An open reply to Mr. John Crisp, on the subject of Sgt Bergdahl – William Lehman
In this season of Christmas, Chanukah, Yule, and so on, when most major religions recognize a time of love, faith and forgiving, I would like to echo those sentiments. But sadly, this isn’t that sort of post.
John Crisp is an op-ed columnist for Tribune news service (it’s interesting to note that my spell check wanted to make that communist, I think the machine knows more than I do) and teaches in the English department at Del Mar College, says the little bio that accompanies his column. This explains a lot, when you start to read his various opinions. (I’m semi surprised he holds the opinions he has while living in Texas, but well he is in the ivory towers, oh excuse me ivied halls of academia) Yes, this is pertinent, as I’ll get to in a moment.
Mr. Crisp felt the need today to speak out on the issue of Sergeant Bergdahl (yes, that’s right you clown, he is, at least until the court-martial a sergeant, not a private.) Crisp goes out of his way to paint a piteous picture of a poor, troubled, emotionally disturbed individual who should never have been allowed to enlist, and was mentally destroyed by the horrors of combat in an illegal and immoral war. He goes on to claim that Bergdahl’s most outspoken critics have never served in the military, much less in combat, and therefore are not qualified to judge him, but instead are using him as a political tool to attack the President. Further, he implies that actual soldiers will sympathize with this dirtbag, and in the end, it’s all Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld who should be going to prison, not this poor misunderstood soul, who should be let out of the military without bad paper, much less a sentence.
Well Professor, I am a combat vet (Navy, not Army, but on this it doesn’t matter) and I’ve also been part of the staff (as the work programs director and Brig Duty officer) of a Naval Brig (you call it a military prison). So let me help you understand a few things:
I’m going to explain this to you in detail because I’m fairly sure that 1) you never served a day in uniform, 2) you probably don’t know anyone who has ever served a day in uniform, and 3) based on your editorials over the years you hold the military in general and those that serve in uniform in contempt, in spite of having absolutely zero first hand information to base that opinion on.
Now it is certainly possible, as you point out, that the Army screwed up in allowing this dirt bag to enlist. Be that as it may, he enlisted. One of the prime principles of the Military, a basic truth if you will, is that “we take care of our own” (now that isn’t always the way it works out sadly, sometimes because of politics, sometimes because we all fail and fall short of perfection, and sometimes because of idiots like you). How that maters in this case, is that for better or worse, Bergdahl was ours, he was a sergeant for Pete’s sake. (that is a Non Commissioned Officer, a guy in charge of other guys) So he had to have had something on the ball. He wasn’t the hopeless psycho you paint him to be, or he would never have made Sgt. As one of ours we are honor (a concept you have only an academic understanding of) bound to take care of him for good or ill. He abandoned his post. He violated the first general order of a sentry. In time of war, in a combat zone. We owe it to all of the men that did their job to hold him to the same standard.
I had a prisoner detainee (he hadn’t been convicted yet) who was absolutely insane. He was less than 24 hours from a “recruiter discharge”, for being absolutely bugfuck crazy (multiple personality disorder, hallucinations, you name it, he had it) when he lost it and racked up 18 charges in 30 minutes, including assault with intent to kill on a police officer, and assault with intent on a commissioned officer in the performance of his duties. We had him for 9 months while the defense fought to keep him from being given a Court. During that time, he spent most of his time on suicide watch, because of his issues. The Navy failed him, and the rest of us, and gave him his discharge. (we literally took him to the gate and tossed him out) We didn’t hold him and treat him, we just tossed him out on to an unsuspecting populace. He racked up several charges and hurt some folks badly. He’s spending the rest of his life in western state. It wasn’t his fault, it was our fault for releasing him.
Now let’s look at Bergdahl. He wasn’t insane, at least in comparison. (I’m sure you think we’re all a little loony to put on the uniform) he made Sgt, and made a conscious decision to walk off his post. Here to for, no one has tried the insanity defense for him that I have seen, but I’m sure that his defense council will try that, and every other trick in the book to save him from the results of his actions. Maybe they will succeed, and like that prisoner I had, he will be released with a medical discharge. That’s why we have court-martials, is to make that sort of call. But John, you are right about one thing, no combat vet that I know, and in fact, no vet at all that I know, thinks Bergdahl deserves prison. We think he deserves to be hung by the neck until dead, in accordance with the Uniform Code of military justice as pertains to Article 85 c. desertion in the face of the enemy.