- - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Where is Bowe Bergdahl?

When stories fall out of the media frenzy, we tend to forget about them. But I haven’t forgotten about Sgt. Bergdahl.

He was an American Soldier who deserved to be found. I do not concur with President Obama’s unilateral decision to succumb to the demands of a terrorist organization and return five senior leaders of the Taliban. And why did it take five years?

Regardless, as Fox News reported, “U.S. Army soldiers who were serving with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl when he left his post and wound up in the hands of the Taliban say no one has contacted them, even though military brass are currently conducting a new investigation into the case.”

This sounds very familiar to the IRS targeting scandal in which Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a person to investigate who never spoke to any of the plaintiff conservative groups bringing forth the complaint. I suppose that’s how investigations are done in the Obama administration — like everything else — just words, rhetoric, and in the end dismissed by Mr. Obama and his crony Leftists as “phony scandals.”

Fox reported that “several soldiers who immediately came forward after Bergdahl was released on May 31, in a swap for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, have accused the 28-year-old Idaho native of deserting. But even though the Army is probing that very charge, investigators have not reached out to at least two former Army sergeants — including the platoon’s leader — who served alongside Bergdahl on June 30, 2009, when he disappeared from his post in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province.”

“There’s only a handful of us who were actually there and we haven’t been contacted yet,” former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow said. “I don’t really know how in-depth they’re trying to get here. I thought we’d be some of the people they’d call. I think they have their mind made up already on what they want people to know.”

Ok, let’s conduct our own short investigation.

Was Army then-PFC Bergdahl at his assigned duty post, in a combat zone, on 30 June, 2009? No.

Did PFC Bergdahl depart his assigned duty post with weapon and sensitive items or where they left on his Forward Operating Base (FOB)? They were left on his FOB.

Did PFC Bergdahl attempt to return to his assigned duty position within 30 days? No, there are rumors that he attempted to escape, but that has yet to be verified.

As articulated by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a deserter has no intention of returning to his or her post, while a soldier who goes AWOL intends to rejoin.

As a former Commander, I can attest that the cutoff for reclassifying a Soldier from AWOL (Away Without Leave) to desertion is 30 days.

When I was a Battalion Commander at Ft. Hood, we had a Soldier returned to our Battalion who had gone AWOL and was summarily classified as a deserter under the previous Battalion Commander. I will never forget the Soldier’s return as we were preparing to deploy to Iraq. I asked him a simple question: did he want to deploy with us to Iraq or would he prefer charges against him?

The Soldier chose to deploy, and he did.

But the case of PFC Bergdahl is rather interesting because I believe there is some undue command influence occurring. Why has the 2010 Pentagon report on the Bergdahl incident not been declassified and made open to the public?

It seems to me there has already been an investigation — and perhaps it explains why the military didn’t continue to pursue Bergdahl’s rescue. There can be no debate that PFC Bergdahl voluntarily left his assigned duty post on the aforementioned day — he deserted his post. Although the New York Times and others attempted to make him the victim and attacked his unit, no one forced him to walk off that combat outpost, leaving his weapon, body armor, and sensitive items.

Army officials have announced that a two-star general, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, is conducting a new investigation to examine whether Sgt. Bergdahl went AWOL or deserted his post. But that investigation won’t begin until Sgt. Bergdahl’s reintegration process is complete, and General Dahl’s recommendations will ultimately be sent to the director of the Army staff, who could then approve or alter them before forwarding to Sgt. Bergdahl’s commander.

And who will decide when the “reintegration process” is complete? Funny — there was no reintegration process for former Army Lieutenant Michael Behenna. Oh yeah, he was a bad guy for killing a known al-Qaida operative, Ali Mansur, who was conducting operations in his area.

And why is Sgt. Bergdahl’s case not being conducted within the chain of command of his original unit, the 25th Infantry Division?

Soldiers like me think things should be simple and explanations not convoluted — unlike legislation in Congress.

Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow who is now working in law enforcement after leaving the Army in 2012, believes the answer to the key question of the investigation remains unchanged. “I think it’s very clear he deserted his post,” Buetow said. “He thought about what he was doing, he mailed some things home, he walked away and we have witnesses who saw him walking away. And if you’re walking away in one of the worst, most dangerous areas of Afghanistan without your weapon and gear, I don’t believe you’re planning on coming back.”

Former Army Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit, said that he has also not been contacted by Army officials since the announcement of the new probe, but acknowledged that sworn statements of nearly every soldier in contact with Sgt. Bergdahl in 2009 undoubtedly still exist. Vierkant vehemently maintains that Sgt. Bergdahl deserted his unit.

“The most important factor isn’t necessarily why he did it or what made him do it,” Vierkant said. “The most important factor is that he did do it — for whatever reason. That’s enough in my mind to do a court-martial, bring him up under several different charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

And don’t forget — many of the Soldiers in Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements – and didn’t come forward until the infamous Rose Garden announcement of the Bergdahl-Taliban exchange. It’s also rumored that Benghazi survivors were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements.  This doesn’t exactly sound like a “phony scandal.”

Allen B. West is a former Congressman (R-Fl), a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, and Fox News contributor.

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