Bowe Bergdahl Charged With Desertion, Other Offenses As White House Narrative Collapses

Bowe Bergdahl will face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and the White House's narrative about this release lies in tatters.

Bowe Bergdahl
Late yesterday, the Army officials at Fort Bragg in North Carolina announced that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was returned to the United States from five years of Taliban captivity thanks to a deal that included the release of five prisoners from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, will be charged with desertion and other offenses that could lead to him spending the rest of his life in a military prison:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

The case will now go to Fort Sam Houston, Tex., for a hearing that is similar to a grand jury in a civilian court. After that, a military tribunal will determine whether Sergeant Bergdahl should be court-martialed.

Sergeant Bergdahl’s lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, said Wednesday that the sergeant’s legal team had not decided how it would proceed, including whether it would try to negotiate a discharge for Sergeant Bergdahl in lieu of trial by court-martial. In a March 2 letter to Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commanding general of United States Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, Mr. Fidell wrote that an impartial court-martial would be impossible to form because of the political tension over Sergeant Bergdahl’s captivity and release.

“While many Americans have taken a broader and more sympathetic view, the depth and breadth of the current hostility to Sergeant Bergdahl are extraordinary and have enveloped the case with a lynch mob atmosphere,” Mr. Fidell wrote.

The materials disclosed by Mr. Fidell say nothing about Sergeant Bergdahl’s mind-set when he left his platoon at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan, and the Army has not laid out details of the case against him.

In his letter to General Milley, Mr. Fidell summarized what he described as parts of an unreleased report by Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, whointerviewed Sergeant Bergdahl and conducted the military’s investigation into his disappearance. Mr. Fidell’s description of the report’s executive summary suggests that it offers mitigating conclusions that could help Sergeant Bergdahl at any court-martial.

“While hedging its bets, the report basically concludes that Sergeant Bergdahl did not intend to remain away from the Army permanently,” Mr. Fidell wrote.

The circumstances of Bergdahl’s release have, of course, been clouded in political controversy from virtually the moment that President Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden in late May of last year with his parents to announce that Bergdahl, who had been held in captive by the Taliban for five years, was now safely back in American custody. In his remarks, President Obama spoke of never leaving a member of the military behind, while National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that Bergdahl had “served with honor and distinction.” The deal quickly came under criticism from Republicans due both to the terms, which led to the United States releasing five Taliban prisoners, and because of the stories that quickly began to leak out which suggested that Bergdahl’s capture occurred after he had abandoned his post, and even allegations that Bergdahl had aided the enemy in some way while in captivity. The Administration found itself in more political hot water when even Democrats pointed out that they had violated existing law by failing to inform Congress of the release of Guantanamo prisoners prior to that release taking place. In the weeks after Bergdahl’s release, the accusations that Bergdahl had deserted his post became louder, thanks in no small part to members of Bergdahl’s unit who came forward in the weeks after his release to speak about what they knew about this time in the military. While the Army eventually cleared Bergdahl of any charges that he aided the enemy, the investigation of his possible desertion continued. Now, it appears that the the investigation is complete and, while Bergdahl is of course entitled to the same presumption of innocence as any other person charged with a crime in a civilian or military court, it’s also quite apparent that, as The Daily Beast put it, everything the Obama Administration told us about Bowe Bergdahl was wrong, and that the deal that led to his release is now likely to become even more controversial.

As Jonathan Turley notes, all of this makes it likely that the proceedings in Bergdahl’s case, which is likely headed for a court martial, will likely become a political football:

The fact that Bergdahl may be a deserter might not have changed the merits of the decision to seek his release in a trade. President Obama must have known that there was an allegation of desertion before ordering the swap. It is clear that he acted out of an honest concern for an American in deplorable and dangerous conditions. However, the decision of the White House to avoid informing Congress, as required under federal law, clearly reflected a discomfort of the administration over the merits of such a trade with terrorists. That debate is now going to happen as part of a very public trial.

Indeed, it will be a challenge to insulate a trial from the powerful political winds swirling around Bergdahl and the deal that led to his freedom. The fact is that Bergdahl is not just a defendant. He has entered that dangerous realm of being a symbol in a political scandal.

In the end, it will not be a political symbol but an Army sergeant who will have to answer for these alleged crimes. Bergdahl may, for the first time, publicly answer some of these allegations for himself. It will not only be the first time that he will be heard, but the first answer that the public has received in months of controversy over his release.

So far at least, there has been no response form the White House regarding the charges against Bergdahl and, given the fact that the President is Commander in Chief we are unlikely to hear anything from them at all. As we’ve seen before, statements from the President can potentially have serious consequences for military prosecutors, and given everything else that has happened in this case it is unlikely that the White House is going to want to be seen as having done something that aids Bergdahl’s defense in any respect. That being said, though, the Bergdahl case is likely to hang over the Administration like a political albatross as it makes its way through the court system. Even if you believe that everything should have been done to secure Bergdahl’s release from captivity, a position I tend to agree with, it’s fairly clear that the White House mishandled this matter from the start. Not informing Congress as required by law was, quite simply, unacceptable and even Democrats on Capitol Hill have called the Administration out for that failure. Beyond that, though, the allegations about Bergdahl’s possible desertion have been known by the military for years and, presumably, were passed on to the White House at some point during this entire process. Given those allegations, it should have been obvious that Bergdahl’s release would be a controversial one and that hailing it in a White House Rose Garden statement and claiming that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction” was quite simply an unnecessary lie.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Crime, Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Other than the high viz public announcements, I’m not sure what else should have been done. I guess the Administration could have said no negotiations and left him there.

    One thing I know is that it would have been wrong to prejudge him and try him in abstentia like so many others seemingly preferred.

    It is too bad that everything is now politicized, starting with the administration. They do deserve the blowback.

  2. Modulo Myself says:

    Even if you believe that everything should have been done to secure Bergdahl’s release from captivity, a position I tend to agree with, it’s fairly clear that the White House mishandled this matter from the start.

    Actually, they handled it well. What idiot cares about a polite phrase in the Rose Garden? He’s a symbol just like Benghazi! Oh no. Alert the nations’ uncles. Set chain emails to maximum. Stand by for further disclosures about what Susan Rice knew and when she knew it.

    It would be one thing if the White House went on to interfere with the military’s investigation. But they didn’t. You people need to grow up or have some experience with real functioning adults.

  3. Guarneri says:

    “Given those allegations, it should have been obvious that Bergdahl’s release would be a controversial one and that hailing it in a White House Rose Garden statement and claiming that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction” was quite simply an unnecessary lie.”

    “…..served with honor, distinction, and desertion, causing the deaths of soldiers attempting to rescue him……

    There, fixed it. Oh, and you can keep your doctor with your $2500 savings in health care premiums.

  4. stonetools says:

    Actually, I believe mostly Democrats have called out the Administration for its failure to inform Congress. The Republicans have been far more focussed on the Administration’s trading of five Taliban “generals” for a “traitor.”
    I will wait for the facts to come out, but I think it likely that the Administration will be able to make a credible case that informing Congress may have endangered Bergdahl’s life.Had The Administrtation duly informed Congress and had it led to Bergdahl’s execution, the people now calling out the Administration for its failure to inform Congress would be either silent or most likely condemning the Administration for sacrificing an American soldier’s life to the letter of the law.
    As for Bergdahl himself, I think it will come out in his defence that Bergdahl was a troubled young man who should never have been assigned to front line combat and who cracked under the pressure. I note that many of the folks calling for his blood are those who have been quite happy to let him do the fighting for them while sitting at their keyboards 5000 miles from the action. I expect members of 101s t Keyboard Commandos to weigh in here shortly.

  5. bookdragon says:

    @Modulo Myself: Amen.

    There’s also this little thing called due process and innocent until proven guilty. Charges do not equal guilt, and even if he is proven guilty, I fail to see how that changes the merits of seeking his release.

    He’s an American soldier. We don’t leave our own behind. That was the Administration’s narrative and none of this leaves it tatters.

