Let me begin this article with a 100 percent perfectly clear disclaimer.
I have never served the Military of The United States of America.
My Grandfather, my Father, my Step-Father and two of my brother’s on the other hand did. I am no expert on the US Military, though I am not exactly ignorant of it either, having grown on in Military housing living on a number of Military bases as a kid.
There is much about Bowe Bergdhal that is in question, but there are a few things that absolutely are not. Bowe Bergdhal willfully deserted his post. The Taliban did not attack his position and capture him, he willfully with a full mens rea walked away from his obligation and responsibility.
Whether he sought out the Taliban or was simply captured while stumbling around the Afghanistan countryside seeking adventure is unclear, and quiet frankly, is utterly irrelevant. Whether he spent 5 years as a Taliban prisoner, or guest is a valid and pertinent question. Did he collaborate with the Taliban while in their company, likewise is a valid and pertinent question.
Sure would be nice to have some actual text from the note to judge. Saying that he “suggested” he might renounce his citizenship could mean anything from “I’ve booked an appointment at the embassy” to something as vague as “I’m sick of America,” depending upon how charitable you want to be about his intentions.
Also, while damning evidence of his intent to desert, I’m not sure this would fundamentally change the legal case against him even if it’s true.
Sources who had debriefed two former members of Bergdahl’s unit told Fox News Bergdahl left behind a note the night he left base in which he expressed disillusionment with the Army and being an American and suggested that he wanted to renounce his American citizenship and go find the Taliban. U.S. military officials would not confirm the existence of the letter, but if it does exist, it would likely be part of the original file on the investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance.
He wrote to his father more than once that he was ashamed to be an American but that’s not a renunciation. If it was, half the country would lose its citizenship on election night. In order to formally renounce, you need to follow these three steps; Bergdahl could conceivably have followed the last two, but if he didn’t appear before a diplomatic officer, his renunciation is ineffective. In fact, the Fox report quoted above doesn’t even assert that he did, in fact, renounce his citizenship. It says he wanted to, which is circumstantial evidence supporting the desertion theory but would mean that he was still an American citizen when he went missing. Maybe not a very good one, which makes the high price paid to get him back seem that much higher, but a citizen nonetheless.
What about the bombshell yesterday, though, about Bergdahl possibly having collaborated with the Taliban? Doesn’t expressing an intent to renounce his citizenship provide some support for that? I’m not sure. It’s possible to imagine him being disgusted with the U.S. and its war effort but not necessarily wanting to help the Taliban. The detail on renunciation could be useful supporting evidence of intent on a treason charge if you have other evidence that he joined the Taliban willingly and/or waged war against American troops. But even there, you hit a snag: A person can be charged with treason only if he owes allegiance to the United States. Arguing that Bergdahl owed that allegiance even though he meant to renounce it but was unable to simply because he couldn’t set up a meeting with a diplomatic officer first might be hard for a jury to digest.
Question for legal eagles: Is there any way under U.S. law to constructively renounce your citizenship in extraordinary circumstances, even if you haven’t complied with the three statutory steps? I’m guessing no, just because lawmakers would naturally want to make the bar for renunciation high. That’s the point of forcing people to appear before a diplomatic officer to do it — having an agent of the state there solemnizes the act so that the renouncer fully understands how grave his decision is. The law wants you to think, very hard, before you do something this drastic; following proper procedure proves that you have. I can imagine an argument in Bergdahl’s case, though, that nothing concentrates the mind about the solmenity of renunciation quite like doing it in the middle of a war zone, with jihadi savages ready to pounce one you’re outside the wire. If the goal of the statute is to ensure due deliberation and clear evidence of intent, it’s possible by virtue of his note that Bergdahl satisfied both of those conditions. Which is not, however, to say that I think a court would find that way. No one wants to start writing exceptions into the law governing renunciation to make it easier for people to do it.
Exit question: What are the odds that Bergdahl would be tried for treason even if they had a bunch of evidence showing that he assisted the Taliban? Given that doing so would amount to a catastrophic admission by Obama that he traded away five dangerous prisoners for a traitor, the odds are absolute zero. Not even a tiny bit higher.
Update: Deeper and deeper. Jake Tapper lands an interview with Evan Buetow, Bergdahl’s team leader the night he disappeared:
Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away). He’s looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.
“I heard it straight from the interpreter’s lips as he heard it over the radio,” said Buetow. “There’s a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away.”…
“The fact of the matter is, when those soldiers were killed, they would not have been where they were at if Bergdahl hadn’t left,” says Buetow. “Bergdahl leaving changed the mission.”
Bowe Bergdhal’s actions according the the UCMJ.
Text. “Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle; shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.”
Maximum punishment. All offenses under Article 99. Death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
Under no circumstances should anyone allow themselves to be deceived about this. Bowe Bergdhal’s actions, committed willfully and with the full knowledge of what he was doing, carry the gravest of consequences.
Former Congressman and Retired Colonel in the United States Army, Allen B West puts it like this.
Allen B West – I am writing this because last night I heard Fox News’ Harris Faulkner refer to Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl as a local hero. I just listened to Bergdahl’s father refer to his son’s character.
So, we must have a discussion of the truth here. Army SGT Bergdahl was not “captured” by the enemy in 2009. He abandoned his assigned post on his Forward Operating Base (FOB), leaving his weapon. Several U.S. Army Soldiers lost their lives in search for Bergdahl. His disappearance can only be classified as desertion and the media must not be so giddy about a good news story that they don’t tell the truth — which is apparent to many. The allegation of desertion is serious. It is grave because it occurred during a war, during combat operations.
The U.S. Army must uphold proper order and discipline and this allegation must be investigated — but the truth is already known. I believe the liberal media will attempt to elevate him to some type of status that will cause the Army not to pursue the right direction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). We who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat areas of operation against radical Islamists know they don’t hold our troops — they are savagely and brutally murdered. They exist to kill Americans.
Are we glad that Bergdahl is home? After five years, yes, but there are many unanswered questions that cannot be dismissed because of emotions.
As well, America has now negotiated with terrorists, because the Taliban is not a nation-state, it is a non-state, non-uniform belligerent organization, a terrorist group. This is a dangerous precedent and was done unilaterally by President Obama.
How many of our troops lost their lives and sacrificed to capture those five senior Taliban leaders? All for naught. I must admit, the only way I would have released these barbarians would have been once a tracking chip/device had been implanted — without their knowledge. I believe there are long-term ramifications that will result from the release of these five terrorists — there was a reason why the Afghan Taliban demanded these five.
And why would we enter into brokerage with Qatar, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood? I believe we should see them for who they are and cease our air operations from that country.
America’s progressive left hates Allen West with the white hot fiery of a billion supernova’s, because not only has Mr West committed the grievous sin of being a conservative Black man, to make matters worse, he is a patriotic former military commander who was willing to do absolutely anything he though necessary to protect his troops.
Former Colonel Allen West is the polar opposite of Sargent Bowe Bergdhal. Bowe Bergdhal is a deserter and a traitor, Allen West, a genuine hero. That right there is the essence of the divide in American politics today, to the Progressive liberal Left, Bowe Bergdhal is a hero, he embodies through his actions their moral and ethical standards. Colonel Allen West, who actually stood firm, took risks and defended the United States of America is to the Progressive liberal Left, a villain to be hated scorned mocked and ridiculed.