Military Judge to Decide Fate of Bowe Bergdahl; Deserter Says Taliban Treated him Better Than Army

The sentencing hearing begins Monday at Fort Bragg, N.C., for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has pleaded guilty to desertion and says the Taliban who captured him treated him better than the U.S. Army.

“At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, ‘I’m the guy who’s gonna cut your throat,’ ” Bergdahl, 31, told British journalist Sean Langan for a story published in The Sunday Times of London. “Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who’s going to sign the paper that sends me away for life.”

Bergdahl pleaded guilty last week to one count of “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” He could face life in prison for his crimes.

Former Army corporal Jonathan Morita is among the service members who could testify at the hearing. A rocket-propelled grenade shattered Morita’s right hand during a search mission for Bergdahl, and the thumb and index finger remain damaged.

Morita told the Associated Press he wasn’t sure how he felt about Bergdahl’s admission of guilt.

“Did he really mean it, or did the defense tell him to say it?” Morita said.

Bergdahl was stationed in Afghanistan when he walked away from his post in June 2009. The Idaho native was soon captured by the ruthless, Taliban-aligned Haqqani network and held for almost five years before a controversial prisoner exchange that freed him in May 2014.

President Obama signed off on the deal in exchange for the release of five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Obama cited the military mantra that no soldier be left behind. But the deal drew intense criticism from Republicans and others who said Bergdahl jeopardized the lives of the soldiers sent to find him.

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SOURCE: John Bacon
USA TODAY