    …and if it does, then I don’t see why anyone would join our military knowing that a bunch of howling wingnut monkeys could consign them to being abandoned by their country.

  6. Another Mike says:

    Almost certainly the Army will offer Bergdahl the opportunity to be discharged in lieu of courts martial. This is a voluntary discharge and Bergdahl does not have to accept it, but it is rather routine thing. If he accepts the discharge, he will receive an Undesirable Discharge and be discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions. He will by regulation be reduced in rank to Private E-1, and, of course, he will forfeit all pay and allowances for the time he was absent. The time absent will not count as creditable service.

    This is how it was done years ago when I was in the Army. I do not think the Army wants the spectacle of a trial. Of course, if Bergdahl wants it to go to trial, then it is unavoidable.

  7. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Still, turning this into a PR stunt shows perfectly what I meant when I said the Obama administration had terrible message control in the other thread. Even a rookie PR guy should have seen that this was likely to blow up at some point.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Yup…he served “with honor and distinction” was a lie.
    Of course it didn’t cost 4000 troops or $2T.
    But I can see why the wing-nuts will be extra looney today.

  9. Paul L. says:

    There’s also this little thing called due process and innocent until proven guilty.

    I remember the Democrats used that logic to defend Bob Filner.

    “I’m standing with Bob because I feel that there is a political lynching going on in the city and Bob has due process, just like all the women that are accusing Bob of sexual harassment.”

    BTW those only count if I am on a jury or in Law Enforcement not venturing an opinion.

    However those niceties are irrelevant to progressives for the Duke Lacrosse players, George Zimmerman, Darrel Wilson and Ted Stevens.

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @stonetools:

    I think it’s more about trying to force Obama into making a statement that attempts to understand with why he might have walked away from his post, or for Obama to say that he was troubled, or anything that signifies intelligence and wisdom. All of these point to the truth that he’s not an American. Americans should never think about other people.

  11. Gustopher says:

    Clearly, we should have just left him in the hands of the Taliban.

    Also, the question of whether he was fit for duty in the first place, and whether someone should have noticed that, ismentirely irrelevant.

    Was Bergdahl behind the attack on BENGHAZI!!!? We need some congressional oversight committee to get all the facts out before we can be sure one way or the other.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    The deal quickly came under criticism from Republicans due both to the terms, which led to the United States releasing five Taliban prisoners, and because of the stories that quickly began to leak out which suggested that Bergdahl’s capture occurred after he had abandoned his post, and even allegations that Bergdahl had aided the enemy in some way while in captivity. because Obama.

    FTFY
    Does anyone seriously think that had Obama left Bergdahl there, the Rs wouldn’t have launched an even bigger scheiss sturm? Especially the usual suspect here.

  13. Tyrell says:

    “served with honor and distinction” sick !

  14. Jack says:

    The messaging on this entire issue was FUBAR’d from the get go.

    Had the administration told congressional representatives (Reid and Boehner at the time) that a release in exchange for Taliban prisoners was possible while also seeking buy in and a commitment from party leadership to see the process through while explaining that any information released by them could jeopardize Bergdahl’s life it would have headed off any “Congressional oversight” and “violated existing law” claims. Even without buy in from Republicans, both the letter and spirit of the law would have been met.

    Additionally, had the administration admitted during the Rose garden ceremony that there are serious questions concerning Bergdahl’s time in Afghanistan and the circumstances of his capture that will be investigated and that Bergdahl may face punishment for any questionable conduct. While also explaining that despite these questions, we (America) have a commitment to bring home our soldiers. This also would have ensured that the entire administration, to include Rice, was on point with the messaging…thus preventing the “served with honor and distinction” claim.

    Had Obama not made this prisoner swap about him and his image while trying to cut out congressional (Republican) participation, the level of defense displayed by this administration now, would be minimal.

    Instead, the five Taliban commanders are preparing to re-enter the fight while Bergdahl is facing a courts martial and the administration appears to have purposely stepped in a steaming pile of dog squeeze.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Had the administration told congressional representatives (Reid and Boehner at the time) that a release in exchange for Taliban prisoners was possible while also seeking buy in and a commitment from party leadership to see the process through while explaining that any information released by them could jeopardize Bergdahl’s life it would have headed off any “Congressional oversight” and “violated existing law” claims. Even without buy in from Republicans, both the letter and spirit of the law would have been met.

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When has the Congressional Republican Leadership ever agreed to buy in and commitment to anything that the Obama Administration has asked for and/or wanted…

  16. Jack says:

    @An Interested Party: Apparently you did not read–“Even without buy in from Republicans, both the letter and spirit of the law would have been met.”

  17. David M says:

    Could the GOP have even been trusted not to sabotage the deal at this point? Treating them as good faith actors in the process has been a mistake for quite a while now.

  18. Scott says:

    @Jack: Overall, I tend to agree with you. Sometimes the best messaging is to not say much at all.

  19. Jack says:

    @David M:

    Could the GOP have even been trusted not to sabotage the deal at this point? Treating them as good faith actors in the process has been a mistake for quite a while now.

    Had that happened, an actual sabotage of the deal…that would have been a feather in Obama’s and the Democrat party’s cap that would have reverberated a lot more than the prisoner swap.

  20. C. Clavin says:

    A mentally troubled young American was rescued from deplorable and dangerous conditions and brought home to face severe charges for desertion…a charge that could imprison him for life here in the states.
    And Susan Rice said something stupid.
    Yawn.

  21. David M says:

    @Jack:

    Had that happened, an actual sabotage of the deal…that would have been a feather in Obama’s and the Democrat party’s cap that would have reverberated a lot more than the prisoner swap.

    The goal was to get Bergdahl back, not score political points. Similar to how the current goal of the sanctions and negotiations are to reach an agreement with Iran, not to put a feather in the GOP’s hat while they attempt to talk us into the next needless war.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Apparently you did not read…

    You will forgive me as I was temporarily blinded by that whopper of an alternate reality that you offered…

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jack:

    Had that happened, an actual sabotage of the deal…that would have been a feather in Obama’s and the Democrat party’s cap that would have reverberated a lot more than the prisoner swap.

    And an American soldier would have been dead.

    Unlike the GOP, the Democrats care more about actually getting American servicemen and women home alive and in one piece than in putting a feather in theiir caps. Country over party, you know.

  24. Jack says:

    @David M:

    The goal was to get Bergdahl back, not score political points. Similar to how the current goal of the sanctions and negotiations are to reach an agreement with Iran, not to put a feather in the GOP’s hat while they attempt to talk us into the next needless war.

    Then Obama should have vetoed the law that says he has to notify congress before releasing prisoners from Gitmo. Of course, Democrats were on board with that law, so rather than veto it, he just ignores it….like so many others he has ignored.

    The negotiations with Iran are to reach an agreement?? What agreement? That they can indeed develop nukes? We don’t need an agreement for that, that is their goal.

  25. Jack says:

    @Rafer Janders: You are hypothesizing into the realm of the ridiculous. Boehner would not have sabotaged the attempt to get him back. He may have disagreed, but he would have held his tongue until after the swap.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Hah! That’s funny.

  27. Jack says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Unlike the GOP, the Democrats care more about actually getting American servicemen and women home alive and in one piece than in putting a feather in theiir caps. Country over party, you know.

    Is that why we had a Marine in captivity in Mexico for 214 days with little or no help from the Administration? Yeah, it’s all about country over party.

  28. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    A mentally troubled young American was rescued traded from deplorable and dangerous conditions which he brought upon himself and brought home to face severe charges for desertion, which the Pentagon and White House knew about before the exchange but was conveniently left out of the message…a charge that could imprison him for life 5 years here in the states.

    And Susan Rice, again, said something stupid.

    Fixed it for you.

  29. wr says:

    Had the president notified the Republicans, it’s pretty clear that they would have attempted to interfere in the negotiations, even if it meant collaborating with the Taliban. We’ve already seen them try to form an alliance with the Iranian mullahs, while using Israeli intelligence to attempt to weaken the president.

    They deserve nothing but shame.

