Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl needs to stand before a military court of justice and explain his choice to desert the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in the middle of a war, a self-described friend and former platoon-mate of the freed American soldier said on Tuesday on Newsmax TV.
"Yes, he should face a court-martial because he should be responsible for his actions and be judged on his actions," Gerald Sutton, an Army specialist in the platoon in Afghanistan from which Bergdahl disappeared, told "America's Forum" hosts J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman, and Newsmax contributor Francesca Paige.
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"And whatever the decision comes down to, I would respect it fully, whether it be not guilty, guilty, or whatever punishment they deem worthy of giving him," Sutton, now attending college, said on Tuesday.
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Sutton echoed other soldiers who were serving with then-Pfc. Bergdahl in June 2009, when he went missing from a remote Afghan observation post and somehow landed in the clutches of U.S. adversaries.
"The biggest question I have is, 'Why?' " said Sutton, adding, "Hopefully one day … somebody is able to ask him and he gives an honest answer. Until then I'm just still kind of puzzled."
Bergdahl — who is alleged to have "walked away" from his post
— is returning home after five years in captivity as part of a prisoner swap with the Taliban that has angered some troops and left the Obama administration scrambling to defend a deal it negotiated.
"The first and foremost thing I can tell you … is that for sure he is a deserter," Sutton said of Bergdahl. "But besides that, he was my friend. And I do feel some empathy for his family. It's a bittersweet feeling … him being home, so I'm kind of conflicted a little bit here."
Asked whether he considers his old Army friend not just a deserter, but a traitor, Sutton said that's a judgement for another day.
"As of right now with the information that I possess, I can't really come to the conclusion that he is a traitor," he said. "But given more information, as the story kind of works its way out, then maybe I will come to that conclusion."
Sutton declined to say whether Bergdahl coming home justified the administration's handover of five high-level Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
"The whole issue of the prisoner exchange for him, that's kind of a little bit over my head," he said.
But while he said the U.S. has "some right" to bring a soldier home, he added, "not [by] whatever means necessary."
Sutton said Bergdahl's well-chronicled complaints
about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan weren't unique.
"Yes, he discussed that with me," said Sutton. "But all the soldiers — we all were a little angry here and there. It's every soldier's right to complain every once in a while."
But none took complaints to the same conclusion.
"Nobody ever even considered desertion from my platoon," said Sutton.
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