Donald Trump, who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War, has repeatedly called for the death penalty for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, calling the soldier a “no good traitor.”
Trump, who has been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits, should have a sure command of American law, but I seriously doubt he has ever read the legal definition of treason.
According to U.S. Code 2381, “Whoever, owing allegiance to the U.S., levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the U.S. or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined … not less than $10,000 and shall be incapable of holding any office under the U.S. and is thereby guilty of treason.”
On the campaign trail, Trump’s prejudgment of Bergdahl gets loud cheers and applause from his frenetic audiences. Trump has not been alone in slandering this American soldier who served bravely in Afghanistan. GOP Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte have joined in the chorus.
McCain, as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, sought to hold hearings on Bergdahl’s release from captivity by the Taliban in a trade for five important Taliban prisoners held by the United States. Ironically, Republicans prior to Bergdahl’s release had pressured President Obama to exert greater effort to secure his freedom from captivity.
Never in our history has an American combat serviceman, who has never been tried or convicted of a crime, been slandered as Bergdahl has. He endured cruel imprisonment at the hands of his Taliban captors, including beatings, torture and confinement in small cages.
McCain has repeatedly used his office to pressure the Army to try to convict Bergdahl. He warned the Army, “If it comes out that he has no punishment, we’re going to have a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee.” The Military Commissions Act of 2006 holds that “No person may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a military commission.”
The Army asked McCain to retract his statement that “Bergdahl was clearly a deserter” to mitigate the appearance of improper influence on the military justice process, and McCain has refused to do so. Emails between congressional staff members and the Pentagon have revealed McCain’s persistent pressure on the Army about the case.
For these reasons, Bergdahl’s lawyers at Fort Bragg, where he is now being held, have filed a motion to dismiss all charges against him or to limit his sentence to no punishment, recognizing he was held and tortured for over five years by our enemies.
Were Trump elected, his biased public statements declaring Bergdahl’s guilt would deny the soldier the full justice guaranteed him under present law and could result in his execution.
What did this lowly soldier do to deserve death? Two high-ranking Army officials assigned to investigate the Bergdahl case have already recommended to the Army that he receive no imprisonment.
Bergdahl is an idealistic Idaho farm boy who was raised by strict Calvinists and instructed in the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine six hours a day. He’s not a modern-day Benedict Arnold, the incredibly brave American general who betrayed his country out of spite and financial need during the Revolutionary War.
At 20, Bergdahl went to France and tried to join the Foreign Legion, then enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he was cashiered out after just 26 days of service.
In 2008 he joined the Army. A crack shot, he first served in Alaska and then faced deadly combat in Afghanistan. Concerned about the leadership at his duty station in Afghanistan, he left his post without permission and attempted to reach another station, where he sought to appeal for an improvement in command. He was convinced that his fellow soldiers were endangered by bad leadership.
On his way, he was captured. He used incredibly poor judgment, but never sought to give “aid and comfort” to our enemies. No American soldier ever died trying to locate him, as has been falsely charged by those without knowledge of the case.
If the impending court martial finds that he has already suffered enough and frees him, then the issue will be moot and justice finally rendered. However, if it were to sentence him to death or imprisonment, I would recommend that President Obama pardon Bergdahl before he leaves office.
I would not like to see his fate placed into the hands of a heartless and inept President Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, an experienced lawyer, knows the significant difference between treason and being AWOL.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.