  30. wr says:

    @Jack: “Had that happened, an actual sabotage of the deal…that would have been a feather in Obama’s and the Democrat party’s cap that would have reverberated a lot more than the prisoner swap.”

    And oh yeah, Berdahl would probably be dead. But that’s not something a Republican cares about, right?

  31. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    The Marine in question crossed into Mexico carrying a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, all loaded, with 400 rounds of ammo. The guns were not broken down, nor were they secured and unloaded as required by US law.

    His story is patent nonsense. And he’s been home since 2014. And who busted him out? Bill Richardson, all-purpose envoy for who? Oh, that’s right: for Democrats.

    As usual your story is crap.

  32. Jack says:

    @wr:

    Had the president notified the Republicans, it’s pretty clear that they would have attempted to interfere in the negotiations, even if it meant collaborating with the Taliban.

    Talk about Obama derangement syndrome!

  33. Paul L. says:

    @C. Clavin:

    A mentally troubled young American…. to face severe charges … that could imprison him for life here in the states

    “Free mentally unstable PTSD suffering Social Justice Warrior Eddie Ray Routh who killed lying serial killer 1% war criminals of Chris Kyle and his sycophant.
    Free Menially Ill Political prisoner and Social Justice Warrior Joshua Komisarjevsky for his actions against the Rich 1% Petit family.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:

    Um. . . what?

  35. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The Marine in question crossed into Mexico carrying a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, all loaded, with 400 rounds of ammo. The guns were not broken down, nor were they secured and unloaded as required by US law.

    He did not know he was entering Mexico until he got to the checkpoint. “Tahmooressi has said he took a wrong turn on a California freeway that funneled him into a Tijuana port of entry with no way to turn back.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/31/mmarine-andrew-tahmooressi-mexico-releasedarine-andrew-tahmooressi_n_6085456.html

    A Mexican judge ordered his release, Bill Richardson was one of many Repblican and Democrat affiliated officials to urge his release. Richardson was not implemental, nor “busted him out” by any definition of the words. “Richardson said he was among those who pressed for Tahmooressi’s release, and he visited the former Marine at Mexico’s El Hongo federal prison last week.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/01/world/americas/mexico-u-s-marine-freed/

  36. Jack says:

    @wr:

    We’ve already seen them try to form an alliance with the Iranian mullahs, while using Israeli intelligence to attempt to weaken the president.

    Funny you should bring up Iran. If we can’t believe this administration to tell us the truth about Bergdahl, why should we believe it will tell us the truth about the negotiations with Iran? Negotiations, by the way, that will never be written down or have any signatories. It’s just a gentleman’s agreement and a handshake…with those mulluhs you so dislike.

  37. Mikey says:

    @Jack:

    He did not know he was entering Mexico until he got to the checkpoint. “Tahmooressi has said he took a wrong turn on a California freeway that funneled him into a Tijuana port of entry with no way to turn back.”

    I did this once when I was stationed in El Paso. I told the Mexican border guards what happened, they let me do a three-point turn to go the right way, and then I had to explain to the American border guard that the cat in my backseat was one I’d just gotten from the animal shelter in El Paso and not a critter I was trying to import from Mexico.

    This was pre-9/11, though, so things have probably changed.

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jack:

    Is that why we had a Marine in captivity in Mexico for 214 days with little or no help from the Administration?

    “We” had a Marine in captivity in Mexico? The U.S. Marine Corps sent a Marine on a combat mission into Mexico, whereupon he was captured?

    Um, no. The guy, driving on his own, and not in any military capacity, drove into Mexico.

  39. Jack says:

    @Mikey: I’m not saying I did this, and I’m not saying I didn’t. But there is no way to tell the difference between DC and Northern Virginia. There are no signs stating “You are entering DC in 1 mile” on most streets shared by Northern Virginia and DC. As a person that routinely carries. I may or may not have run afoul of DC’s “no handgun carry for the little people” laws.

  40. Jack says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Um, no. The guy, driving on his own, and not in any military capacity, drove into Mexico.

    Bergdahl – Army, walking on his own, and not in any military capacity, seeking Taliban personnel, walks into waiting Taliban arms.

  41. David M says:

    @Jack:

    The administration both got Bergdahl back and allowed the Army to properly investigate the desertion charge. How do those two events do anything but show this administration clearly doing the right thing? (Public statements by administration officials are incidental to the process and not material to what actually happened.)

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    He lied about how many times he’d crossed the border. He was carrying illegal weapons into Mexico past multiple signs warning Americans not to do that. He was by his own admission suffering from PTSD and paranoia.

    His story is b.s. The only reason you care is that the contraband involved was guns.

    Turn the story around. Guy buys legal pot in Colorado, drives into Utah and is arrested for possession with intent. Or let’s say it’s a Canadian Muslim “accidentally” crossing into the US with a car full of guns and ammo.

    You’re full of baloney, the story is crap, the parallel you’re trying to draw is nonsense, the “contribution” of Republicans included insulting the government of Mexico even as John Kerry and the State Department were trying to get the guy out. And he’s home safe.

    Note to anyone else reading this: You always need to check the stuff people like Jack cite. They’re never honest. Nothing can be taken for granted.

  43. Mikey says:

    @Jack:

    But there is no way to tell the difference between DC and Northern Virginia.

    The bridges are all kind of unusually.–for lack of a better word–surprising, in that you’re just suddenly on one. You’re driving down the freeway and bam! you’re crossing the Potomac into DC.

    If you’re coming into DC from Maryland it’s even less distinguishable. All the big roads have the same names and there’s really no visual cue to let you know you’re in DC.

  44. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The only reason you care is that the contraband involved was guns.

    I care because he is a Marine and was held for 214 days. Period.

    I provided sourced links for you to read and they were all consistent. You, like Obama don’t have to like the truth, but you do have to accept it.

  45. Jack says:

    @David M:

    The administration both got Bergdahl back and allowed the Army to properly investigate the desertion charge. How do those two events do anything but show this administration clearly doing the right thing? (Public statements by administration officials are incidental to the process and not material to what

    The bad optics and the hub bub could have all been avoided if the administration had taken a different approach. That’s all I’m saying.

  46. Loviatar says:

    Context and history:

    Yesterday we spent the day having fun with James P. It was amusing in a sad way to see James whipsawed over his lies. Even the other OTB reichwingers knew enough to stay away, I believe his only defender was his other sockpuppet.

    Today we have a front page post by Doug that is almost as mendacious as James P’s lies. And while Jame P’s lies were for his own personal aggrandizement, Doug’s post is much worse as it uses innuendo and disingenuous language to attack President Obama. In doing so he opens the door for the reichwingers to ooze out and tarnish our military’s reputation of never leaving our personnel behind.

    As I’ve said before; I’m afraid of the brownshirters (Tyrell, Jack, James P, etc.), but I fear the Doug Mataconis’ and James Joyners of the world.

  47. David M says:

    @Jack:

    And bad optics and hub bub aren’t actually things that matter.

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Dude, you just linked to news reports which restate the agreed-upon facts: that a Marine suffering from PTSD and paranoid beliefs crossed into Mexico carrying weapons which were loaded.

    Why was the nice man carrying three loaded forearms into Mexico? You don’t think the Mexicans should have arrested him? Or is it that you think Mexico has to respind immediately whenever we snap our fingers?

    Had the Marine crossed the border and committed rape would you still be saying he has to be released? No, not even you would make that argument.

    So this is not about him being a Marine, it’s about guns, and contempt for the sovereign state to our south.

  49. Pinky says:

    @wr:

    Had the president notified the Republicans, it’s pretty clear that they would have attempted to interfere in the negotiations, even if it meant collaborating with the Taliban.

    I hate the Republicans because they always do things like this that they didn’t actually do but I bet they would.

  50. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Bottom line, Jack: you assume Bergdahl’s guilt and assume Tahmooressi is innocent. Why? Because you have no interest in the truth, your only interest in any aspect of politics is hatred of Mr. Obama.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Yeah, it’s funny how when people behave dishonorably people start to expect them to behave dishonorably.

