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Bowe Bergdahl Receives Dishonorable Discharge, Reduction In Rank, Will Not Serve Prison Time

Bowe Bergdahl

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held as a prisoner of the Taliban for five years before being released as part of a deal that quickly became a point of political and legal controversy, was sentenced today to a reduction in rank and dishonorable discharge, but will not face prison time for the 2009 incident in which he abandoned his post and was later captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was dishonorably discharged from the Army by a military judge on Friday, but received no prison time, for desertion and endangering troops, ending a drama that began more than eight years ago in war-torn Afghanistan.

At the sentencing hearing, the military judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, also reduced Sergeamt Bergdahl’s rank to private and required him to forfeit $1,000 a month of his pay for 10 months.

The sentencing took only minutes: The judge entered the courtroom, read the verdict, and left shortly after. Colonel Nance did not explain the reasoning for the sentence that he imposed.

The sentence will be reviewed by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, who convened the court-martial, and has the power to lessen the punishment. If the final sentence still includes a punitive discharge, it will then automatically be reviewed by the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Sergeant Bergdahl was 23 and a private first class when he walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009. Army investigators would later characterize his departure as a delusional effort to hike to a larger base and cause enough of a stir that he would get an audience with a senior officer to report what he felt were problems in his unit.

But the soldier, who is now 31, was captured by the Taliban within hours, and would spend five years as a prisoner, his treatment worsening after every attempt he made to escape. He was beaten with copper cables, and held in isolation in a metal cage less than seven feet square. He suffered dysentery for most of his captivity, and cleaned feces off his hands with his own urine so that he could eat enough bread to survive.

The military searched for him, and several troops were wounded during search missions. One of them, Sgt. First Class Mark Allen, was shot through the head and lost the ability to walk, talk or take care of himself, and now has minimal consciousness. His wife, Shannon, testified that he is not even able to hold hands with her any more. On a separate rescue mission, Senior Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Hatch, a Navy SEAL, suffered a leg wound that would require 18 surgical procedures and end his long career in special operations.

Sergeant Bergdahl — he was promoted while in captivity — was freed in 2014 when the Obama administration exchanged five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay for him, setting off a political furor that still reverberates. Congressional Republicans were angered by the release of Taliban prisoners and by the way the Obama administration portrayed the sergeant, including a statement by the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, that he had served with “honor and distinction.”

Army investigators quickly dismissed claims that troops had died searching for Sergeant Bergdahl, or that he had intended to defect to the Taliban. They suggested that he could be prosecuted for desertion and for some lesser crimes. But in March 2015, the Army raised the stakes, accusing him not only of desertion but also of misbehavior before the enemy, an ancient but rarely charged crime punishable by up to life in prison. In this case, the misbehavior was endangering the troops who were sent to search for him.

Even so, the sergeant’s defense seemed to have some momentum. The Army’s chief investigator on the case testified at Sergeant Bergdahl’s preliminary hearing that he did not believe any jail time was warranted, and the preliminary hearing officer suggested that the whole episode might have been avoided “had concerns about Sergeant Bergdahl’s mental health been properly followed up.” But the four-star general in charge of the case at Fort Bragg ordered that Sergeant Bergdahl face a court-martial on both charges.

Politics dogged the case from the start. The Obama administration’s embrace of Sergeant Bergdahl gave the president’s opponents a new target to attack, according to some military justice experts. After the preliminary hearing officer recommended leniency, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican whose committee oversees senior military appointments, warned that he would hold a hearing if the sergeant were not punished.

Then, last year, Donald J. Trump made denunciations of Sergeant Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor” a staple of his campaign speeches, and called for the sergeant to be executed.

Once Mr. Trump was inaugurated, Sergeant Bergdahl’s defense team, led by Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, demanded that the case be dismissed. There was no way the sergeant could receive a fair trial, his lawyers said, since everyone in the military justice system now reported to Mr. Trump as commander in chief.

