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Military charges Bowe Bergdahl with desertion but also adds something rarely ever used

You might be scratching your head on this one but military prosecutors have reached a section of military law seldom used since World War II in the politically fraught case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier, held a prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan.


Bergdahl put his fellow soldiers at risk, but it was NOT ONLY because they had to search for him. MUCH more importantly, he put his fellow soldiers at risk because he left his post and his weapon at the base entry gate without permission and without notifying anyone while he was assigned to guard the base entry gate.

“I’ve never seen it charged,” Walter Huffman, a retired major general who served as the Army’s top lawyer, said of the misbehavior charge. “It’s not something you find in common everyday practice in the military.”

Thus, he exposed everyone in that base to the very real danger of a surprise enemy attack via a free and unrestricted incursion through the unmanned entry gate.

Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.”

The misbehavior charge is included in Article 99 of the military justice code, which is best known for its use to prosecute cases of cowardice. However, Article 99 encompasses nine different offenses including several not necessarily motivated by cowardice, such as causing a false alarm or endangering one’s unit — the charge Bergdahl faces.

The complexity of Article 99 may be one reason it’s not frequently used, said Morris, who published a book on the military justice system.

Having served in our nation’s military, I know Bergdahl, like myself, raised our right hand and promised ourselves to the oath that we took, not only to our Constitution but the UCMJ. (Universal Code of Military Justice) In a time of war, this is dolled out on the battlefield. This man should consider himself lucky that he was brought back to the land he broke his oath to and were allowed time with his family before being served punishment.

There are men and women who did not make it back and get this privilege who died with honor for the vow they made. 

About Staff Writer

The author of this article periodically publishes the articles stories as a regular staff member, and not as a freelance writer or special contributor.

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