    It’s like when you, Pinky, say something stupid about liberals wanting dead cops and when challenged to support your outrageous statement you dance around and evade and refuse to admit error so people start to expect you to be a dishonest hack.

    Kind of the way the world works.

  52. Pinky says:

    @munchbox: It’s like the old line that the fighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small. Posting comments isn’t enough; some people insist on the right to post their comments unchallenged. Personally, I prefer sites that are reasonable and 50/50. When it’s 95/5, both sides get so obnoxious.

  53. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Bottom line, Jack: you assume Bergdahl’s guilt and assume Tahmooressi is innocent. Why? Because you have no interest in the truth, your only interest in any aspect of politics is hatred of Mr. Obama.

    Bergdahl’s desertion appears to be confirmed by his fellow soldiers. Whatever Jack’s motives are, there’s good reason to think that Bergdahl’s guilt is real.

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @Paul L.:

    However those niceties are irrelevant to progressives for the Duke Lacrosse players, George Zimmerman, Darrel Wilson and Ted Stevens.

    Yes, your implied support of OJ Simpson’s innocence is duly noted.

  55. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Wow, how thoughtful of Obama. To spare the Republicans the risk that they might break the laws regarding classified information regarding Bergdahl, he graciously took upon himself the burden of simply ignoring the law he had signed which required that he inform them that he was releasing high-ranking Taliban prisoners. The man’s practically a saint.

    As to the argument that “if he hadn’t worked to free Bergdahl, the Republicans would have attacked him for that,” that’s remarkably easy to prove. Bergdahl was with the Taliban for five years, give or take. That’s a LOT of time for prominent Republicans to have attacked Obama over it. I’m sure at least one of the fine folks here can find an example or two showing it.

    Yes, Bergdahl spent five years with the Taliban. Which is where he apparently wanted to be. Or, at least, he was no longer with the United States Army, which is exactly what he wanted. His choice.

    His possible mental illness shouldn’t be an exonerating factor, but a mitigating factor. He still chose to enlist in the Army, and he still chose to desert (apparently)> And the price of those choices were the US military spending a LOT of resources in attempts to find and rescue him, including the deaths of at least five Americans, and the release of five very high-value Taliban prisoners.

    Which, I think, might have been a feature, not a bug. Obama promised to close down Guantanamo, and hasn’t yet in over six years. So he’s doing it by default — it’ll technically still be open, but with no actual prisoners after he releases them all. Even if he has to ignore the law regarding the release of detainees that, again, he himself signed.

    But I’m still curious why so many here are giving Bergdahl all kinds of benefits of doubt that they wouldn’t give George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson. I like to think I’ve been consistent — the evidence in each case strongly indicated that Zimmerman and Wilson had committed no crime, while the evidence in Bergdahl’s case strongly indicated that he had willingly deserted his post in a war zone, during a time of war.

  56. Pinky says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But I’m still curious why so many here are giving Bergdahl all kinds of benefits of doubt that they wouldn’t give George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson.

    Because of the power of Michael’s assertions. They can not only discern the facts, but also our motivations. Against them, how do we contend?

  57. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    As to the argument that “if he hadn’t worked to free Bergdahl, the Republicans would have attacked him for that,” that’s remarkably easy to prove. Bergdahl was with the Taliban for five years, give or take. That’s a LOT of time for prominent Republicans to have attacked Obama over it. I’m sure at least one of the fine folks here can find an example or two showing it.

    Please proceed, governor

  58. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:

    But I can see why the wing-nuts will be extra looney today.

    Proven correct, again.
    Thanks fer playin’

  59. JWH says:

    I honestly hope that his punishment amounts reduction in rank, some level of pay forfeiture, and something other than an honorable discharge. Dude spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. I say call that account even and move on.

  60. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: I see Oliver North and Allen West on that list that I’d consider anything close to “prominent Republicans.” Tapper is a journalist, and apparently his offense was that he reported official facts but avoided what was, at that point, unsubstantiated rumors and allegations. Further, North’s comments were from 2011, and West spoke after he’d left Congress (well, retired due to illness — his constituents got sick of him) and would not have been privy to Obama’s notifying of Congress about the negotiations, had Obama chosen to obey that law.

    Still, I asked and you answered. Thank you for doing so. What I should have said was “prominent Republicans in Congress, who would have been in a position to leak the information had Obama followed the law,” but you did answer what I actually said, and I both respect and appreciate that.

  61. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Yes, your implied support of OJ Simpson’s innocence is duly noted.

    He didn’t imply it, you inferred it.

  62. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “Note to anyone else reading this: You always need to check the stuff people like Jack cite”

    You mean Jack doesn’t have a PhD in economics, either?

  63. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Say Jenos — Why don’t you tell us what the subject of James P’s “dissertation” was?

  64. Gavrilo says:

    I think the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee should launch an investigation into the false narrative that the Obama White House was trying to create regarding Bowe Bergdahl. Why were high-level administration officials telling the media that Bergdahl served with honor and distinction? When did Obama learn that Bergdahl was a deserter and when did he learn it?

    After all, that’s what the Dems did about the Jessica Lynch rescue. A full five years after it happened.

  65. dennis says:

    In the end, none of this matters. What matters is, Bergdahl deserved to come back home; he didn’t deserve to be abandoned to the Taliban. Shame on Bush for sending troops over there, anyway. Shame on Obama for not bringing them home like he said he would. I’m sorry, and this is only my opinion, but there’s not ONE thing going on over there in Afghanistan and the Middle East that is worth my fellow American citizens dying over. Not.One.Damned.Thing.

    Everything else is just noise.

  66. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Confirmed by his fellow soldiers? Oh? They know for sure he wasn’t grabbed by Taliban patrols while taking a pee? No. What they know is that he disappeared. And you do understand that’s not how we determine guilt, right? Due process and what not?

    So, “Some of his fellow soldiers think he may have deserted, so f–k him, he can remain a prisoner of the Taliban forever.” Because that’s our standard of proof in the US of A.

    Brilliant.

  67. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    What I should have said was “prominent Republicans in Congress, who would have been in a position to leak the information had Obama followed the law,”

    No problem.

    It was just last week when Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) delivered a Memorial Day message in which she urged Americans to keep Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl “in our thoughts and prayers.” She added, “I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family.”

    Less than a week later, the Defense Department announced that Bergdahl had been freed and he’ll be returned safely to his family – prompting a new round of criticism from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

    But all things considered, these conflicting statements are mild compared to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his recent reversals, highlighted today by Doug Mataconis.

    The Arizona senator, himself a former prisoner of war, initially balked at the idea of a prisoner swap, calling the idea in 2012 “bizarre.” A few months ago, however, McCain changed his mind.

    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been held by a group with ties to the Taliban for almost four years, and the group has demanded the United States release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for him.

    The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials confirmed that talks among diplomats and the Pentagon were under way. The official U.S. policy is not to negotiate with terrorists, but the military is winding down operations there by the end of the year and could risk leaving Bergdahl behind, CNN noted.

    McCain said his stance has changed only because the previous proposal was to release five “hard-core” Taliban leaders as a “confidence-building measure.” The current proposal would be an actual exchange of prisoners. “I would be inclined to support such a thing, depending on a lot of details,” he said.

    So that’s two Republican Senators, both of whom sit on the Armed Services Committee.Note both flipflopped and are now critical of the deal.Would they have worked to undermine it? Well, as you know, 47 Senators (including those two) recently signed a letter aimed at undermining US negotiations with Iran.
    Personally, if I was Obama, I wouldn’t trust any Congressional Republican as far as I could throw them. Doug should frankly know better than to say Congressional Republicans should be trusted in this area. He may be right on the law, but he is in fantasyland if he thinks Republicans wouldn’t have interfered.

  68. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Confirmed by his fellow soldiers? Oh?

    That’s not what I said. I said “appears to be confirmed by his fellow soldiers”. There’s a difference. I did not say anything against due process and what-not (especially against what-not). I was responding to your comment that Jack wasn’t interested in truth, only in politics. I was saying that a person could reasonably take a side against Bergdahl without being motivated by politics. As for the other case where Jack was giving the benefit of the doubt, I’m unfamiliar with it, and so I didn’t comment on it.

