Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion, but also the much more obscure charge of “misbehavior before the enemy” and may face life in prison.
While the desertion charge was widely anticipated, the misbehavior charge is drawing considerable attention because of its rarity. It has hardly seen any use since World War II.
“I’ve never seen it charged,” Walter Huffman, who formerly served as the Army’s top lawyer, told The Associated Press. “It’s not something you find in common everyday practice in the military.”
Part of the reason for the misbehavior charge, listed under Article 99 of the military justice code, is that when Bergdahl left his unit in Afghanistan in 2009, he put the lives of other soldiers from Observation PostMest in Paktika Province at risk, who spent time searching for him when he disappeared. In effect, misbehavior is an attempt to add context to the “quitting” charge of desertion. At the time the charges were listed, soldiers from Bergdahl’s platoon applauded the move.
“The Army did the right thing here,” Cody Full, who served in a platoon with Bergdahl, told USA Today. “You give an oath,” Full added. “You sign your name to serve your country. no matter what you’re supposed to fill that oath.”
But at least for Bergdahl’s sake, the Pentagon does not believe that any soldiers died during the search.
After Bergdahl deserted his unit, the Taliban took him hostage, and he was eventually released after a controversial prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay May 31, 2014, which is also the date his status as deserter concluded.
A Government Accountability Office report determined that President Barack Obama had violated the lawby not giving lawmakers 30 days of notice before the transfer.
Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, believes that his client is being charged twice for the same misdeed.
Bergdahl’s court appearance for the Article 32 hearing is set for Sept. 17 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.