It has taken a few days for the results of Bowe Bergdahl’s court-martial to sink in, but I feel I have finally regained enough composure to type without smashing my keyboard into pieces, hoisting the black flag, and driving my own rope up to Sun Valley, Idaho.
It’s only a 3-hour drive, don’t believe for a second the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. It’s sad that we now live in a pussified nation where everyone gets a juice box and a trophy, and a traitor gets to walk free.
The Army is a dictatorship by design, and you give up many of your rights when you enlist. The life you are required to lead is enough to make the skin of any free man crawl, but it is the price of doing business.
The military exists solely to smash things and kill people. As such, things must be done from time to time to keep order. This is a foreign concept to anyone that has never served but it is as true today as it was the first time a group of cavemen decided to fight together.
The most important virtue any army can possess is discipline. Discipline is what kept the shields of a Greek phalanx interlocked. It is also what kept formations from evaporating in the face of a fleeing enemy. It got Hannibal’s elephants over the Alps. Discipline keeps troops on the line when artillery and machine guns are chewing them into pieces.
Discipline is the bedrock that makes scared men stand and fight, and without it, the first to break and run is annihilated. If discipline is the anchor of an army, then desertion is its polar opposite. Desertion represents the decay of the bonds holding an army together. It cannot be tolerated.
Some would say the United States is already lax on desertion punishments. Only one soldier was executed for the offense during WW2, Private Eddie Slovik. Don’t see the world with “Saving Private Ryan” eyes, desertion was a regular thing in the European Theater. Not alarmingly regular, but it did happen.
Slovik was even offered several chances to rescind his promise to never return to the front. He refused. Eddie, like many others, believed he wouldn’t face the death penalty. He thought at worst a prison sentence, and he had faced that before.
But Eddie was mistaken. Eisenhower signed his execution order on 23 December 1944, noting that it was necessary to discourage further desertions. And with an act that cost one man his life, General Eisenhower no doubt saved the lives of countless others.
Imagine, for a moment, you are part of a company or platoon that has been ordered to conduct a frontal assault. What do you think happens if midway through it, half of your force decides to cut and run? Those who remained in the fight will draw twice the fire. And depending on the scale of your assault, they all may be completely annihilated.
Everyone wants to live. That is part of being human. But a military must instill values that surpass self-preservation if it has any chance of success. Desertion is cancer to an army, and it must be eradicated before it spreads.
So, should Bowe Berghdal have been executed, if for no other reason then to serve as an example to others? Without question. Is that a barbaric and savage solution? Yes, it is, but combat is a barbaric and savage game.
Do I think Private Berghdal belonged in Afghanistan? Not a fucking chance. There is no doubt that Berghdal was naïve, stupid, and weak. He belonged in the Army, as a paratrooper no less, about as much as Kevin Spacey belongs at an all-boys boarding school.
This is a kid that had already washed out of Coast Guard basic, someone should have done the math. But he did enlist on his own free will, and that has consequences if you can’t live up to your end of the bargain.
Hell, at least you can argue Pvt. Slovik was drafted. Berghdal showed up seven years into a shooting war. A common refrain heard after 9/11, mostly from the support sectors, was “I only signed up for the college money.” Well, tough shit kid. Anyone that joins a military service without serious consideration that it may involve mortal combat is a fucking idiot.
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I was on a radio program a few days after Berghdal was released, and his former platoon mates were calling in. Those poor bastards searched heaven and earth for him, even though they knew he deserted.
When an American goes missing, every asset in the country stops what they are doing and focuses on getting them back. We did the same thing in Iraq, and we would jump off with half-assed planning at the slightest hint of a rescue. Getting our own back is that important. People were hurt and killed looking for a traitor, running missions they would never embark on had it not been for Berghdal.
I have heard it brought up several times that a PFC from the infantry wouldn’t have any classified information to share with the Taliban. True. But not all the information we keep out of enemy hands is classified. (And I seem to remember these same tools defending Hillary Clinton’s complete disregard for safekeeping of classified information, but that is another tale.)
Bergdahl’s own platoon has stated how much more effective Taliban IED’s became in their sector, and how enemy attack patterns changed. That is information the lowest Private in the infantry would have. Just understanding the armor locations on a humvee is enough to change the game in that regard.
Bowe Berghdal willingly left his unit, with the intention of surrendering to the Taliban. He is also on record as saying the Taliban treated him better than the Army ever did. He should have been hanged by the neck until dead. But in this perverse world we inhabit, apparently, oaths and promises mean nothing. A traitorous piece of shit walked free. But Lt. Michael Behenna, 101st Airborne, received 25 years. His crime? Killing an Al Queda bomb maker.