Colonel Nance labeled Mr. Trump’s comments “disturbing” but declined to throw out the case. Then, last month, President Trump seemed to endorse his earlier sentiments about Sergeant Bergdahl, saying, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

After another protest by the defense, Colonel Nance ruled that he would consider the president’s comments as evidence in mitigation as he deliberated on a sentence.

People could conclude, the judge explained, that the president had “wanted to make sure that everyone remembered what he really thinks should happen” to Sergeant Bergdahl.

During the sentencing hearing, Sergeant Bergdahl took the stand and apologized for his actions, saying that he never intended for anyone to get hurt, and that he grieved “for those who have suffered and their families.”

He added, “I’m admitting I made a horrible mistake.”

Bergdahl’s sentence will be reviewed by the General who convened the court martial, and if necessary by the Court of Criminal Appeals, but as noted the sentence can only be reduced, not increased. Additionally there does not appear to be any means under which the sentence could be overturned for being too light or otherwise returned for further proceedings. Therefore, it seems clear that Bergdahl will not serve any time for what happened, which seems to me to be the correct decision under the circumstances. Based on the available facts, it is clear that Bergdahl did not walk off base with the intention of deserting to the enemy and that the main reason for his actions were a combination of his dissatisfaction with the way his unit was operating and the fact that he simply wasn’t well-suited for the position he was placed in. In other words, what he did was wrong in some sense of the word but it didn’t amount to the kind of charge for which jail time was appropriate.

One of the biggest issues at the trial ended up revolving not around Bergdahl’s actions, but around the comments that the President of the United States made about him. Those comments included several occasions in which Trump referred to Bergdahl at various points as a “dirty, rotten traitor,” and as a “traitor” who should be executed for his crimes, although Bergdahl did not face the death penalty in the instant case against him, Trump repeated this mantra at many points during the campaign, although he has not repeated them since becoming President last January. Those comments formed the basis of a pretrial motion by Bergdahl’s attorneys alleging that the President’s comments, even though they were made when he was a candidate, tended to place undue influence on the trier of fact in the case in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Judge presiding over the case denied the motion to have the charges dismissed, but nonetheless called them “disturbing,” and he repeated that comment during the sentencing proceedings when it was noted that Trump had recently said that he stood by those comments, although he fell short of actually repeating them. The extent to which those comments played a role in the sentence that Bergdahl received is unclear, but the President clearly isn’t pleased by the outcome, as a tweet this afternoon makes clear:

As I said, I think that the sentence is appropriate under the circumstances. Bergdahl suffered enough in his captivity and holding him in a military prison would not accomplish anything at this point. As it is, the dishonorable discharge and reduction in rank will follow him the rest of his life, which seems fitting.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John430 says:

    As I said, I think that the sentence is appropriate under the circumstances. Bergdahl suffered enough in his captivity…”

    Jeez. Even military lawyers and judges are a disgrace. Likely a friend of Mataconis.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 32

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Look at John321 parroting the Draft Dodger in Chief!!!
    So precious….

    Clinton – draft dodger
    Bush 43 – AWOL
    Trump – draft dodger

    Given the records of our cowardly Presidents…Berghdal suffered more than enough in 5 years of captivity.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  3. MBunge says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Berghdal suffered more than enough in 5 years of captivity.

    Why am I not surprised that you think enforcing the law and inflicting suffering are the same thing?

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 24

  4. SenyorDave says:

    @John430: After another protest by the defense, Colonel Nance ruled that he would consider the president’s comments as evidence in mitigation as he deliberated on a sentence.

    Who knows, maybe if our jackass of POTUS could have kept his mouth shut the sentence would have been more to your (and his) liking.

    Now he’s tweeting about how disappointed he is in the Justice Department, and urging it to go after Democrats. Keep it up, doofus, and if a Democrat is up on charges I hope the judge takes your remarks into account as mitigation if there is a conviction.

