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Lindsey Graham on Bowe Bergdahl Sentence: 'Incredibly Disappointed'

Image: Lindsey Graham on Bowe Bergdahl Sentence: 'Incredibly Disappointed'
Bowe Bergdahl, left, leaves the Fort Bragg courtroom facility following sentencing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina Nov. 3, 2017. (Gerry Broome/AP)

By    |   Friday, 03 Nov 2017 06:00 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he was "incredibly disappointed" that former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received no prison time for endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan, leading to his capture Taliban captivity for five years.

"While I have tremendous respect for the military justice system I was a part of for over 30 years, I'm incredibly disappointed in the sentence handed down by the court in the Bergdahl case," the South Carolina Republican and former Air Force lawyer said in a statement.

"Given the nature of the crime and the sacrifices made by others on Bergdahl's behalf, this sentence in my view falls short of the gravity of the offense," he said.

Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary Committees.

"An independent judiciary is the heart and soul of the rule of law, but no one is beyond criticism."

Former CIA officer Mike Baker said he was "certainly thinking five-to-seven years" in prison for Bergdahl.

"Something to account for the fact that he deserted, he abandoned his post," Baker told Neil Cavuto on Fox News. "He put his comrades, his brothers in arms, at risk.

"I get the idea, OK, that he suffered at the hands of the Taliban for five years, but he did it because he deserted. It was his own doing.

"There had to be some prison time," Baker said. "I just can't figure out what that judge was thinking."

A military judge Friday gave Bergdahl, 31, of Hailey, Idaho, no prison time in the case — but did discharge him dishonorably, reduced his rank to private and said he must forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months.

The judge made no other comments.

Bergdahl, whom former President Barack Obama exchanged for five senior Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay in 2014, had pleaded guilty Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and had faced up to life in prison.

Prosecutors had sought a 14-year term, but the judge had wide flexibility because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his sentence.

The judge's punitive discharge deprives Bergdahl of most or all his veterans' benefits.

Bergdahl walked away from his Army post without a weapon in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was captured by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network.

He had been the only U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl had become disillusioned with his role in America's longest war, sending emails to his parents before he disappeared.

"The future is too good to waste on lies," he said in an email to his father, Bob, published in 2012 by Rolling Stone. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."

He also attacked the Army, saying it cuts down people "for being honest," and rewarded sycophants.

"The title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools," he wrote. "I am sorry for everything here."

But Bergdahl's desertion immediately trigged an Army manhunt throughout the rugged Paktika Province, eventually leading to the deaths of six soldiers.

Those killed had been identified as Army Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen and Pfc. Morris Walker on Aug. 18, 2009; Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss on Aug. 26; 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek on Sept. 4; and Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey on Sept. 5.

In addition, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen suffered serious brain damage as a result of gunfire in a July 8 search south of Kabul.

When then-President Obama discussed the Bergdahl swap in the White House Rose Garden in May 2014, he said that the U.S. "does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind."

But Republicans widely slammed Obama for his decision — arguing also that he had broken longstanding U.S. policy of negotiating with terrorists — and many of Bergdahl's former platoon mates ripped him as a deserter.

During last year's presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor who deserved serious punishment.

Trump, who is now president, ripped Bergdahl's sentence Friday as "a complete and total disgrace to our country and to our military" on Twitter on Friday:

Others were just as outraged by the judge's decision:

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he was "incredibly disappointed" that former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received no prison time for endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan, leading to his capture Taliban captivity for five years.
lindsey graham, bowe bergdahl, sentencing, disappointed
Friday, 03 Nov 2017 06:00 PM
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