The popular podcast Serial has brought even more attention to the already high-profile case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. When the show first aired last week, it was not certain that Bergdahl would be brought before court-martial, but since then it has been confirmed that he will in fact be tried. But when will Bowe Bergdahl first appear in court? (Please, Santa, let it happen before this season of Serial ends.)
Officials reported that Bergdahl is set to be arraigned Dec. 22 at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This will be his first appearance before a military judge, and it will begin the process of determining his innocence or guilt. After leaving his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009, he was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years. In May 2014, he was released in a controversial deal that swapped him for five Taliban leaders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama continues to take heavy criticism for the move, which a House committee declared not only reckless, but illegal.
Since his return to the United States, Sgt. Bergdahl has been living in San Antonio outside of Fort Sam Houston. He was charged in March of this year with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Both charges could result in life sentences, a particularly poignant blow to someone held captive, in isolation, for five years.
Surprisingly, when the case was first addressed, an Army lawyer recommended that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl receive neither a discharge nor jail time. Since then, however, Senator John McCain, chairman of a military promotions committee, has said Bergdahl is "clearly a deserter" and if he is not charged, McCain will call a hearing himself. During his preliminary hearing in San Antonio, lawyers seemed to be arguing about two very different people. At the time of that first hearing, The New York Times contended that the Bergdahl case had been too heavily politicized, becoming a "cause célèbre for Republican presidential contenders and President Obama’s critics."
At that hearing and since, Bergdahl has been called both a hero and a traitor. He reportedly took the opportunity to be on Serial to share his side of the story and win some sympathy for his experiences both before and after his capture.
While the case has been controversial from the start, Serial has only added more complexities to Sgt. Bergdahl's story. The most recent episode goes into the harrowing search and rescue missions carried out immediately after disappearance by his Army comrades. Those missions would continue as Bergdahl was moved, in secret, around the countryside by his Taliban captors. Only time will reveal how Serial's portrayal might affect public opinion and the outcome of Sgt. Bergdahl's forthcoming trial.
Image: U.S. Army