    My four year old grandson has a better sense of when to keep quiet than Trump.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  5. MarkedMan says:

    The demonization of Bergdahl just reinforces the complete lack of decency and empathy in the Modern Republican media celebrities. They will savage their dying grandmothers if they felt it gave them a 10 second political advantage. This man, whatever his crime, was brutally tortured for five years and did not deserve the vilification and harassment he received from the mouth foamers.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 3

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    I equate 5 years of beatings and being locked in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time with suffering.
    I equate the mind of anyone who voted for President Bone Spurs with the mind of an amoeba.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  7. Mu says:

    With DT still trying to influence the process I wouldn’t be surprised if the review changes it to a BCD, just because.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  8. John430 says:

    @MarkedMan: “whatever his crime” is deserting his post, and misbehavior in front of the enemy, which is a nice way of saying he was a coward. All his talk of going to complain about his unit is a crock. He ran away. In his Taliban beatings, if true, he got less than what his fellow soldiers would have given him for his deserting them. Particularly the G.I who is paralyzed and can’t even get out of bed, nor speak.

    I wonder what the anti-Trump’ers would have considered justice if Trump kept quiet. Would they still feel Bergdahl got a just sentence? Or is the main point to just blame Trump and exonerate Bergdahl?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 20

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    ..enforcing the law.

    Don’t know about Military Courts but if a Judge in a civilian court hands out a suspended sentence, for instance, or sets aside a jury verdict, the Judge is enforcing the law.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  10. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @John430:
    Berghdal went thru the system, and didn’t make a sentencing deal.
    He may be a coward who walked away from his unit. But at least he was there to serve in the first place. That’s a ton more than can be said for the Coward-in-Chief that you voted for.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    …if Trump kept quiet.

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahah!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    and did not deserve the vilification and harassment he received from the mouth foamers.

    I don’t know what the Republican Party has come to when it is run by a draft dodger who denegrates someone like John McCain, abdicates his role as C-in-C, and vilifies the military justice system.
    I mean, seriously…it is currently just an organization centered on the need for tax cuts for the rich, and nothing else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  13. Guarneri says:

    Here’s the real question. Brazile and Fauxcohontus have both come out and admitted what any chimp already knew: Hillary stole an election. The only question is: who can ignore this the longest – OTB, CBS, NBC, or ABC.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 32

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have not the necessary info nor the experiences to judge whether Bergdahl received an appropriate sentence, but I trust the Colonel’s judgement a lot more than I do any of the armchair warriors.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarneri: Because everyone knows getting more votes than one’s opponent is what LOSERS do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  16. James Pearce says:

    @John430:

    Even military lawyers and judges are a disgrace.

    I’m pretty sure no one in the military thought Bergdahl was going to do any time. I know why the CIC thought he would: He’s an idiot.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  17. James Pearce says:

    @Guarneri:

    Here’s the real question. Brazile and Fauxcohontus have both come out and admitted what any chimp already knew: Hillary stole an election. The only question is: who can ignore this the longest – OTB, CBS, NBC, or ABC.

    That story is getting a lot of play, dude. Here’s CBS. Just because a story isn’t being covered with the importance you believe it should be doesn’t mean it’s not being covered.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  18. Slugger says:

    There are people who are unhappy with the outcome of this trial. Do any of you have an alternative system in mind? I am sure that the UCMJ fails to produce perfect justice every time, but there are no infallible systems. There was a time when justice was what the autocrat said it was; trial by combat and trial by ordeal were used. We have moved to a system of laws and precedence. Those of you who are unhappy with this case, what do you propose?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. wr says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: “Clinton – draft dodger
    Bush 43 – AWOL
    Trump – draft dodger”

    And what’s the difference between Clinton and the other two? Oh yeah — at least Clinton opposed the war he was dodging and didn’t advocate that other young men be sent to Vietnam to die in his place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. Andy says:

    Based on the available facts, it is clear that Bergdahl did not walk off base with the intention of deserting to the enemy and that the main reason for his actions were a combination of his dissatisfaction with the way his unit was operating and the fact that he simply wasn’t well-suited for the position he was placed in. In other words, what he did was wrong in some sense of the word but it didn’t amount to the kind of charge for which jail time was appropriate.

