Former Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North has issued marching orders to soldiers accusing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of desertion: shut up and let military justice take its course.
"I've seen the comments made by those with whom he served, [and] here's my advice to everybody: count on the military judicial system,'' North, host of Fox News' "War Stories," told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"It will work as it should to investigate the circumstances under which [Bergdahl] found himself in the hands of the Haqqani network. It is better, it is fairer than anything else,'' he said Tuesday.
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Bergdahl was swapped for five top terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, but many in the military are questioning whether he deserted the Army, an act that led to the death of six soldiers sent to look for him.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, may be disciplined if the Army finds evidence of misconduct.
The New York Times cited a former military official as saying Bergdahl slipped away from his base near the Afghan border with Pakistan, leaving a note saying he had become disillusioned with the Army and the war and was going to start a new life.
Bergdhal will be given "all the opportunities in the world" to clear his name as rumors swirl.
"It's the only judicial system in which the defendant gets to pick those who sit in judgment. I mean it truly is a far better system, far fairer system of choosing your peers to sit on your jury,'' North said.
"And so, the facts will come out. I don't believe right now is the time to be bringing those out because witnesses ought to be brought forward to swear under oath to what they know and define at that point where there ought to be a process by which there is a court martial.
"It's also wrong to speculate about what the outcome will be. It's kind of we're all looking for the Malaysian airplane and people are speculating as to where it went.''
North — author of the new thriller, "Counterfeit Lies,"
written with Bob Hamer and published by Threshold Editions — said the Obama administration has an "incredibly screwed up'' justification for the terrorist swap by saying swaps were also done by the previous administration.
"Think about what it means, this whole process that's been done here,'' he said.
"Five terrorists who have killed Americans in the past or controlled others who do . . . are now not only risking the lives of American servicemen when they walk away from Qatar, whether it's next week or next year, they're threatening the lives of every single American by what they've done.
"Every American traveling — it doesn't matter if you're going to Denmark or Dubai — every American is now vulnerable to being grabbed and turned into a hostage.''
North — a platoon commander in the Vietnam War who was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals — said the Obama administration has, in essence, funded a criminal enterprise.
"Someone is paid an enormous ransom. Not just the five, which is bad, but worse yet, someone paid a ransom,'' he said.
"Whether the Qataris paid it or some big oil sheik or somebody used our petrodollars, but there was a ransom paid in cash for each one of them.
"My guess, somewhere in the round numbers of $5 or $6 million dollars to get Bergdahl free. I know that the offer that was on the table before was close to $1 million."
North predicted the five Taliban members who were freed could easily be active in terrorist pursuits within one year.
Whether they're on the battlefield themselves making IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or blowing themselves up in front of some U.S. installation, Americans, every American is now at greater risk,'' he said.
North, appearing Tuesday on another Newsmax TV program, "America's Forum," said questions remain about the circumstances and conditions of Bergdahl's captivity.
North stepped squarely into the debate over whom, exactly, captured then-Pfc. Bergdahl and held him for five years.
North contended it wasn't the Taliban in Afghanistan, but actually the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which has links not only to the Taliban but to Pakistan's national intelligence agency.
"This has nothing to do with the Taliban," North told "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth.
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North's claim is similar to remarks made on Tuesday by Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.
Rogers, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe,"
said: "The Haqqani network is a terrorist organization operating in the tribal area of Pakistan. They're the ones that had custody of Bergdahl — not the Taliban, not the Qataris and not the Afghans."
"And so, you [the Obama administration] negotiated with a terrorist organization [with] which, by the way, hostilities have not stopped or ceased, and will continue long after even 2016," Rogers said.
North argued that the distinction between the ideologically driven Taliban and the more mercenary, opportunistic Haqqani network does matter.
"What somebody needs to ask the question [of] this administration [is], was there a ransom — I'm talking about a fiscal, financial money transaction — in this?" he said.
"Did the government of the United States either directly or indirectly finance a terrorist organization that is a criminal enterprise, meaning the Haqqanis?"
Comparing the wartime circumstances of today's U.S. military in the Middle East with those of the Vietnam generation, North counted himself lucky in some respects.
"Now, thankfully I didn't have to go in with a president who described victory as being, 'I'm just going to get the hell out and run' — in other words, [who] declared defeat in advance, [and] told the enemy when it's going to happen," North said in criticizing the Obama administration's Afghan withdrawal plan.
"That did not happen with, at least, my era of Vietnam," North said.
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