WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — A group of Americans have petitioned The White House and are demanding that recently released Taliban prisoner, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, be punished for his accused “desertion” from his Afghanistan Army post in 2009.
“Punish Bowe Bergdahl for being AWOL/Desertion during Operation Enduring Freedom” was posted to The White House website following President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. had secured Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners in American hands.
“Punish Bowe Bergdahl for walking off base with intent to not support the War On terror,” reads the petition. “Bowe Bergdahl broke several Articles under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and needs to be punished not rewarded.”
“Bowe Bergdahl, directly disobeyed the following articles Article 86 AWOL and Article 85 Desertion,” the petition continues. “[B]oth articles call for trial by court martial. He is not a hero and is directly responsible for several military members death. Bring punishment to Bowe Bergdahl and let the public know that the military holds all members to the same standard.”
On Monday, Sgt. Evan Buetow, 28, told the New York Daily News that Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance led to the death of six of his fellow soldiers after he attempted to communicate with the Taliban. A 2010 Pentagon investigation revealed that Bergdahl left his post because he thought he could help the Afghan people outside of the military operation, although his fellow soldiers described him as a “delusional” person.
In an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says the Army may still pursue desertion charges against Bergdahl.
Bergdahl was 23 at the time of his disappearance. Soon after, the Taliban released five separate videos – the last from May 2011 – showing him in their captivity. In 2010, the Taliban demanded $1 million along with the release of a Pakistani scientist and 21 other Afghan prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl’s life.
He was the lone American soldier being held by Taliban insurgents at the time of his release.
“He’s not a great person or great example of a solider,” Buetow, who now is a sheriff’s deputy in Washington State, told the Daily News. “He deserted his men, put us in danger so he could find the Taliban. And several soldiers died looking for him in the weeks and months to follow.”
The White House petition seeking punishment for Bergdahl currently has nearly 10,000 signatures, but will need 100,000 signatures by June 30 in order to secure an official White House response.
President Obama defended the prisoner swap decision on Tuesday: “Regardless of the circumstances, we still get an American soldier back,” he said in a joint news conference in Poland. Adding that the decision is “what every mom and dad who has a son or daughter sent over to the theater of war should expect.”