    That’s not quite right. The mitigating factor for Bergdahl’s desertion is that he was captured by the enemy. Had he been able to do what he claimed he wanted to do, he would have been subject to other articles in the UCMJ. Desertion with the intent to join the enemy would be treason.

    @Slugger:

    There are people who are unhappy with the outcome of this trial. Do any of you have an alternative system in mind?

    Both my wife and I served for 23 years. IMO he should have gotten some jail time – at least a year, which would actually be about 9 months with good time. I think he would have received jail time were it not for the President’s actions and words. The judge, in my view, acted to weaken the inevitable argument of undue Command influence during sentencing when the case comes up for appeal. The judge, I believe, was forced to overcompensate because the President couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  21. wr says:

    @John430: “which is a nice way of saying he was a coward.”

    As opposed to you, daily proving your bravery by anonymous whining on the internet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  22. Andy says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Bush 43 wasn’t and didn’t go AWOL. He was, however, a clever draft dodger who used family influence and the National Guard to avoid Vietnam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  23. John430 says:

    @wr: Air Force for 4 years. At least I stood up be counted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  24. James Pearce says:

    @Andy:

    Had he been able to do what he claimed he wanted to do, he would have been subject to other articles in the UCMJ. Desertion with the intent to join the enemy would be treason.

    He didn’t want to join the enemy. He deserted as a protest against what he thought was a poorly run war. He explained this in extensive interviews with Mark Boals, which you can probably still listen to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Andy says:

    @James Pearce:

    Bergdahl said his intention was to hike 18 miles to another base to make complaints about his unit leadership. Assuming this is true, and assuming he had actually made it to the base, he would not have been charged with desertion. That is the mitigating factor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    @Andy:
    Check the timeline of his service…he was AWOL.
    Of course, he got away with it because of who he is/was.
    He then sent 4000 troops to their death for no reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Andy:

    Assuming this is true, and assuming he had actually made it to the base, he would not have been charged with desertion.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not true. Bergdahl explained how he wanted a Dustwun to…???

    I mean, I don’t know. I’ve stopped trying to follow the kind of activist logic that expects BIG results from tiny little actions.

    I actually think that’s why he was charged with desertion, because his disappearance was part of some half-baked scheme he had.

    (For the record, I didn’t think he’d be charged at all.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Andy says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Daryll:

    The UCMJ does not apply to members of the Guard unless they are in title 10 (federal) status. Members of the National Guard cannot be punished (Court-Martial or Article 15) for missing weekend drills or other inactive duty training. This is because members of the Guard belong to the state and not the federal government. Only when Guard members are called up for federal duty does the UCMJ apply. Pres. Bush missed some of his monthly drills and possibly some other IDT (I don’t’ remember the details) but that is not AWOL nor is it a criminal offense for Guard members in title 32 status.

    I spent most of my career in the Guard and Reserve. I knew several members who simply stopped showing up for UTA’s and other inactive training duty. These people were all administratively discharged and were not subject to prosecution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Andy says:

    @James Pearce:

    The only person who knows Bergdahl’s actual intentions is Bergdahl. It seems pretty clear, at this point at least, that he didn’t intend to defect to the enemy. If he intended to abandon his unit and duty completely, he picked a very strange way to go about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. steve says:

    I would expect the judge to also have weighed the evidence that Bergdahl had walked away once before, and nothing happened to him. The guy should never have been there to begin with. I don’t think he was ever going to get a long jail sentence, but he probably got none because of Trump.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. inhumans99 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Also, he pulled a Hannity and thinks Clinton is the President Of The United States. As Glenn Reynolds would say…Heh!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. James Pearce says:

    @Andy:

    The only person who knows Bergdahl’s actual intentions is Bergdahl.