  69. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    So, here’s what we agree on:

    In rescuing Bergdahl we were rescuing a legally innocent American soldier from a hostile enemy.

    And that’s a problem for you why?

  70. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: I am not sure which is less — my knowledge of James P, my interest in him, or my regard for you.

    Nah, that’s not true. My regard for you actually extends into negative territory. The other two are right around zero.

  71. David M says:

    Why would anyone care about notifying the GOP in Congress unless they wanted to sabotage the deal? Why would anyone care about whether or not Bergdahl deserted before we got him back?

    Complaining about those only makes sense if you wanted to abandon a solder and leave him behind.

  72. Pinky says:

    @stonetools: Heh. You just cited Rachel Maddow. You didn’t cite Ayotte’s “new round of criticism” of the deal, though.

    “With 29 percent of former Guantanamo detainees having reengaged or being suspected of reengaging in terrorism, the administration’s decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests,” Ayotte said. “It also sets a precedent that could encourage our enemies to capture more Americans in order to gain concessions from our government.”

    http://www.unionleader.com/article/20140602/NEWS10/140609786

    Are you saying that it’s impossible for someone to be critical of that aspect of the deal without being a flip-flopping hypocrite?

  73. michael reynolds says:

    For those more interested in the topic of desertion and how it’s dealt with rather than yet another pointless cheap shot at Mr. Obama, it’s important to recognize that desertion or fleeing in the face of the enemy is far more common than most people think. In World War 2 it was absolutely rampant in Italy and France.

    In the majority of cases the soldier involved can be talked into coming back. Many go on to perform quite well. The same was true in the Civil War, on both sides. Soldiers panic, or they are simply beaten down by stress and exhaustion and walk away, or in some cases, they go off to pursue other opportunities – black marketeering, for example.

    It is extremely rare for American soldiers to be prosecuted for these crimes, in part because experienced combat soldiers know it can happen to any one of them, depending on circumstances. The book I linked to details cases of soldiers walking away from the front in WW2 and very rarely being turned in by fellow combat soldiers. It’s the guys in the rear with the gear who want prosecutions.

    I have less pity for Bergdahl because he was a volunteer soldier, not a draftee, and I don’t believe he was in a lot of combat prior to his walk. But against that is the fact that he has spent 5 years in Taliban captivity, and I’d call that “time served.”

    I have no problem with the charge and I await the court martial. I hope the sentence is compassionate. I expect more from Army officers than I do the dishonest toads who want to blame five deaths on Bergdahl and who it seems were willing to leave him to the Taliban on the basis of a suspicion of desertion.

  74. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Gosh, I’ve never seen anyone frame anything before, so I have no idea what you just did there. 🙂 Can we agree maybe on other things? That the story of his desertion appears to be confirmed by his fellow soldiers, maybe? Or that you can’t possibly know Jack’s motives for siding against Bergdahl?

  75. David M says:

    @Pinky:

    As always, GOP numbers are not to be trusted. The 30% statistic is bogus.

  76. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Nice evasion. I take from that that you cannot explain coherently why it is wrong to bring home an American soldier who at that point had not been charged, let alone convicted.

    And again, the accounts of his fellow soldiers do not support a case of desertion, which is an intentional act. They were not there. They did not see. They inferred – and likely that inference is correct – but they did not see Bergdahl leave, they don’t know why he left, they don’t know if he was looking for a private place to take a dump and got snatched by a Taliban patrol.

    So, again, as I said: In rescuing Bergdahl we were rescuing a legally innocent American soldier from a hostile enemy.

    One can certainly argue that we should not trade prisoners for POW’s, that’s a perfectly valid question which is in no way affected by Bergdahl’s actions – real or suspected. And we have a long history of prisoner exchanges – we traded agents with the Soviets on a semi-regular basis, for example. And even the Israelis swap prisoners with Hamas and Hezbollah.

    So, it’s certainly an interesting question, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions.

    Mr. Obama acted legally and compassionately to bring home an American soldier. It’s certainly a model of legality and propriety when compared to, say, Mr. Reagan’s gift of cake and missile parts to the Iranian regime that pulled the trigger on 241 Marines.

  77. Pinky says:

    @David M: I checked your link.

    “(In the same press conference, Ayotte also cited the 30 percent statistic, but she was careful to note the distinction between confirmed and suspected cases.)”

    Should I count this on my list of people posting links that disprove a person’s argument? It’s iffy. You didn’t exactly say that Ayotte’s figure was incorrect. You said the GOP’s figure. But still, in context, you were apparently challenging Ayotte’s number. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you were trying to lie. To paraphrase Politifact, your comment doesn’t come out of thin air, but it doesn’t give an accurate picture. We rate your claim Mostly False.

  78. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    For those who care, this is a list of Israeli prisoner swaps.

    The most recent one involved getting a single IDF soldier back from Hamas in exchange for 1027 Israeli prisoners.

  79. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    why it is wrong to bring home an American soldier who at that point had not been charged, let alone convicted.

    But “Red State” and “HotAir” and “Fox News” tried and convicted him. Isn’t that enough for you? Sheesh.

  80. michael reynolds says:

    Saint Ronnie O’Reagan repays the killers of 241 Marines with a cake, a friendly note and missile parts.

    Saint Bibi sends 1027 Hamas prisoners home to Gaza.

    And silence from the right. Tumbleweeds.

    Mr. Obama trades five for one and conservatives explode because it’s totally not partisan sniping.

  81. HarvardLaw92 says:

    How in the world is the question of whether or not he should be charged & tried for his actions (on face, without having delved deeply into the matter, it initially seems appropriate) being connected with the question of whether or not we should have gotten him back?

    Have we ventured into some alternate reality where some soldiers matter, but others don’t?

  82. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    They only matter so long as Mr. Obama is not the one to bring them home. Once Mr. Obama is involved, they can rot and die. Republican patriotism.

  83. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: And James P is in fear for his life from evil liberals showing up on his doorstep.

    All your petulant whining under any number of names does not actually make you look appealing to a single human being who isn’t you.

    No, I take that back. Pinky seems to like you– and I can’t imagine two souls better suited to each other.

  84. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yea, I gleaned above that the apparent gripe is that Obama didn’t publicly trash the guy.

    Of course, if he had done so, they’d be complaining to the rafters about his disrespect for American soldiers. There is no intellectual discussion with people suffering from ODS.

    It’s like the oft repeated ditty: If Obama found the cure for cancer, [the partisan hacks that pass for] conservatives [these days] would be bitching about unemployed oncologists.

  85. Tillman says:

    I don’t know why any of you are in this thread when someone continually sets up piñatas in the other thread.

    Just a friend of Maudie’s.

  86. C. Clavin says:

    Check this out:
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/02/american-military-deserters-canada.html

    Between 2003 and 2006, more than 20,000 American soldiers and Marines abandoned their posts.

    Apparently lot’s of guys go AWOL or desert…and hardly anyone ever gets punished.
    It’s only because Bergdahl become a public figure that he is probably going to be.
    So why aren’t all the wingnuts crying about the other 19,999 deserters?
    Excellent question. Most likely because the wingnut websites haven’t told them to.

  87. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: “Nice evasion”? Seriously? You do realize that you dodged me, then when I failed to follow you, you accused me of evading, right? I trust that you’re very careful with words, so when you play games with them, it sort of sticks out.

  88. Loviatar says:
  89. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    Actually I do say it’s hypocritical. You can’t say on one hand ” redouble your efforts to bring our boy home”, and then when a deal is struck, say , “No, you should have let him continue to rot , and maybe risk execution, because you don’t like the deal.

