Attorneys for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl say comments by Sen. John McCain violate Bergdahl’s due process and that the government should now drop charges against him. This defense ploy is a shift from their strategy to present Bergdahl as a hero, not a traitor. Bergdahl’s attorneys have shifted the narrative to, “he was just a man who no longer supported what the military was doing in Afghanistan but did not intend to bring harm to his fellow soldiers.”
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is facing a sentence of life in prison on charges of desertion and endangerment of American troops, after he allegedly walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he disappeared and held as a prisoner for almost five years before he was released in a prisoner swap for five high-ranking Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has repeatedly commented on the Bergdahl case, saying he believes Bowe Bergdahl is guilty. Last year, McCain warned that if Bowe Bergdahl does not receive punishment for his actions, then he will hold a hearing the Senate Armed Services Committee. Bergdahl’s lawyers say the comments by McCain put pressure on the military justice system and make it impossible for Bergdahl to receive a fair trial. They have asked the judge in the case, Col. Jeffery Nance, to dismiss the case because of McCain’s statements. If he will not completely dismiss the case, the attorneys argue Bergdahl should receive no punishment.
As a former POW, McCain knows full well how prisoners are treated and has the experience to see whether Bergdahl was a POW or actually worked with the Taliban. McCain has strongly voiced his concern over Bergdahl, but with the decision resting on a military trial, his voice has been ignored. McCain’s military experience as a POW has caused him to butt heads with President Obama and Democrats who support Bergdahl and the prisoner swap.
McCain sees the prisoner swap as a bad deal because it sent five of the Taliban’s “superstars” back to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. “These are the highest high-risk people, and others that we have released have gone back into the fight.”
The trial is currently scheduled to begin in February at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but could face delays. Prosecutors are requesting a 90-day extension to review more than 10,000 documents from more than a dozen government agencies that decide whether the documents can be released or withheld, citing national security interests. Bergdahl still actively serves in the Army, holding a desk job in San Antonio while he awaits trial.
Opinion on Bowe Bergdahl is divided. The Obama Administration has attempted to put Bergdahl in a positive light while the public widely considers him a traitor. Bowe Bergdahl’s fate could hurt or preserve President Obama’s legacy. Obama hosted Bergdahl’s parents in the Rose Garden, praising him as a American hero and welcoming him home with open arms. However, if the military justice system decides to send him to prison, this could incite fresh criticism of Obama’s prisoner swap, which already has been criticized by Republicans.