Last week the Army officially announced desertion charges for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was traded by the Obama administration in a prison swap for five Taliban commanders last summer.
The United States Army announced this afternoon from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice with one count of desertion with intention to shirk important and hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place. If convicted, the first charge of desertion carries a potential maximum penalty of dishonorable discharge, rank deduction, forfeiture of paid allowances and maximum confinement of five years. The second charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a potential maximum penalty of reduction in rank, forfeiture of paid allowances, confinement for life.
Attorneys for Bergdahl are planning to claim in court that he never planned to desert, but instead left his post for another base in an effort to blow the whistle on bad leadership where he was stationed. Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, the leader of Bergdahl's team, is calling whistleblower claims asinine and laughable.
"Frankly it's asinine," Buetow said during an interview with Fox News. "Having been one of the few people on the ground there seeing this happen, we can all attest that it's somewhat laughable that this is what they're coming forward with."
Buetow also responded to a New York Times editorial board op-ed arguing Bergdahl shouldn't be prosecuted because his life would be dramatically changed by a conviction.
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.
"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. I mean everybody knows that. I don't know if anyone who released that article has been in the military or knows the responsibility, the honor, of being in the military but this was a dishonorable act. You commit something like this and you have answer for that and there are consequences. If you commit a crime, there is a trial and a process and if you get convicted, there is time you serve," Buetow said. "There are benefits like your freedom that you don't get to have anymore because of what you did. There's no difference here. He [Bergdahl] put himself in that situation. I don't wish on anybody to have to go through the things he may have gone through, however he put himself into that situation. Him putting himself into that situation put our lives in extreme danger, far more than everyday life of being on the front lines in Afghanistan anyway. He has to answer for that."
A preliminary Article 32 hearing has been scheduled for Bergdahl's case and will be held at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. When the hearing will take place will be announced at a later date.