Monday, June 2, 2014

The Bergdahl case

Sgt. Bowe R. Bergdahl
U.S. news media are alive with stories like this one about Sergeant Bowe R. Bergdahl, who has been released in a swap for five Taliban Guantanamo detainees. The case raises a host of fascinating issues: Is he guilty of desertion? Should he be prosecuted, given the fact that he endured years of involuntary captivity? What account should be taken of the fact that six U.S. soldiers died trying to rescue him? How does his case compare with that of Sergeant Charles R. Jenkins, who deserted to North Korea during the Vietnam War? Issues of a political nature are on the table as well: Did President Obama violate federal law by agreeing to the release of detainees without informing Congress? Does his authority as commander in chief trump congressional limitations on his range of options? Did he simply drive a poor bargain, including by letting the Taliban select the detainees to be released. Will Congress try to exert influence over the charging decision? Will the case become a political football in the continuing debate over reform of the military justice system? Watch this space.

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