    That was the deal that was on offer. Had it been turned down, the Taliban wouldn’t have offered a better deal: they would have most likely executed Bergdahl and posted a video of it. If that happened, I imagine that Ms. Ayotte and the entire right wing would have condemned Obama for valuing the precious life of an American soldier at as little as “five unknown Taliban terrorists.”
    Obama frankly couldn’t win this one. He’s damned if he let the Taliban execute Bergdahl and he’s damned if he gets Bergdahl back by offering a substantial concession. You can’t beat the second guessing of the 101st Keyboard Commandos.

  90. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    You can’t say on one hand ” redouble your efforts to bring our boy home”, and then when a deal is struck, say , “No, you should have let him continue to rot , and maybe risk execution, because you don’t like the deal.

    She didn’t say that he should have rotted; she objected to the deal. A person can object to the specific deal without being a hypocrite. There’s an old saying that the devil is in the details.

  91. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Dude, all you do is evade. You know, like when you refuse to address the fact that you accused liberals of wanting dead cops?

  92. Pinky says:

    @wr:

    Pinky seems to like you– and I can’t imagine two souls better suited to each other.

    Eh, you’re just saying that because we’re the only two people you can name who don’t agree with you all the time.

  93. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    She didn’t say that he should have rotted; she objected to the deal. A person can object to the specific deal without being a hypocrite. There’s an old saying that the devil is in the details.

    While that is true it once more shows the current Republican “fluffy unicorns” approach to politics. They seem to assume that if they dislike reality enough it will conform to their wishes by magic fiat.

    I kind of miss the time where the Republicans were the hard-nosed realists and the Democrats the kumbaya-singing dreamers :P.

  94. Loviatar says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Dude, all you do is evade.

    This is why I no longer try to convince Republicans/conservatives/neo-confederates of anything. You can’t have a discussion with someone who is not honest. You can’t have a conversation when the other party refuses to bring anything of credence or value to the discussion.

    —–

    Unfortunately we’ve reached a point in our history where one of the two parties to our government refuses to seriously engage in thinking much less governing. I would like explained to me how do you govern a country of 300+ million people with the level of intercourse seen on this site. I truly believe the discussion level on this site is representative of what is being done in Congress. One party is saying lets discuss Climate Change and Global Warming, the other party is throwing snowballs.

  95. Loviatar says:

    @munchbox:

    Snowsballs and global warming in the same sentence…I mean which is it?

    Now is he mocking me or is he really that stupid. I lean on the side of stupidity, mocking requires some intelligence and munchbox has yet to show even cleverness.

    For those interested here is Senator Jim Inhofe attempting to discusses Climate Change and Global Warming by throwing a snowball on the Senate floor. Remember he is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

  96. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    Er, if you object to the deal, then you are saying the deal shouldn’t have been made. At least that’s how the real world understands it. What kind of sophistical distinction are you drawing here?
    Indeed, she went on to say that the deal “endangered the national interest “. Seems pretty clear to me she is saying the deal shouldn’t have been made.
    Conservatives want to have it both ways here. They want to say ” Of course we want Bergdahl home and we’re glad he’s back,” but they also want to criticize Obama and they refuse to give him any crumb of credit, so they badmouth and second guess the deal.Well, you can’t have it both ways. Don’t like the deal? Then just be honest and say up front that you prefer Bergdahl in captivity or dead.

  97. Dave D says:

    @stonetools: That is disingenuous and i say this as someone loathe to have to defend republicans. But they can have it both ways on this. When the POTUS didn’t inform congress of the deal, he opened a door where they can be in the right calling for his return and criticizing the deal. Even though it was pointed out above they keep doing this expecting a better deal to fall in their laps contrary to reality, they had no say on the deal and it became open to criticism regardless to prior statements.

    That said I think hay would have been made regardless from the right.

  98. michael reynolds says:

    @Loviatar:

    Oh, he’s absolutely that stupid.

  99. Dave D says:

    @Pinky: We are pretty lucky to only have a suspected 29% recidivism rate among people who may or may not have been enemy combatants that were shipped to Gitmo without trial. The US should be so lucky to have that rate among it’s prisoners:
    “Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005.[1] The researchers found that:
    Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
    Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
    Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.
    Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order offenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.”

  100. Loviatar says:

    @Dave D:

    stonetools, sorry for jumping in, but context and history matter.
    .

    When the POTUS didn’t inform congress of the deal, he opened a door where they can be in the right calling for his return and criticizing the deal.

    Letter From Senate Republicans to the Leaders of Iran.

    While the letter occurred after Bergdahl release what makes you think the man that said “my number-one goal was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president” would have behaved honorably.

    As said by michael reynolds upthread “Yeah, it’s funny how when people behave dishonorably people start to expect them to behave dishonorably.”

  101. Dave D says:

    @Loviatar: I’m not saying things would have turned out different in regards to criticism. I’m just saying that by not giving them even in private a chance to weigh in/disapprove/potentially sabotage that they can both want him home and disagree with the deal. And again I think this is one of those situations where they’re living in a fantasy world where if they think they should get a better deal they magically will if only they use tough rhetoric. But without giving them the chance to screw things up for political gain they now can have it both ways. I’m not suggesting it should have been done differently just that it is not really a flip flop to want someone back but disagree with the terms that enabled the return.

  102. Loviatar says:

    @Dave D:

    I’m just saying that by not giving them even in private a chance to weigh in/disapprove/potentially sabotage that they can both want him home and disagree with the deal.

    No, I’m sorry as a former soldier I say bring him home then lets talk.

    You’re bending way over backwards to give credence to a group who over the past 6+ years have shown they have no credibility. Why? These people don’t want to govern, they’ve shown this time and time again, they would rather sit in the peanut gallery and shoot spitballs. Why should Obama give them a chance to screw up and possibly cost someone their life?

  103. Dave D says:

    @Loviatar: Again not saying he should have given them a chance to wreck this. I’m only saying they can criticize the deal because he didn’t.

  104. Loviatar says:

    @Dave D:

    I’m only saying they can criticize the deal because he didn’t.

    Yes by being hypocritical. As said upstream (David M) the same people criticizing now were previously demanding that Obama do something to bring Bergdahl home. You may have the patience for hypocrites, but I don’t.

    Governing is hard and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. If however you allow hypocrites to become 20/20 hindsight drivers then when future difficult decisions are needed you may hesitate to make those decisions.

  105. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: So you’ve progressed from crushing on me to trying to fix me up with other people. While still unwelcome, it does count as slightly less creepy and an improvement, so I’ll take it.

  106. Gustopher says:

    @Jack: Having a gun is both a right and a responsibility. If you cannot be responsible enough to be aware of where you are, and follow the local gun laws, then you probably shouldn’t have a gun.

  107. Tyrell says:

    “released 5 Taliban prisoners” : weird, bizarre, ridiculous

    “Served with dishonor and distinction”

  108. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: I’m already regretting this, Cliffy, but I’m going to actually take that comment seriously and address you maturely. PLEASE prove me wrong in those regrets.

    That article doesn’t go into detail on those numbers, and I’m certainly no expert (it’s not like I have a Ph.D.), but it’s my understanding that there is a significant difference between “AWOL” and “desertion,” with the main distinction being how long the solder in question is absent. My suspicion is that most of those cited are short-term disappearances.

    Further, there are many factors that decide how serious a case of “desertion” is. Four of the, again, as I understand it, are 1) length of absence; 2) consequences of absence; 3) conduct while absent; and 4) circumstances of return.

    If some guy freaks out in battle and runs away, then comes slinking back in a few hours, properly ashamed of his conduct, that’s bad, but it’s not terrible. But in Bergdahl’s case, it appears that each factor I cited comes out against him.

    1) Length of absence. He was gone 5 years. Yes, he was a prisoner of the enemy, but he wasn’t kidnapped or captured on the field of battle; his capture was purely a direct consequence of his bad decisions. He (quite possibly) literally surrendered himself into their hands.

    2) Consequences of absence. At least five US troops were killed in trying to recover him. He is responsible for those deaths. And we had to trade five high-value prisoners to get him back. He is also responsible for that.

    3) Conduct while absent. He is charged with cooperating with the enemy while their prisoner. That is a hugely significant charge, and can not be tolerated.

