Bowe Bergdahl, the eccentric Army enlistee and final Afghanistan P.O.W. whose release from Taliban custody left detractors screaming for his corpse, may face desertion charges soon. Or maybe not. No one knows for certain just yet. But either way, these blogospheric anti-Bergdahl snuff-porn fantasies will be heard, dammit.
An investigation is complete, and a decision on Bergdahl's fate is reportedly likely to come soon. As we reported last year, when Bergdahl was handed over to Americans in exchange for the release of five Taliban suspects, he was always likely to face some sort of official accountability for how he ended up in enemy hands.
"The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance, and the sacrifices of the soldiers tasked with finding him, raise many fair questions about his moral and legal responsibilities and whether he shirked them," we wrote. In all likelihood, he'd face a simple desertion charge, get credit for his time in captivity, and everyone would move on, as satisfied as they could be with an unsatisfying anecdote in an unsatisfying long war.
But fantasies of closure are so much sexier than murky facts, which is probably why the right-wing internet has sizzled for the last 24 hours with rumors that charges against Bergdahl are imminent. They started with retired lieutenant colonel Tony Shaffer, who told Fox News's Bill O'Reilly that the Army was going to throw the book at Bergdahl, but cronies of surrenderer-in-chief Barack Obama were trying to quash that act of bravery, because it would prove embarrassing to the administration somehow:
This was the same Shaffer, mind you, who previously appeared on Alex Jones' radio show—on multiple occasions—to discuss how he had uncovered 9/11 before it happened, but been ignored by higher-ups. (Maybe because it was an inside job?!) Shaffer's sources have also told him that President Obama was in the White House situation room watching our brave heroes die in Benghazi in real time, and that "Obama LIED About Benghazi Attack!!!"
It's unclear whether Shaffer's dubious Benghazi sources are the same ones that fed him yesterday's rumor about the Bergdahl charges, but that latter rumor quickly burned up the internet. Well, the part of the internet that lists heavily to starboard: Fox News, Breitbart, the Washington Times, New York Post, The Blaze, Newsmax... all conservative-leaning, all running with Shaffer's TV hit as Gospel truth, and garnering buttloads of pageviews, without so much as a corroborating statement from other sources.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan for five years, will be charged with desertion, a senior defense officials [sic] tell NBC News. The officials say the charges could be referred within a week.
Wait: How many defense officials? How senior? In what position to know? In his zeal to run something that was already "out there," Miklaszewski didn't answer any of those questions. In fact, he didn't go to the Pentagon for a response. So the Pentagon put out its own response:
Contrary to media reporting, no decision made by Army leadership with respect to Sgt. Bergdahl's case. The process will be respected.— Peter Cook (@PentagonPresSec) January 27, 2015
The Army, too, said through its public affairs chief that there was unequivocally no truth to the stories:
Maj. Gen. Ronald F. Lewis: "The reporting from Fox News and NBC on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is patently false" - @LMartinezABC— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) January 27, 2015
That would seem to suggest that not even Miklaszewski is fully confident in his report.
Is it possible, in accord with Shaffer's bombastic accusations, that the White House, Pentagon, and Army are all prevaricating? Is it possible that Fox News' resident Benghazi conspiracy connoisseur and Jim Miklaszewski's anonymous military sources will ultimately prove to be telling the truth? Sure, it's possible. Because it was always possible Bergdahl would face some punishment for wandering off base and leading his comrades on deadly search missions. But there's no evidence as yet, and it's unclear why so many people want it to be true so suddenly.
Then again, these are the same people who called Obama to task for not bringing Bergdahl home earlier, until he did, and they did a 180, labeling both Obama and Bergdahl as traitors and typing up elaborate execution fantasies. And when they did that 180, paid political consultants stood ready to fan the Fox-fed flames.
Whatever happens with Bergdahl's military career and discipline, his haters will have their victory. Either the much-expected charges come, and crazy ideologues will persist in believing that their wishes have privileged epistemological status. Or he'll face a slap on the wrist, or no formal punishment, and conservatives will insist that it's Boweghazi: The White House stepped in at the last minute to save his Pashtun-loving butt. And then Bowe will be turned out on the streets, a civilian, probably eager to disappear again in an age of WiFi-speed hatred that will never allow him to. Time will tell whether his liberty-loving antagonists turn out to be more hazardous to his health than the Taliban's guerrilla hordes.