Of Desertion and Dangerous Precedents

Army officials announced Wednesday they would charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy, charges the could land the controversial figure with life imprisonment. Surprise greeted the announcement; both the military and the Obama administration have been largely silent as it pertains to Bergdahl’s ultimate fate. Many critics thought political pressure would keep Bergdahl safe; President Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban detainees for the soldier was met with considerable opposition. To now confirm that he did so on behalf of a solider who went AWOL will only cast more doubt on the wisdom of that trade.

An independent review of the situation by the Government Accountability Office found that President Obama not only violated the tenets of sound leadership by making the trade, but that he actually broke the law. The GAO said that he should have consulted with lawmakers in Congress before authorizing the exchange. Then again, this is Obama we’re talking about. He doesn’t recognize American law when it conflicts with his political goals. In this case, he and his supporters have argued that it was incumbent upon him to bring a captured soldier home using any means at his disposal.

“We ask that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of the case emerge,” said Bergdahl’s attorneys in a statement. “We also ask that government officials refrain from leaking information or engaging in other conduct that endangers our client’s right to a fair trial.”

But while Bergdahl’s lawyers fight to keep this case from being tried in the court of public opinion, they simultaneously released details of his five-year captivity in Afghanistan in the hopes of garnering sympathy for their client. According to Bergdahl, he was kept in complete isolation, exposed to periods of constant light and constant darkness, and chained to a bed for much of his imprisonment.

Harsh though his conditions may have been, most U.S. troops and military veterans do not believe his captivity should excuse him from further punishment. They insist that by deserting his post, he endangered the lives of his fellow troops.

Bergdahl is hardly the first American solider to walk away from his army. What becomes of him now is largely inconsequential as it pertains to the integrity of our military. On the other hand, Obama’s decision to unilaterally negotiate with the terrorists who held him sets a dangerous precedent. When it comes down to it, Obama is the real deserter here; he has deserted the honorable office of the presidency and he has taken leave of his responsibilities as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Whether the released Taliban terrorists ever return to the battlefield or not is immaterial. That he even created the possibility is inexcusable, incompetent, and un-American.

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