It was not a high point in Barack Obama's presidency. There he stood in the Rose Garden, beaming with pride, flanked by the parents of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The younger Bergdahl had just been freed from captivitiy in Afghanistan, swapped for five Taliban terrorists, and the president seemed absolutely sure he would be widely praised for bringing Bergdahl home.
Looking on during that White House celebration last May were National Security Adviser Susan Rice and her deputy Ben Rhodes, who jubilantly exchanged hugs. The next day Rice went on a talk show to affirm that Sgt. Bergdahl had served his country "with honor and distinction."
It was her most embarrassing moment since infamously blaming an Internet video for the slaughter of Americans in Benghazi.
Immediately after Susan Rice's television appearance, military analyst Lt. Col Ralph Peters, with his inimitable pithiness, wrote this: "Ms. Rice is aggressively stupid, immaculately clueless, and a disgrace to our system of government." He surmised that, by Rice's definition, Bradley Manning and Benedict Arnold also served with "honor and distinction."
Susan Rice, President Obama, and every member of the national security team knew, or should have known, that Bowe Bergdahl had almost certainly deserted his unit in 2009. Before leaving his post, Bergdahl sent a heartfelt email to his parents. "I am ashamed to be an american (sic)," he wrote, adding, "The title of US soldier is just the lie of fools." Two days later he was gone, leaving behind a message that he was about to start a new life. This is not the behavior of a warrior serving "with honor and distinction."
The second act of this sordid tale unfolded this week. The Army has completed a lengthy investigation of the Bergdahl affair; the resulting report is now in the hands of four-star General Mark Milley, who will decide whether Berghdal should face charges. On Monday's Factor, military analyst Tony Shaffer, a retired lieutenant colonel with high-level sources in the Pentagon, confidently predicted that Bowe Bergdahl is about to be charged with deserting his unit.
Col. Shaffer has also reported that the administration is pressuring the Army to go easy on Bergdahl because President Obama embraced the family when he returned. Remember Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the former Obama speechwriter who was positively gleeful when Bergdahl was released? According to Col. Shaffer, Rhodes has been applying pressure from the White House, urging the Pentagon to treat Bergdahl with kid gloves.
Col. Shaffer is not out there on a limb all by himself. NBC's long-time Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, citing "senior defense officials," also reported on Tuesday that Bergdahl will soon be charged with desertion.
That's when all hell broke loose. The Pentagon trotted out three separate spokesmen to denounce the reports. Admiral John Kirby insisted that no charges are iminent, while vehemently denying that any pressure is being exerted by the Obama administration. He mocked that allegation as "the most ludicrous claim I've heard in the last couple of days."
Okay, let's assume the Pentagon is correct and Tony Shaffer was misled by his sources. If no charges are coming down soon, that raises one very obvious question: Why not? The Army has had months to comb through every detail of Bergdahl's service and his disappearance. Investigators have had plenty of time to interview Bergdahl's former platoon mates, who are unanimous in their belief that he deserted.
Here's where we are right now. Five war criminals sit in Qatar, perhaps waiting to rejoin the battle against American troops. Bowe Bergdahl, still a sergeant in the United States Army, sits at a desk at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he works as a clerk.
It is long past time to end this charade. Release the report and file the appropriate charges against Bowe Bergdahl. Pretty much every American this side of Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes doubts that Sgt. Bergdahl served with honor and distinction. Far more likely, he walked away from his post in Afghanistan, endangering the men he left behind and those who went to search for him. We the people have every right to know what happened and whether we swapped five dangerous terrorists for one deserter.
One more thing. Retired Army Specialist Cody Full, once Bowe Bergdahl's roommate, says this about his former colleague: "He did not serve the United States with honor." Who you gonna' believe, Cody Full … or Susan Rice? Let the court-martial begin. Soon.