In charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion, the Army defied the White House's "tooth and nail" fight to give the embattled sergeant a slap on the wrist, retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters tells Newsmax TV
"I'm very proud of the U.S. Army, because this is clearly a case of the Army standing up to all the pressure the Obama administration could bring to bear," Peters said Wednesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show."
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"The Obama administration, I can tell you, has been fighting tooth and nail to get the Army to cook the books and reduce the charge to AWOL or less.
"But, my God … at least some of the generals showed some backbone, stood up, and said, 'No, this really matters.' "
Last May, terrorists freed Bergdahl in Afghanistan in exchange for five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. But there was always a question as to whether Bergdahl — hailed as a hero by some and feted at a White House ceremony — had actually deserted his post before being captured.
The swap set off a debate over whether the U.S. should have freed Taliban members who would likely fight the U.S. again.
Bergdahl now faces a court-martial on charges of desertion, avoiding military service and misbehavior before the enemy, which carry a maximum penalty of death.
"This is not about persecuting this pathetic jerk named Bergdahl. This is about a principle. In the U.S. military, or any military, the second-worst thing you can commit is abandoning your buddies and deserting to the enemy in wartime," Peters said.
"The worst thing you can do is actually turn your weapon on your comrades. Bergdahl didn't do that as far as we know, but he did go over to the enemy. He walked away from his post in a combat zone, abandoned his buddies.
"That is desertion, and so, again, the Army's doing the right thing, but why are they doing it? Why did they stick to their guns despite all the presidential pressure?"
The reason, Peters said, is that if Army brass had hit Bergdahl with a minor charge, it would have set a precedent for other soldiers to be let off the hook for desertion.
"The Army just could not do that. Again, it's not about personal vendettas, and I'm personally over my anger at Bergdahl because he clearly is so pathetic," Peters said.
"But he was a grown-up, he is in mentally sound condition, he made his own choices, and there's a price to be paid when you commit a terrible crime like deserting to the enemy in wartime.
"So, the bottom line, it's not about Bergdahl, it's about a greater principle that you cannot just abandon your post in the face of the enemy."
Peters — author of the bestsellers, "Hell or Richmond"
, published by Forge, and "Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization,"
published by Stackpole Books — said the Army was under extraordinary pressure by the White House.
"The military was forced by the White House to give routine updates to Bowe Bergdahl's parents, to treat him with kid gloves … Better treatment than we gave to the parents of badly wounded soldiers," he said.
"It's just incredible to me what this administration went through … to portray Bergdahl as a hero."
Peters, who enlisted in the Army in 1976, retired in 1998 as a lieutenant colonel.
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