The military is “upside-down” for recommending that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl be given no jail time for voluntarily leaving his unit and being taken by the Taliban, a move that got several troops killed and led to the freedom of five hard core Taliban figures in exchange for Bergdahl.
That’s the assessment of retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin served 36 years in uniform, many of those with special forces including command of all Green Berets.
Earlier this month, military prosecutor Lt. Col. Mark Visgers recommended that Bergdahl be given no jail time and that his case be moved from a general court martial to a less severe special court martial. Visgers does not have the last word, but his shift from advancing charges that could have landed Bergdahl in prison for life or even the death chamber raises Boykin’s eyebrows.
“My only conclusion is these prosecutors are under some serious pressure through the chain of command,” he said. “I suspect the chain of command is under some pressure from the administration. I don’t know that for a fact, but what else can you conclude? These are military prosecutors. They know the seriousness of these charges.”
In June 2014, President Obama trumpeted the exchange of five Guantanamo prisoners for Bergdahl and hosted Bergdahl’s parents in the White House Rose Garden. In the ensuing days, the details of Bergdahl’s alleged desertion came to light in addition to charges that several brothers in arms died trying to find him.
Boykin said all of those details demand severe punishment.
“These are egregious charges,” he said. “Look, this guy deserted in combat, and not only that, they have proven that he was cavorting with or he is guilty of misbehavior with the enemy. Bergdahl went with the Taliban deliberately. He stayed with the Taliban for five years. There has to be accountability for that.”
“I think this guy should probably spend the rest of his life in jail,” Boykin added. “This actually carries the death penalty. I’m not advocating that by any means, but I do think he needs to be held accountable.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin:
Desertion and misbehavior before the enemy are bad enough, but Boykin said the other two factors are even more infuriating, namely that Bergdahl’s actions cost the lives of fellow soldiers. He also winces at the thought of giving up five key terrorists to get Bergdahl back.
“We put five of the most hard-core criminals in Guantanamo back on the streets. We released these people. These were commanders,” Boykin said. “These were senior people, and they were some of the worst in Guantanamo. We traded them for a guy who deliberately walked off his installation and joined the Taliban there.”
Prosecutors dispute that last point. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl said he interrogated Bergdahl for over an hour and concluded Bergdahl was never friendly with the Taliban.
Most infuriating for Boykin is the military’s penchant for harshly disciplining some soldiers for doing the right thing in Afghanistan while it looks like Bergdahl will catch a break.
“The Army is about to put an Sgt. First Class Charles Martland out of the Army for an incident in 2011, where he slugged a police chief for raping a child repeatedly,” Boykin said. “We’re going to put him out of the Army, but here we’ve got a guy that cavorted with the enemy, that deserted in wartime and we’re going to let him walk.”
“This is upside-down, and I think this is a total miscarriage of justice,” he added.
Boykin said troop morale dropped when soldiers learned of Bergdahl’s release and the price the U.S. paid for that freedom. He said if Bergdahl faces no jail time, morale will take another punch to the stomach.
“I think that if he’s allowed to walk with some minor slap on the wrist, I think it’s going to have another huge impact on morale throughout our services, not just the Army,” Boykin warned.