A military judge ruled on Friday that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will not be facing any prison time after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
The judge, Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, instead slapped Bergdahl with a dishonorable discharge, a demotion to private ranking and revoked Bergdahl’s military benefits. Nance reportedly issued his ruling without much elaboration.
The opposition to Nance’s ruling has been swift:
President Trump slammed the ruling as well:
Others defended the ruling:
Bergdahl was held in captivity by the Taliban for five years after walking off from his post in Afghanistan. He had reportedly grown disillusioned with the war, telling his parents in an email, “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid.” Bergdahl later said he left his post in order to raise awareness of concerns he had about the Army leaders.
Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served in the same battalion as Bergdahl, wrote in the Daily Beast in June 2014 that six members in his battalion died during the search for Bergdahl. According to Military.com, three other military members are permanently damaged as a result of the search for Bergdahl, including Army National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot in the head and is currently confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak as a result of the injury.
Bergdahl returned to the United States in the summer of 2014 after the Obama administration agreed to free five prisoners from Guatanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom. The administration claimed that it was a necessary deal due to Bergdahl’s deteriorating health.
Bergdahl claimed that the Taliban held him in a cage, where they tortured him by repeatedly cutting his chest with a razor. And yet, he told The Sunday Times that he appreciated the Taliban’s honesty about their intentions over the court proceedings he had to endure.
“Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who’s going to sign the paper that sends me away for life,’’ said Bergdahl, referring to U.S. courts. “We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs.”
Bergdahl’s defense team claimed that Bergdahl suffered from a myriad of mental health problems, a claim that has been disputed by some Army doctors. The defense also claimed that a dishonorable discharge was a worthy punishment after enduring five years of harsh treatment from the Taliban. Some witnesses also testified that Bergdahl’s experience in the Taliban’s captivity provided a treasure trove of intelligence information.
On Monday, Nance stated that Trump’s comments about Bergdahl being a “dirty, rotten traitor” would be considered “as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence.”