahls conduct that the Secretary of Defense, himself a former enlisted Soldier with combat experience, was forced to resign. Did the investigation uncover the real details behind the incident? The President had been embarrassed, and the report was now due just before the mid-terms which were already trending very badly for the President and his Party. Television and Radio ads denouncing his leadership, including comments from Democrat Senators and Congressmen supporting the deal for Bergdahl could have made what was already going to be bad, absolutely devastating. Perhaps even reaching a veto proof majority.
The SecDef was canned in a well staged kissing festival and the report delayed.
At the end of the day, I believe that the Army, SecDef and Pentagon all believed that Bergdahl deserted and is a traitor, and that they HAD to get him back to prove it. Using the circumstances of the Presidents plan to release GitMo Taliban commanders, they contrived a scenario where Bergdhal could be swapped and somehow convinced the President to go along with it, probably by appealing to his ego and intimating that he would get positive press from the swap. The swap led to Bergdahls release, but once the Army had him and began to investigate the narrative of an “honorable” soldier quickly fell apart. Add in the former service members who served with Bergdahl constantly pounding on the narrative, and things went south for the President very quickly. The draft report was probably complete in mid to late September and shows that Bergdhal deserted and most likely cooperated with the enemy. The President could not allow that report to be leaked or released prior to the 2014 mid-terms. SecDef, a loyal Democrat despite his background, acquiesced and the report was delayed, and most remarkably, not leaked. But the damage to Secretary Hagel was done, along with his continued intransigence to other releases, and “under pressure,” he resigned from his post.
Maybe Hagel didn’t know what the true political danger of the Bergdahl situation was to the President? He may have been pressured by Generals who appealed to his former service and the importance of getting deserter or traitor back and agreed that it was necessary, without fully considering the potential political and election consequences. Perhaps it was only later that he learned that if the story had gotten out that the Congress could have been even more GOP. Upon that realization, he resigned his post after making sure that nothing came out until after the mid-terms is yet another possibility.
Now we wait to see what happens to Bergdahl. Will he face Courts Martial for his offenses? Will he simply be Dishonorably Discharged and stripped of rank? Will he forfeit some $300,000 in back pay?
My question is simply this: given the damage he has caused, what will Bowe Bergdahl do now? Will he take any responsibility for what he has done? Or will he simply slink away into the darkness?
In any case, I believe that the Bergdahl case has been and will continue to be a profound embarrassment to the President.