Keeping to the spirit of Death Penalty Month, let’s review the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik. Slovik’s offense: desertion in wartime. (See the tie-in?)
Unlike Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his unit, according to the accounts of his comrades, Slovik never actually deserted. He also didn’t call America a “disgusting” country or say he was “ashamed to be an American.”
Slovik was just a chicken.
In October 1944, as Allied forces were sweeping through France, Slovik left his position on the front lines, walked to the rear of his unit and handed a note to the cook, confessing his desertion. The letter explained that he was “so scared” that he had already abandoned his unit once, and concluded: “AND I’LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE.”
Slovik was like Bradley Manning minus the lipstick and eyeliner.
A lieutenant, a company commander and a judge advocate all tried to persuade Slovik to shred the letter and return to his unit, warning him that he’d be tried for desertion otherwise. Slovik refused.
In the middle of World War II, the military court-martialed Slovik, tried him and sentenced him to death.
Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower denied Slovik’s pardon request, saying it would encourage more desertions, just as the fighting was getting especially hot. Slovik was executed by firing squad and buried among the numbered graves of court-martialed rapists and murderers in an American military cemetery in France.
Contrast Slovik’s story with the beloved troop whose return just cost us the release of five of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.
Three days before he walked off his base, Bergdahl emailed his parents:
— “I am ashamed to be an american.”
— “The US army is the biggest joke … It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies.”
— “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid.”
— “The horror that is america is disgusting.”
These emails were given to the author of a 2012 Rolling Stone article on the case by Bergdahl’s own parents.
The overwrought soldier’s father, Bob, emailed back: “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!” And then, according to the Rolling Stone profile reporting these emails — as well as the Army report on the incident — Bergdahl “decided to walk away.”
Bergdahl’s unit commander, Evan Buetow, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that intercepted Taliban “chatter” soon revealed that Bergdahl was looking for a member of the Taliban who spoke English. (Other than his father.)
Buetow said he couldn’t prove it, but he believed Bergdahl began helping the Taliban attack his own unit. After that, Buetow says, the assaults were much more direct, and Bergdahl would have known the unit’s tactics and how they would respond to an attack.
U.S. forces in the area spent the next two months on a single mission: trying to find Bergdahl. It is beyond dispute that any American killed during that time was killed on a mission to “rescue” Bergdahl from his new comrades.
Over the years, the Taliban produced several propaganda videos with Bergdahl — eating, doing push-ups and criticizing American foreign policy.
During the Vietnam War, POW Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale disfigured himself so that he could not be used in a propaganda video. He slit his wrists to avoid being tortured for information.
When captured Navy aviator Jeremiah Denton was forced by the North Vietnamese to make a propaganda video, he blinked the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code, over and over again, as he said these words:
“I don’t know what is going on in the war now. My only sources are North Vietnamese radio, magazines and newspapers. But whatever the position of my government, I agree with it. I support it. I will support it as long as I live.”
It was the first confirmation the U.S. had that the North Vietnamese were torturing POWs.
These men — and many more — had limbs torn from their sockets, their legs and backs shattered by the North Vietnamese. As Denton said of the repeated torture, he’d rather lose an arm than his honor.
When right-wingers get choked up about “the troops,” these are the sort of men we’re thinking of. Not Bowe “America is disgusting” Bergdahl.
But to Obama, Bergdahl was the picture of American manhood and military honor.
He released five of the most dangerous terrorists in the world — captured at great cost to our military — in order to give Bergdahl an exit plan from his Great Adventure. (Before he ever set foot in Afghanistan, Bergdahl had told a fellow soldier, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”)
Bergdahl wasn’t being “left behind” or “left on the battlefield.” He was being left where he wanted to be, with the poor, innocent Talibanists, far away from this “disgusting” country that made him “ashamed to be an American.”
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