Should the Army Prosecute Bowe Bergdahl?

Posted March 30, 2015 at 5:10am

The NYT Editorial Board calls on the Army to drop its prosecution of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  

“As a general matter, the American military has good reason to punish service members who desert. However, it should exercise discretion in extraordinary cases. Sergeant Bergdahl’s is certainly one… Before Sergeant Bergdahl walked out of his base in Paktika Province on June 30, 2009, it was clear to some of his family members back home, and some of his comrades in Afghanistan, that he was emotionally distressed and at times delusional.”  

“But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy — for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit — stands to accomplish little at this point. A conviction would most likely deprive a traumatized veteran of benefits, including medical care, which he will probably need for years. A dishonorable discharge would make it harder to rebuild his life as a civilian.”  

Meanwhile, Benjamin Wittes says the Times is conflating prosecution and sentencing: “The argument that Bergdahl has suffered enough should, in my judgement anyway, be a serious factor in his sentencing—one that should likely preclude further incarceration if he is, in fact, convicted. But theTimes skates over the very real and important interests the Army has in bringing a case like this to trial. The Army devoted significant resources to looking for Bergdahl, after all… Getting Bergdahl back ultimately involved genuine costs too. We traded five senior Taliban for him.”