Bowe Bergdahl Charged with Desertion but May Still Get an Honorable Discharge?

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Obama administration was crowing about their efforts to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the clutches of the Taliban. But in politics, things can turn and change rather quickly… and the Bergdahl fiasco is no different.

Now the Obama administration is trying to keep tis distance from Bergdahl in the hopes that whatever happens with the erstwhile solider, it will happen quietly and out of range from the Obama administration.

For the last few months military officials has been debating on how to proceed with Sgt. Bergdahl’s case. There were various options before them, and its no doubt that the Obama administration was probably hoping that the army might choose to simply find Bergdahl innocent and discharge him from duty. This would have been the lightest of “penalties” that the army could have handed down, and it would likely have been the quietest as well. However, the military was also considering charging him for being AWOL (absent without leave) or for desertion.

On Wednesday, the military announced that they had decided to charge Bergdahl with the most serious charge they could muster, desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

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What remains unclear for the now disgraced soldier and former Taliban captive is how things will proceed. Will the military decide to court-martial Bergdahl if he is found guilty, how will he be punished… or indeed, WILL he be punished? He could face life in prison, but there seems to be at least an outside chance that he still may receive an honorable discharge – which certainly strains credulity.

Under the misbehavior before the enemy charge, Bergdahl faces a maximum punishment of confinement for life, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to private and total forfeiture of pay and allowances since the time of his disappearance, Army officials said. The desertion charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to private and a total forfeiture of pay and allowances.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham both had strong reactions to the news.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Arizona, called the charges an “important step” on Wednesday.

“This is an important step in the military justice process towards determining the accountability of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that the Department of the Army will continue to ensure this process is conducted with the utmost integrity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, meanwhile, lambasted the “unevenness” of Obama’s swap of five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

“I wouldn’t have done this trade for a Medal of Honor winner,” he told CNN. “No military member should expect their country to turn over five Taliban commanders to get their release. Nobody should expect that. It’s not the nature of his service that drives my thinking it’s just the illogical nature of the swap”.

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