The Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime

Why is Article 85 – Desertion, not a steep enough charge against U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl?

Let us start out by saying: No U.S. serviceman has received more than 24 months imprisonment for desertion or missing movement in the post-September 11, 2001 era.

Although, the maximum U.S. penalty for desertion in wartime remains death, this punishment was last applied to U.S. Army Soldier Eddie Slovik in 1945.

Reports state that since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted, according to the Pentagon. More than half of these served in the U.S. Army. But, what makes Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl so unique is that he deserted within the theater of operations; with the intent to contact the Taliban. At least six U.S. soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters during the weeks-long search for Bergdahl, according to members of the former captive’s unit. Official military reports confirmed:

“An American Soldier with a camera is looking for someone who speaks English”

U.S. Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, who served in Bergdahl’s unit, said in a CNN interview. “There’s a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away.” Bergdahl’s “not a hero,” Buetow added in his CNN interview. “He needs to answer for what he did.”

Bergdahl is set to be charged with Desertion and denied his back-pay, reduced in rank, and receive a less than Honorable discharge. In our opinion, this is just a slap on the wrist in comparison to what he has done. Many reports indicate that not only did Bergdahl desert his post and seek out the Taliban, but he also provided strategic intelligence.

U.S. Army Specialist William Rentiers served alongside Bergdahl, and was also involved in the effort to find him after his disappearance. This is what he had to say:

“There was never a single doubt. No one ever doubted he (Bergdahl) was a deserter and we called him what he really was a defector​. I can’t prove it, but what happened after he joined the Taliban speaks for itself​​. The enemy changed and men died.  The enemy became more complex and more strategically accurate than they had ever been before.  It just seemed like we couldn’t get ahead of them anymore.” Rentiers continued; “Their attacks got so much more sophisticated and complex. There’s no way to prove that he gave them help. But there’s a whole lot of “huh” going on there like that just doesn’t seem right. So why is it all of a sudden these guys are getting better at it, and they seem like they know what we do.”

According to one of his captors and Afghan intelligence officials, The 24-year-old converted to Islam and took the Muslim name Abdullah. A Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, reported that Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.

140710-bergdahl-haqqani-430a_94afd827a0ff2d245eb292e262b797fd

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl smiling alongside a senior Taliban commander Badruddin Haqqani, the son of a former Afghan commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and the former operational head of the most powerful Taliban faction.

Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier. ‘Most of the skills he taught us we already knew,’ he said. ‘Some of my comrades think he’s pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn’t behead him.’ Afghan intelligence officials also believe that Bergdahl is ‘cooperating with the Taliban’ and is acting as adviser to fighters at a base in the tribal area of Pakistan.

We can now conclude that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should be charged with several additional Articles under the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) and possibly charged under Title 18 U.S. Code § 2381 for Treason. For now, these are the Articles that we can confirm Bergdahl is guilty of.

Article 104 – Aiding the Enemy

Any person who—
(1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or
(2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to, or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly.

Article 99 – Misbehavior Before the Enemy

Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle.

Article 92 – Failure to Obey Order or Regulation

Any person subject to this chapter who—
(1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
(2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by a member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties.

Article 105 – Misconduct as Prisoner

Any person subject to this chapter who, while in the hands of the enemy in time of war—
(1) for the purpose of securing favorable treatment by his captors acts without proper authority in a manner contrary to law, custom, or regulation, to the detriment of others of whatever nationality held by the enemy as civilian or military prisoners; or
(2) while in a position of authority over such persons maltreats them without justifiable cause.

Article 85 – Desertion

(a) Any member of the armed forces who—
(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;
(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or
(3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another one of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion.
(b) Any commissioned officer of the armed forces who, after tender of his resignation and before notice of its acceptance, quits his post or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain away therefrom permanently is guilty of desertion.
(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

Bergdahl deserted his post, sought out the Taliban, and gave them sensitive information, ultimately resulting in the damage of national security and the death of six honorable soldiers.However, the biggest loss to national security is that the release of Bergdahl was a successful negotiation with terrorism. As the Taliban announced their success, a message was sent throughout the world that you can get anything you want in exchange for an American, even a traitor.
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