The Corner

Law & the Courts

Bowe Bergdahl to Face Court-Martial for Desertion

The military is showing some backbone:

A top Army commander on Monday ordered that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl face a court-martial on charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, prompting a huge manhunt in the wilds of eastern Afghanistan and landing him in nearly five years of harsh Taliban captivity.

The decision by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, head of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., means that Sergeant Bergdahl, 29, faces a possible life sentence, a far more serious penalty than had been recommended by the Army’s own investigating officer, who had testified that a jail sentence would be “inappropriate.”

Bergdahl’s case is the subject of the second season of the popular Serial podcast, and it’s becoming clear that his defense (at least in the court of public opinion) is that he’s no traitor or coward, just a complete idiot who’s suffered enough:

The already chart-topping first episode, which hit the internet overnight, sees Bergdahl open up for the first time about his years spent as a captive – and, most controversially, why he walked out on his comrades.

In the series of interviews, screenwriter Mark Boal allows Bergdahl to explain in his own words why he left his base – prompting a manhunt involving thousands of troops.

In the episode, Bergdahl says he left his military outpost in Afghanistan in June 2009 because he was trying to get an audience with people high-up in the military so he could reveal potentially unsafe problems in the unit’s leadership.

“I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person”, he said, adding that in some sense he wanted to emulate someone like Jason Bourne, the espionage movie character.

This is a curious way of throwing yourself at the mercy of the court. He’s apparently admitting not only that he left on his own accord but also that he knew the crisis that would result — a crisis so profound that he’d end up with an audience with people “high-up in the military.” He knew his fellow soldiers would be placed in immediate and profound risk as they searched for a lost soldier, yet he walked away anyway.

He’s getting his “audience” with the military brass, one that might well land him in prison for life.

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