    4) Circumstances of return. He didn’t walk back in, he didn’t turn himself in; again, we had to trade five very important Taliban leaders for his return. Again, he was a prisoner, so he couldn’t have turned himself back in, but his capture is his responsibility, a direct and entirely predictable result of his decision to desert in the first place.

    As I said before, his possible mental illness is a mitigating factor, but there are a hell of a lot of aggravating factors on the table, too. If he is grossly lucky (luckier than he deserves, in my opinion), he will be offered a deal that limits the punishment to demotion to private, forfeiture of all back pay and future benefits, and dishonorable discharge, but no prison time. In my opinion, that would be the minimum acceptable penalty.

    Assuming, of course, that he actually did what he’s accused of. Right now, to me, he looks guilty as hell.

  109. wr says:

    @Pinky: “Eh, you’re just saying that because we’re the only two people you can name who don’t agree with you all the time.”

    No, because you are the only individual I’ve ever met who’s sleazy enough to accuse internet acquaintances of wanting cops killed simply because their politics don’t match yours, and Jenos is the type of creep who wishes he’d come up with that slime first.

  110. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: ” So you’ve progressed from crushing on me to trying to fix me up with other people”

    The truly tragic thing is that outside of Pinky, whom you let sniff your sneakers, I’m probably the best friend you have in the world — and I’m a complete stranger who considers you a minor nuisance.

  111. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: The truly tragic thing is that outside of Pinky, whom you let sniff your sneakers

    I wouldn’t inflict sniffing my shoes on ANYONE.

    I’m probably the best friend you have in the world

    With friends like you, who needs enemas?

  112. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    but it’s my understanding that there is a significant difference between “AWOL” and “desertion,” with the main distinction being how long the solder in question is absent.

    No. The length of time absent is nothing more than one factor, among many, to be considered in determining punishment if convicted.

    The difference between being AWOL (Article 86) and desertion (Article 85) is solely the member’s intent to remain permanently away. Someone who is absent for a day, but who can be proven to have intended to never return, can be charged with desertion. On the flipside, someone who has been gone for 10 years, but who intended to return, is only guilty of being AWOL.

    The problem comes from the policy that the government is allowed to assume that any member who has been absent without authorization for longer than 30 days had no intent of return. The burden of proof that the member intended to someday return then lies with the defense. Not really a fan of that policy, since it presumes guilt prior to conviction, but it is what it is.

    Most of the information available in this case (at least that which is publicly available anyway) seems to consist of suppositions, so it’s going to be a mess at court-martial.

  113. HarvardLaw92 says:

    On the flipside, Bergdahl has a powerhouse of an attorney who is a noted expert on military law, so he’ll be well represented. It’ll play out how it plays out.

  114. Another Mike says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The problem comes from the policy that the government is allowed to assume that any member who has been absent without authorization for longer than 30 days had no intent of return.

    I believe the 30 days is just an administrative determination. Certain administrative actions take place. It doesn’t actually mean a person is legally a deserter.

  115. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Another Mike:

    No, it means that the intent to remain permanently away is considered to be a fact unless and until proven otherwise by the defense. It makes a conviction much easier to obtain.

    It’s the equivalent of you as a private individual being accused of first degree murder. Intent is a critical element of that charge. Without it, the charge is insufficient on face even if the homicide took place on national TV. The burden of proving that element lies with the prosecution due to the common law presumption of innocence afforded every accused.

    Now imagine that the prosecution was allowed to infer intent, and it was up to you to prove that you didn’t have any. That’s what bothers me about the policy – it subverts the presumption of innocence.

    Like I said though, he’s well represented, so his interests will be protected. Desertion in this instance is a lesser included offense in any case. His real problem is the Article 99 charge(s).

  116. gVOR08 says:

    @wr:

    I’m probably the best friend you have in the world — and I’m a complete stranger who considers you a minor nuisance.

    Beautiful.

  117. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Desertion in this instance is a lesser included offense in any case. His real problem is the Article 99 charge(s).

    Yeah, that one is pretty bad. For anyone not familiar, “misbehavior before the enemy” is military-speak for “being a coward and running away in the presence of the enemy.” A key point is the offending soldier doesn’t have to be engaged in battle at the time. All that’s necessary is a “tactical relation” to the enemy, and that condition was amply satisfied in Bergdahl’s case.

  118. Mikey says:

    Here’s an extensive run-down of Article 99 “Misbehavior Before the Enemy.”

    http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/mcm/bl99.htm

  119. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    Exactly. Whether he intended to return or not – i.e. whether he deserted or just went AWOL – is pretty minor in this scenario. The guy pretty clearly violated Article 99, which is why I opined above that the prosecution is appropriate.

  120. stonetools says:

    @Dave D:

    In the end, this is a situation where Obama decided to put recovering a live American soldier over the letter of the law or political advantage-even where that American soldier wasn’t an Audie Murphy or a Sergeant York-someone who we could rally around and celebrate their return.
    I think that’s the right decision.Hopefully, its the decision I would have made had I been President . I can imagine a Doug Mataconis advising me that following the letter of the law should trump the opoprtunity to get Bergdahl back alive and some other advisor telling me about the bad optics of trading a possible deserter for five Taliban leaders. I hope that I would have been able to look beyond all that and make the deal that got Bergdahl back alive.

  121. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    You beat me to it. That’s a good overview of the guidance on Article 99. If folks want to go more in depth, the MCM addresses it in detail here.

    Starts on page IV-33

  122. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @stonetools:

    following the letter of the law should trump the opoprtunity to get Bergdahl back alive

    Not really seeing it that way, although it will certainly be lobbed about as a political football in that context.

    It was absolutely appropriate to do everything possible to secure his return. He’s an American soldier, however dishonorably he may have acted, and we don’t leave our men behind. Period. Given the current political climate and recent actions by certain Senators, the possibility that at least one of them offended by his actions would have acted to derail the negotiations for his release – probably resulting in his death – can’t be ignored. The law in question presumes that Congress will be an honest broker in the events, and that can just no longer be assumed.

    It is also absolutely appropriate to prosecute him for his actions now that he’s home. He has to answer for his conduct.

  123. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jack:

    I care because he is a Marine and was held for 214 days. Period.

    Jesus. He wasn’t held as a Marine because the Marine Corps sent him into a combat zone and he was captured by enemy forces. He was held as a civilian by a foreign government whose territory he entered and whose laws he broke. The fact that you’re a Marine doesn’t give you license to traipse into other countries and break their laws.

  124. Barry says:

    “Even if you believe that everything should have been done to secure Bergdahl’s release from captivity, a position I tend to agree with, it’s fairly clear that the White House mishandled this matter from the start. ”

    No.

  125. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: In the end, this is a situation where Obama decided to put recovering a live American soldier over the letter of the law or political advantage-even where that American soldier wasn’t an Audie Murphy or a Sergeant York-someone who we could rally around and celebrate their return.

    You put it as a binary situation — Obama could either recover Bergdahl, or he could obey the law. BS. Obama chose to ignore the law. The law didn’t say “don’t do these things,” it said “don’t do these things without first notifying Congress.”

    “Your honor, I had to run over that old lady to get the baby to the hospital in time!”

    “The old lady was almost across the street, and there was no other traffic. You couldn’t have swerved three feet and missed her?”

    “I clipped her and sent her flying. If I’d swerved, she might have lunged back into my way and I’d have hit her straight on, and that could have slowed me down!”

    And while we’re talking about things people said about this, once again: Susan Rice, who was certainly in a position to know far more than any of us about this (it’s part of her job description), said that Bergdahl “served with valor and distinction.” We know that’s BS now, but she must have know it was BS then.

  126. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The “presumption” that bothers you seems, to me, to be a logical inference. If someone leaves without permission and doesn’t come back, after a certain length of time you have to assume they don’t intend to come back.

    If you’re pinned to the ground and someone is repeatedly hitting you in the head, it’s safe to assume they want to kill you.

    If someone punches you in the head and grabs for your gun, it’s safe to assume they want to kill you.

    Bergdahl, before he walked off, sent home his laptop and other personal possessions. That is not the action of someone who plans on coming back in fairly short order.

