The Blatant Moral Injustice of Bowe Bergdahl vs. Sergeant Martland


It’s a moral contradiction like no other.

Bowe Bergdahl stands accused of deserting his post to cavort with the enemy.  Sergeant Charles Martland stands accused of forcefully removing a child rapist from a U.S. military base in order to defend a child.

Bergdahl was treated as a hero by the Obama Administration.  The Administration went so far as to release five Taliban terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay to secure his release to further the Administration’s objective of closing that military detention facility.

Sergeant Martland – a decorated Green Beret – may be kicked out of the military because he was willing to stand up and defend a child, a child who was sexually abused by an Afghan commander.

Both happened in Afghanistan.  Both involve deeply moral questions.  And both this Administration is coming down firmly in the morally reprehensible camp.

As my colleague Benjamin Sisney explained:

SFC Martland’s situation has received national attention following the September 21, 2015, New York Times report.  The report outlined allegations that U.S. ground troops were being ordered to ignore the sexual abuse of children at the hands of “friendly” Afghan militia leaders.

One young Marine, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father that, from his bunk, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base. “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.” Sickeningly, it appears that U.S. commanders permit ALP commanders to bring their “harem” of young children to stay with them on the base. Sadly, just days later, LCpl Buckley was shot to death on the base by one of the boys accompanying an ALP commander.

Under President Obama’s watch – as Commander-in-Chief – the military is reportedly ignoring rampant child sexual abuse, even on U.S. bases, by Afghan forces because as LCpl Buckley’s father told the New York Times, “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

For exposing this travesty and taking direct action to protect a child, Sergeant Martland faces involuntary removal from the Army.

Yet, as CNN reports, the U.S. military may let Bergdahl go free:

The U.S. military officer in charge of last month’s hearing for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has recommended he not do any jail time, Bergdahl’s legal team says.

In a memorandum dated Friday, the legal team said it agreed with Lt. Col. Mark Visger’s conclusion that their client be referred to a special court-martial and receive neither jail time nor a punitive discharge.

The recommendation, which hasn’t been announced publicly by the U.S. military, is a significant development for Bergdahl, who in March was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

It’s an unthinkable travesty.

How could our military allow a reported deserter to go free, even allowing him to stay in the military, while at the same time discharging a hero?

It’s an unthinkable travesty and morally reprehensible.

As Sergant Martland correctly noted:

"I chose the morally right decision because moral law transcends all boundaries and organizations," said Martland, who was a walk-on on the Florida State University football team before joining the Army. "I learned about the moral right from the Christian values and beliefs of Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State University. We all learned about the moral right during the Penn State football program’s child sex abuse scandal."

Clearly there is a misalignment of priorities.  To punish Sergeant Martland for protecting a child and let Bergdahl go free is a blatant injustice.

At the ACLJ, we’re preparing to send a legal letter to the Secretary of Defense demanding Sergeant Martland’s reinstatement and the end to any policy that allows child sexual abuse to occur on our bases (you can add your name to our letter here).

It is our duty as a nation, our duty to the brave servicemen and women who serve with honor and distinction, to punish deserters and to honor, protect, and empower those who defend human rights.

Matthew Clark is Senior Counsel for Digital Advocacy with the ACLJ. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.

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