Most reliable reports suggest that five years ago, as the battle against the Taliban was fully underway, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl voluntarily left his post after becoming disillusioned with what he viewed as the enormous damage the United States had done to Afghanistan. In other words, he deserted. He may have defected; that is unknown for the moment.
In recent days, the Administration has justified releasing five top terrorist commanders to return to the battlefield (after a fig-leaf stopover in Qatar) on the grounds that Bergdahl was still an American soldier, and America does not leave its people behind. The President's supporters tell us that, if Bergdahl deserted -- or even became a collaborator -- we have the military justice system that will, at the right time, fully investigate the matter, put the facts on the table, and, if warranted, impose punishment.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's not gonna happen. There isn't going to be any honest investigation, and there isn't going to be any punishment. The President is going to issue a preemptive pardon to make sure the process never gets off the ground.
This is not just because the entire episode has turned into a P.R. disaster for the White House, one that started when Bergdahl's father showed up arm-in-arm with Obama wearing a Taliban-style beard and praising Allah in Arabic, although that's a good deal of it. It's because, among other things, Obama doesn't see that much wrong with Sgt. Bergdahl's view of the matter.
I have several more specific reasons for believing there's going to be a pardon. I'll give two of them now.
The first is my long experience in translating what political phrases actually mean in this town. When I hear someone in authority (e.g., the President or a Cabinet secretary) say, in the context of an unfolding PR disaster, "We shouldn't rush to judgment. There will be time enough for a full investigation when the emotions of the moment have subsided," I know what that really means.
What it means is: "The 'full investigation' will begin on the Twelfth of Never." Indeed, it was from this mindset that the phrase (and the organization) Move On took root during the Monica Lewinsky affair. The idea is that we don't want to be a bunch of punitive kooks, Puritanical nags, wingnuts and partisan hacks dragging it out and "pointing fingers" and all that mean-spirited stuff. No, no, no!!! We want to put this "whipped up" (Obama's exact phrase) unpleasantness behind us and move on.
The second reason I think a pardon is in the offing is that the whole sick mixture of the Bergdahl affair is ideally suited to such a gambit. You'll see why as you read the President's pardon announcement, which I set forth below:
My fellow citizens:America is winding down its longest war. It has exacted a terrible price on our nation, our ally Afghanistan, and the people of that country and ours. While America's motives were good and our cause urgent after the attacks of 9-11, there have also been deeply troubling episodes. Surveillance procedures in our country and abroad have not always honored civil liberties, and the incarceration and interrogation of some enemy fighters have not lived up to what we, as a people, stand for.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was one of the thousands of brave Americans who volunteered to defend us. He was young at the time, barely into his twenties. He came from wholesome values, and was thrust from a small town in Idaho into an a dangerous, frightening and alien world.Like so many at home, over time he came to question America's role in the war. It is one of the great hallmarks of our country that, while our military men and women respect and adhere to a discipline not expected of those in civilian life, they do not leave behind their freedom of conscience.Even after all this time, we do not know exactly what led Sgt. Bergdahl into his five years of cruel captivity. It's clear that he left his post, plainly a wrong decision. He's a young man, perhaps a troubled one, and young, troubled people make mistakes, sometimes very serious ones.
Now is that cool or what? With no prospect of a court martial, there's no need for a messy military investigation that might reveal that the President exchanged five top enemy commanders for a deserter! No poking around by the press into whether -- if at all -- Obama asked his national security team about the risks of releasing that crew! No dirty looks when the five "escape" (ahem) Qatar to Afghanistan about ten months earlier than "planned"! No need for a rushed, back-and-fill Rose Garden meeting with the parents of the soldiers who died looking for the voluntarily absent Bergdahl. But, hey, look, what the heck, those parents already got standard-issue condolence letters signed with Obama's autopen. What's their problem?But that is no longer the point. Our country should embrace two far more important points: That the future awaits, hoping to live free of the encumbrances of the past; and that the kind of people we are beckons us more urgently than any mistakes Sgt. Bergdahl may have made. It's time for a compassionate country to allow Bowe Bergdahl to move on with what we all hope will be a productive life.Even more important, however, it's time for America to move on with its life. It is not merely compassion but prudence that counsels us to try to come together. And we have the past as our guide. After the terribly divisive and painful war in Vietnam, our country pardoned those who had not fulfilled their military obligations. This helped us pave the way for national reconciliation, and for an era of great progress and prosperity in the generation that followed, as the Soviet Union fell, freedom flourished around the world, and opportunity grew here at home as never before.The key to moving into a better future is letting go of the bitterness and divisions of the past. To help our country do that, I am announcing today that I am pardoning Sgt. Bergdahl for any conduct related to or following his departure from his military post in Afghanistan in 2009.
A pardon like the one I just wrote for him captures several of Obama's hallmarks -- opportunism burlesquing compassion; politics impersonating statesmanship; evasion supplanting accountability; contempt aping patriotism; mush hectoring thought; and plentitudinous, old fashioned blather.