Alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl should be put to death if a military court finds him guilty of abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and concludes that U.S. service members died searching for him after his disappearance, says former Navy SEAL and war on terror veteran Carl Higbie.
"As far as I'm concerned, he is a deserter and he's a traitor," Higbie, a co-author of "Battle on the Home Front: A Navy SEAL's Mission to Save the American Dream,"
told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
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Likewise, if a military courts-martial affirms the story that is already told by Bergdahl's platoon mates in Afghanistan, and by others connected to the case, Bergdahl "should be treated as an enemy combatant" and punished accordingly, said Higbie.
"I know there have been six killed in association [with] operations looking for him or … in some sort of correlation to his disappearance," said Higbie. "They should take that into serious consideration as well. I would look towards the death penalty if that is in fact the case."
Then-Private First Class Bergdahl was captured by Afghan militants after walking away from a remote patrol base in Afghanistan in June 2009, and was held captive for five years.
Now a sergeant, he was freed in May in a controversial U.S. deal with the Taliban, who got five of their own released from Guantanamo Bay.
The administration's happy-homecoming narrative for a soldier
who served "with honor and distinction" immediately clashed with the accounts of his platoon mates, who called Berghdal a deserter and said he voiced doubts about the war in Afghanistan just before he disappeared.
The Army formally charged him on Wednesday
with desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty, and with misbehavior before the enemy. The next step is a preliminary hearing, comparable to a civilian grand jury, ahead of a possible military court-martial.
Desertion is punishable by life in prison, and misbehavior before the enemy carries the possibility of the death penalty. But news reports citing unnamed defense officials have suggested that Bergdahl is unlikely to be put to death if convicted, and that his five years in harsh captivity
might be a mitigating factor in any sentence.
Higbie said he has "zero sympathy" for Berghdal either as somebody who wrestled with doubts about the mission or who endured years of Taliban brutality. If he left his post under the circumstances given so far, "then he in fact does not deserve any sympathy," said Higbie. "He's an enemy of the United States of America and he should be treated as such."
Higbie also said "it is notable that during the time of his desertion, attacks on coalition forces did go up.
"Are they correlated?" he said. "I can't be the judge of that; it's above my pay grade. But they did go up. Also, you have to look at the guys who got killed looking for him: What impact did him leaving have? And what intel did he give [to his captors] that led to the potential harming of American troops?"
Higbie called the Obama administration's portrayal of Berghdal as one of the good guys "horrible."
"It's just a reflection of how disconnected the current administration is," he said. "And the president spoke at the Rose Garden with his arm around Bowe Bergdahl's parents."
Higbie said some foresight and interviewing of Berghdal's platoon mates could have prevented the fiasco, but the possibility of desertion seems not to have occurred to anybody in the White House.
"And they didn't interview anybody," even though it was clear that "all the people that [Bergdahl] served with said that he was turd," said Higbie.
Asked why the administration didn't vet Bergdahl more thoroughly before making him the centerpiece of a prisoner swap, Higbie said, "You got me."
"But this is a characteristic of the Obama administration," he said. "They don't care what the actual reality is; they care what looks good for them on paper. The president was so anxious to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he thought that tying up this loose end would make him look like a hero."
"But it really didn't," he said. "It backfired on him and I'm glad — unfortunately, at the expense of turning over five terrorists that are now going to go back to trying to harm America."
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