    In a kind of existential way, that’s true. But, as I explained, he was interviewed on this pretty extensively by Mark Boals and he explains his motivations. At that point, it’s no longer some inaccessible mystery locked deep in Bergdahl’s soul.

    It’s Season 2 of a podcast called Serial.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Jc says:

    Another thing forgotten in this post and comments. The wealth of info Bergdahl provided. I am sure that was also taken into consideration during his sentencing.

    “Both officials say those details provided instrumental insight, both for troops on the ground in the Middle East at the time and for crafting training materials to teach future soldiers how to resist their captors and escape in a similar situation.

    “It was a gold mine,” former Army intelligence analyst Amber Dach testified. “It really reshaped the way we do intelligence collection in the area.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  34. James Pearce says:

    @inhumans99:

    Also, he pulled a Hannity and thinks Clinton is the President Of The United States.

    Maybe at first glance, but I figured the election Guarneri was referring to was the primary, not the general. After all, that’s the election Bernie/Warren/Brazile are alleging was “rigged.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. wr says:

    @John430: “At least I stood up be counted.”

    Sure you did. I’ll bet you win every game of Risk you’ve ever played. And you’re probably aces at Warcraft.

    Someday I’m sure you’ll come out of mommy’s house and do something really brave like step on a spider.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Andre Kenji says:

    @Guarneri:

    Hillary stole an election.

    I”m not a Hillary fan, but I don’t get someone that steals an election and then manages to lose this same election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. Jack says:

    @wr:

    Sure you did. I’ll bet you win every game of Risk you’ve ever played. And you’re probably aces at Warcraft.

    Someday I’m sure you’ll come out of mommy’s house and do something really brave like step on a spider.

    Says the man who has done nothing more risky than pumping his own gas. Put on some boots and carry a rifle, stand a post, guard a flight line…shit, serve some food in the chow hall. No, you’d rather just enjoy the freedoms others provide to you, coward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  38. Davebo says:

    @Jack:

    Ironic! I actually supervised guys guarding a flight line and some idiot named Jack blew a hole in the rudder of an aircraft with a 12 gauge shotgun because he heard something.. something.

    Was that you Jack? At Rosy Roads?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  39. Jack says:

    @Davebo: Never had the displeasure of being stationed there and I avoided naval bases after 5 years in Key West, FL. That. Was. A. Horrible. Assignment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. wr says:

    @Jack: Gosh, thank you for protecting my freedom. I realize that without people like you, we’d all be enslaved by… well, who exactly did you fight that was trying to take my freedom again? How did you keep me from living under a foreign dictatorship?

    If you chose to go into the military, that’s fine. It’s a job that needs to be done. But don’t puff yourself up claiming that you have made me free. I really don’t think that any of the wars in your lifetime have had anything to do with that. Or are you still quaking at the thought of the Vietnamese invasion of America?

    And by the way, all your adorable huffery and puffery doesn’t convince me that JohnBibleverse ever served anywhere. Don’t know why you’re claiming that your own military career stands in for his.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. JohnMcC says:

    Something in Bergdahl’s record not mentioned in the Original Post nor comments but that seemed significant to me is that he had previously washed out of Coast Guard Basic Training.

    Would not like to occupy a guard post while knowing that about the guy in the next guard post, myself. Would wonder at the selection process that put my life in his hands.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. rachel says:

    @JohnMcC: He washed out of —
    Wow, what the hell was his recruiter thinking? This guy really did not belong in the any branch of service, let alone in a war zone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A Prayer for Bowe Bergdahl
    Five decades later, a veteran who ventured off his base in Vietnam finds sympathy.

