Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, says Army General Mark Milley will make the final call on whether to criminally charge Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Kirby said there are a range of charges that could face the soldier who left his post in Afghanistan and was held by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange. NBC and Fox News, citing unnamed sources, reported yesterday that Bergdahl will face the most severe charge of desertion which is punishable by death - though only one service member has been executed for desertion since the Civil War. Bergdahl's lawyer could also argue the soldier intended to return to base but was captured.
How tough would it be to prove a desertion case in a court-martial? Even with a lesser charge, Bergdahl could lose his health benefits, including mental health care. Would that be just? What political dynamics are at play?
Rachel VanLandingham, Lt. Colonel (Ret’d., U.S. Air Force); Former U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate (2000-2012); From 2006-2010, legal advisor for international law at Headquarters, U.S. Central Command, where she advised on operational and international legal issues related to the armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq; Associate Professor, Southwestern Law School in LA
Geoffrey Corn, Lt. Colonel (Ret'd., U.S. Army); Former Army Judge Advocate (1992-2004); 2004-2005, Special Assistant to The Judge Advocate General for Law of War Matters and Chief of the Law of War Branch, Office of The Judge Advocate General; Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law