Bowe Bergdahl deserves to go to prison for his crimes. The fact that he won’t spend a day in confinement, however, while decorated officers who stand on ethical principles will, weakens our military and casts doubt on the fairness of our military justice system.
Most Americans are at least vaguely familiar with the basic facts of the Bowe Bergdahl ordeal. But what has left many Americans bewildered is the sentence of no confinement for Bergdahl, seemingly out of sync with sentences handed down for similar or lesser crimes, including a controversial sentence issued against a Marine Corps general this week.
On June 30, 2009, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl left his post in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban captured Bergdahl and he remained in their custody until his release — brokered via the exchange of five Guantánamo Bay detainees — on May 31, 2014.
Three days prior to leaving his post, Bergdahl sent his father, Bob Bergdahl, an e-mail expressing his frustration with the Army and that he was “ashamed to be an American.” Nevertheless, the Army launched a substantial rescue mission that included aircraft, helicopters, and even the elite Navy SEALs. It has been well documented that members of the rescue mission suffered severe physical and psychological wounds in their attempt to rescue Bergdahl.
Shortly after Bergdahl’s return to duty, the Army began investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s actions. In March of 2015, the Army announced it had charged Sergeant Bergdahl with two military offenses: desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and misbehavior before the enemy.