    The case of Sergeant Bergdahl led me to reflect how some of us, for reasons known only to God, are able to escape the worst consequences of our most foolish actions. Perhaps in some alternative universe, Bowe ends up with an Afghan wife in the mountains and I end up in a bamboo cage in the forest. It certainly could have happened in this universe. But instead, I ended up in the middle of a tribal soap opera, and Bowe ended up in a Taliban cage. And so I cannot approach his story without reflecting on my own. And as I advance into old age, the phrase that most resonates with me is: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

    We train young men to act with maximum violence, and then send them to wars in which they must act with maximum diplomacy. We would not think it strange if a platoon of diplomats were clueless about how to use fire and maneuver to take out a machine-gun nest, yet we are frustrated that a platoon of young soldiers cannot maneuver in the complex streams of tribal politics. And when bad things happen, we are quick to fix the blame on the lowest level.

    It is understandable that Bergdahl’s comrades, the ones who didn’t walk off their posts but were sent to find him, would be less than sympathetic to his plight. But it should be different with the officers charged with judging him. It is quite true that military discipline must be enforced. But the Army should not evade its own responsibility in accepting for service a man whose psychological difficulties were already known to them. Ah, but recruiting sergeants, like used-car salesmen, have strict quotas that must be met. And one can only wish that the Army was as scrupulous about the misdemeanors in their senior ranks as they are about the missteps of enlisted men.

    I pray for Bowe Bergdahl. I pray that the Army will decide that in this case, justice is best served by compassion. I pray they will realize that he has already paid for his crimes with five years in captivity among the Taliban, and with all the problems he has had since. But in truth, my prayer is really a selfish prayer. It is a prayer for myself, and a reflection of the mystery of why some, like me, skip through life barely conscious of their own crimes, while others must pay to the last penny. It is a prayer for all the young men and women sent into strange places that have confounded our wisest diplomats while armed only with weapons of maximum lethality. And it is a prayer for our country, which can neither extricate itself from these wars nor resolve them. It can only place its young men in situations where they are bound to fail, and fail despite their own best efforts and sacrifices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  44. Zachriel says:

    “He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.” — Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  45. MarkedMan says:

    If I were to judge all Trumpistas by the ones on this site, I would think they were driven solely by anger and the desire to punch down as hard as they can on the little guy, and that they had no empathy for anyone other than themselves. To be honest, every day I have less respect for anyone who supports Trump in any way. Sure, most live in the Fox News bubble, but even there the only way to think this wretched corrupt man is anything other than a disaster or a disgrace is to willfully turn a blind eye.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    …wretched corrupt man…

    And never forget that he is a self confessed sexual molester of women.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  47. michael reynolds says:

    Temporary or permanent desertion is far, far more common than people like to believe. As American soldiers were en route to the Bulge and the Hurtgen, the Paris black market was being run by American deserters. There were at a minimum many thousands of American deserters in WW2 from the Greatest Generation. 99.9% of those cases were swept under the rug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  48. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: A family story told to great hilarity is that my grand dad was drafted in WW 1 and together with an ‘Italian’ friend (I’ve always assumed an ‘Italian-American’ friend) stole a train and was on the loose in Paris for some undetermined amount of time. I imagine there was some speculation as to the possibility of a Parisian branch of the family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  49. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Temporary or permanent desertion is far, far more common than people like to believe.

    I ran across an interesting one while doing some genealogical research. My great-great-great grandfather (and namesake) signed up for the usual 1 year stint in the Union army — just in time for the Civil War to end. His unit was reassigned to go west and fight Indians.

    3GGrandpa had signed up to fight Johnny Reb, not to win the West. The troop train headed for Fort Leavenworth had a layover in St. Louis, not too far from his family farm. When it pulled out again, he somehow wasn’t on it any more…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  50. Flat earth luddite says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    If we don’t want 18 year Olds with guns setting foreign policy , we need to not send them to places where the natives are going to shoot at them.

    As an aside, thank you for your service in Vietnam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0