    Oh, and thank you for your clarification of my earlier points. I wasn’t certain I was right, but you confirmed I was at least in the ballpark.

  127. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    If someone leaves without permission and doesn’t come back, after a certain length of time you have to assume they don’t intend to come back.

    No, you as a prosecutor have to prove that fact. If the evidence supports the assertion, you’ll have no problem doing that, but there is (or should be) no universe in which the prosecution just gets to say that you are guilty and you subsequently have to prove that you aren’t.

  128. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You’re seeing it through the lens of a prosecutor. I’m talking average person.

    And we have similar principles in the law already, don’t we? If you’re gone for a certain time, then you can be presumed “missing.” After a longer time, you can be presumed “dead.”

    Debts that go unpaid for long enough are considered defaulted.

    Being apart for a specified length of time is considered abandonment.

    Children left unattended for a certain length of time are considered abandoned.

    In cases like Bergdahl, one can argue that extenuating circumstances prevented the return.

    In murder cases, do the prosecutors have to prove that the victim was a human being? Do they need to introduce the victim’s birth certificate and medical records to show that John Doe was born alive on such a date, and DNA analysis to conclusively demonstrate he was a homo sapien?

  129. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You’re seeing it through the lens of a prosecutor. I’m talking average person.

    Ask your “average person” whether, when they get charged with murder, they would prefer to be considered guilty until proven innocent or considered innocent until proven guilty. I don’t imagine you’ll get many people opting for “guilty, please”.

    And we have similar principles in the law already, don’t we? If you’re gone for a certain time, then you can be presumed “missing.” After a longer time, you can be presumed “dead.”

    Debts that go unpaid for long enough are considered defaulted.

    Being apart for a specified length of time is considered abandonment.

    Children left unattended for a certain length of time are considered abandoned.

    None of these scenarios involve criminality.

    In murder cases, do the prosecutors have to prove that the victim was a human being? Do they need to introduce the victim’s birth certificate and medical records to show that John Doe was born alive on such a date, and DNA analysis to conclusively demonstrate he was a homo sapien?

    At the risk of encouraging you, what is your point?

    Asking myself, yet again, why I take the bait …

  130. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: My point, originally, was to apply a little common sense to the situation. You’re doing yeoman’s work at showing just how incompatible The Law is with common sense, however…

    This strikes me as exceptionally pointless, and I have an appointment with numerous variations of alcohol to get to, but OK, let’s limit it to criminal cases.

    In grand theft auto, does the prosecution have to prove the accused did NOT intend to return the car, or can they assume that they took it and intended to keep it?

    In attempted murder cases, can the prosecution just note that the victim was shot four times, and not eliminate the possibility that the shooter only intended to scare/wound the victim?

    Hell, in drug cases, possession over a certain amount is considered “trafficking,” even if there’s no indications other than the quantity of drugs that the accused intended to sell/distribute them.

    In Bergdahl’s case, he left no indicators that he intended to return (not even a “BRB-BB”) note, and he shipped personal property back home. And since he didn’t come back of his own volition, that makes it fairly clear to me that he didn’t intend to.

    Not to worry, though; there’s no way in hell I’d ever be on his jury. So I don’t need to worry whether or not my opinions satisfy some lawyer (who also has no chance in hell of being involved in the case).

  131. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    In grand theft auto, does the prosecution have to prove the accused did NOT intend to return the car, or can they assume that they took it and intended to keep it?

    Grand theft auto is a form of theft, typically defined by a minimum dollar amount of value. In that regard, the prosecutor normally (it varies by state) has to prove:

    1) that the taking occurred, and;

    2) requisite intent to permanently deprive the victim of the property.

    So yes, proving intent is a required element of securing a conviction. It is not assumed.

    In attempted murder cases, can the prosecution just note that the victim was shot four times, and not eliminate the possibility that the shooter only intended to scare/wound the victim?

    Again, no. Murder charges (again, it varies by state) are delineated along the lines of premeditation. This is a gross simplification (I’m not teaching criminal procedure here …) but Premeditation = 1st Degree, no premeditation = 2nd degree. Intent is a required element of both offenses. The number of shots fired could be suggestive with regard to intent, but again, that’s the job of the prosecutor to prove. The presumption is that there was no intent until proven otherwise.

    Hell, in drug cases, possession over a certain amount is considered “trafficking,” even if there’s no indications other than the quantity of drugs that the accused intended to sell/distribute them.

    Again, this varies by state, but the amount alone is not normally sufficiently probative, in and of itself, to mandate guilt. The amount can be considered by a jury to infer intent, but that is a case by case phenomenon decided by individual juries. It’s not a statutory mandate.

    In Bergdahl’s case, he left no indicators that he intended to return (not even a “BRB-BB”) note, and he shipped personal property back home. And since he didn’t come back of his own volition, that makes it fairly clear to me that he didn’t intend to.

    And I don’t necessarily disagree, but that is a question of fact which the prosecutor should be tasked with establishing beyond a reasonable doubt.

    That said though, like I’ve observed above, you are focusing on the forest and missing the trees. The desertion charge is a relatively minor lesser included offense to the Article 99 charge(s). That is the one which has the potential to put him in prison for life.

  132. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: That said though, like I’ve observed above, you are focusing on the forest and missing the trees.

    That’s because you’re working from a flawed assumption, brought about by your own prejudices. And that’s entirely understandable.

    The Article 99 charges are the most important aspect to Bergdahl and his defense team. And you’re identifying with them because you’re a lawyer, too, and far more used to being on the defense than the prosecution.

    Me? I got nothing to identify with either side, and no stake whatsoever in the case. That means that to me, the most important aspects are the ones I find most interesting. For my own reasons, that’s the root cause here, the initial circumstances that led to everything else. Here, that’s Bergdahl’s desertion. He’d never have had the opportunity to violate Article 99 (OK, allegedly violate Article 99) if he hadn’t (allegedly) deserted.

    As I see it, these are all entirely predictable consequences of his decision to desert. He packed up and shipped home his most prized possessions (which, to me, is pretty convincing evidence that he was planning on leaving and not coming back), then walked off base. That, to me, was a betrayal of his fellow service members and a renunciation of his oaths.

    Once apart and bereft of protection, it is entirely predictable that he would end up in the Taliban’s hands. Anyone who encountered him would see him as a valuable possession, and the surest way to collect on that value would be to give him to the Taliban. Turning him back into the US would be of dubious value, and could get you painted as a collaborator with the infidel invaders. And even the “neutral” choice of simply leaving him alone as he walked through Afghanistan simply means that the next guy will have the opportunity to make the same choice: grab the crazy American and turn him over to the Taliban. Sooner or later someone’s gonna cash in on it.

    And once Bergdahl is in the hands of the Taliban, there are pretty much two possibilities. Either he’s a willing collaborator, or he’s a prisoner. Considering that his greatest use to the Taliban (remember, he was a private when captured) would be in propaganda videos and a tradable asset, that’s how they’re going to use him. And regardless of his state of mind at the beginning, that’s where he ends up. Either he’s tortured and coerced into cooperating, or he willingly cooperates and lies about having to be tortured and coerced into cooperating. Because he’s more valuable as a prisoner than a collaborator; the US would be more interested in getting back a prisoner than a collaborator. Or, at least, we should be.

    To me, the Article 99 charges reinforce the argument that he was a deserter, with no intention of returning. We understand that when our troops are captured and tortured, they will eventually break. We don’t punish them for giving up intelligence or cooperating with the enemy after they have been tortured. So, as I see it, the fact that Bergdahl is being charged with Article 99 offenses says that he didn’t have to be coerced too severely.

    Again, that’s me as a layman speaking, with absolutely no stake in the matter and nothing helping me to identify with any party (apart, of course, from my 3 Ph.D degrees, two Medals of Honor, five MacArthur Genius Grants, and the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval). You have what you consider the most important elements here, and from your perspective, you’re absolutely right. I respect that, and understand why you believe that. It’s just that I don’t share it.