Ralph Peters: Bergdahl sentencing isn’t about him — It’s about setting an example for any future traitors

The sentence the military judge will impose on Tali-Bowe Bergdahl isn’t about one self-centered deserter. It’s about our national defense. The judge’s decision will decide the state of discipline on battlefields for decades to come. Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He has pleaded guilty to both charges.

There are no mitigating circumstances.

He must be punished, for his crimes and to make an example of him.

Yet, the American left, which has had only two military heroes since 9/11 (Bergdahl and Chelsea Manning), continues to embrace Bergdahl’s very tall tale that he only meant to stroll a dozen or so miles through hostile territory to the next military base so he could report on conditions is his unit—which Bergdahl found unsatisfactory. Based upon the evidence available to this writer, Bergdahl intended to go over to the enemy, whom he had expected to welcome him.

Bergdahl will never be commemorated for his judgment or analytical skills.

The left, exemplified by former President Obama’s White House celebration for the Bergdahls after he gave up five terrorists and, reportedly, cash for their traitor-son, has never grasped why anyone would join our military—a domain of brutes, illiterates, psychopaths and “deplorables.” But leftists do understand why soldiers would desert or betray our country by revealing our secrets.

The heaviest sentence that could be imposed upon Bergdahl is life in prison—to make the point to all those contemplating such crimes in the future that there will be grave penalties.

It matters not in the least to those who believe this country is not worth defending that honorable service members were gravely wounded in the stop-everything-else search for Bergdahl that paralyzed our war effort in Afghanistan. And it certainly doesn’t matter that those who were on the ground and involved in that hunt believe that as many as six of their comrades died looking for a man whom our military knew from the start was a deserter (a four-star general confirmed it to me within 48 hours of Bergdahl’s desertion, but would not say so publicly—a moral coward who, ironically, got his own comeuppance a few years later).

All that matters now for the left is that Bergdahl “suffered enough” during his five years under Taliban control.

Of course, those wounded because of him will suffer all of their lives. The dead will never return to those they love. But none of that matters. For the left, that military judge must let Bergdahl go free on humanitarian grounds—thus redeeming Obama’s festive Rose Garden welcome for Ma and Pa Taliban.

Certainly, one can make the case that Bergdahl was a feckless, self-absorbed loser unsuited to the brotherhood of arms (another phenomenon the left can’t grasp). But this case isn’t about punk psychology, but about overt and treacherous behavior. Nor was Bergdahl some hapless draftee of the sort mythologized from Vietnam. He volunteered to serve in uniform.

And the crime he committed, deserting his post in a tactical combat zone, is the second-worst a soldier can perpetrate—the worst being turning your weapon on your comrades.  Even had no one been wounded or killed in our efforts to retrieve Bergdahl, he betrayed a fundamental trust and endangered those who counted on him to do his part in their mutual defense.

We cannot defend our country with a military in which soldiers decide to walk away because they’ve had a mood swing.

One need feel no personal animus toward Bergdahl to recognize that the proper punishment for his misdeeds would be the death penalty (his behavior condemned better men to death).  But we no longer punish deserters that way.

The heaviest sentence that could be imposed upon Bergdahl is life in prison—to make the point to all those contemplating such crimes in the future that there will be grave penalties.

And the judge can choose that sentence in easy conscience, aware that the next Democratic president will pardon Bergdahl (at which point, Mr. Bergdahl could wed Ms. Chelsea Manning, late of Harvard Yard, and live happily ever after).

But the judge is also evaluating whether President Trump’s campaign remarks on Bergdahl make it impossible for the defendant to get a fair trial. Should the judge dismiss the case on those grounds, he would be saying that he lacked the faculties to make up his own mind based upon the evidence.

But in this frivolous age, when political correctness has infected our military from bottom to top, from destroying the brilliant folk poetry of traditional cadence calls to establishing lightly masked quotas for promotion based upon race and gender, there is a real possibility that, one way or another, Bergdahl, betrayer of the military’s sacred trust, will walk away a free man. (His lawyer was smart enough to recommend that Bergdahl choose a trial by judge and not by a jury of his peers—peers who would have inquired about the feasibility of drawing and quartering).

The judge, an Army colonel, is independent, as he should and must be. And this is by far the most important case of his career. One hopes he is aware that he’s not deciding the future of one man who betrayed his comrades, but the state of military discipline for generations to come.

Bergdahl the man is nothing. Bergdahl the example is everything.

Fox News Strategic Analyst Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and former enlisted man. He is the author of prize-winning fiction and non-fiction books on the Civil War and the military.

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