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Letter: Deserter, not prisoner

“We bring our boys home” has been an important goal of our military for captured POWs. But it makes little sense in the case of a deserter who chooses another “home.” A man who leaves his post, weapon and gear behind is not a prisoner of war but a deserter under Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As a former judge advocate general for the Army Guard, I know that article also provides for the death penalty if desertion occurs during a time of war, which it clearly was five years ago in Afghanistan.

Of the five Taliban commanders President Obama traded for Sgt. Bergdahl, two were wanted by the United Nations for international war crimes for the killing of thousands of Afghan civilians. Does anyone think President Truman would have traded two Nazi war criminals for a deserter?



(The writer is a former congressman for the New Hampshire’s 2nd District and a former New Hampshire Supreme Court and superior court judge. He also retired as a colonel from the New Hampshire Army National Guard.)

Legacy Comments14

Chuck Douglas is absolutely correct. After 30 days AWOL, you are technically a deserter. But a few facts as that may be inconvenient but have been reported. Bergdahl talked about how much be disliked our mission. Soldiers searching for him were killed, at least 6 of them. He asked two young children of the as he crawled through the grass where to find the terrorist cell. He wrote things saying that he wanted to defect. 99% of his fellow soldiers knew he was AWOL, bottom line, Chuck Douglas is right.

No, CD isn't "correct", Itsa. On the contrary, as a retired colonel he should know better than to be offering his two-cents in a current military matter; especially one of this magnitude.

Chuck Douglas, go make your deserter point, in person, to Sgt Bergdahl's parents. I dare ya, pal.

Talk about being tried in the media. This guy had no business being there in the first place from initial information. Bottom line, he is an American and should be treated that way. What we traded for his release was inconsequential at best. No one in Guantanamo has been convicted of anything in all the years t hey have been detained. I am sorry Chuck, but if some of these "high value" were wanted by the UN for trial - why were they not handed over? This is a typical Catch-22, Obama is damned for the trade, but if he had left someone to die as a prisoner, he would be dammed as well. A no win. Bottom line - political posturing.

Your defending the swap GCarson with the idea that they would have killed him. He was there 5 years. obviously the US had something they wanted or they would have killed him. Your going on the assumption that President Obama had no bargaining power. They pretty much knew that they could get what they wanted, that is why they did not kill him. Just a matter of time. They also knew that President Obama makes a lot of threats he does not follow through with. The issue has never been if we should cut a deal. The issue is the deal we cut was a bad one. And it was done ignoring advisors who stated that it was a bad deal. Do I think they would have killed him? No I do not. They knew they could get a deal, just a matter of time. It was in their best interests to keep him alive. They kill him they have no bargaining power and get nothing.

when you watch the video - the "captors" are waving goodby

More leaking out on Bergdahl. Latest info is that he was discharged from the coast guard. He told his friends he did not like it so he faked being mentally ill to get out. So he appears to be not what he seems. Again, the issue for me is who was swapped. Taliban stated that they are now empowered to capture more Americans to get what they want. They will capture more little birds to get the US to release their friends in Gitmo.

Watching Sec Hagel testify this morning. He defends the 5 Gitmo Detainees in the swap this way. He states they were planners and had not participated in attacks on Americans. The question about dealing with terrorists was handled by Hagel this way. We had a middleman, so we were not dealing directly with terrorists. And of course the Dems on the panel asked no questions of Hagel that would involve getting anything answered. Just gave political speeches about how the right is creating another witch hunt for political reasons. And of course wasted their time by telling Hagel how terrific he is. You cannot make this stuff up folks.

Someone would also think any lawyer and judge would wait until all the facts were known before making a decision. Too bad for people who must have appeared before you in court. Also I had heard an army lawyer say that a soldier must be gone 30 days before being considered a deserter. Bergdahl was captured a few hours after leaving his base.

Actually Tillie, you are judging before knowing all the facts. Even Congress cannot get the facts. Like everything else with this administration, it will take a court order to get any info. This is not about Bergdahl. It is about the terms of the swap. And what that means for us security wise and if in fact this decision will harm our soldiers on the ground. What message are we sending to our enemies?

Actually, Rabbit, I am not judging. It is the "judge" Chuck Douglas who is judging calling Bergdahl a "deserter. Of course the righties on here jump to conclusions but I assumed a judge might just wait until the trial was over to give his opinion. Or maybe you didn't even read his letter. I seem to notice some commenters here seem to only read the replies before they jump into to disagree without seeming to have read the original post by their cohorts. Maybe they get tired of reading the same old complaints over and over too.

You'd think a former NH Supreme Court Justice would have a better understanding of the UCMJ. The person in question went UA twice before and returned. It would be very difficult to prove desertion in this case. Another point, it wouldn't have mattered what the POTUS did in this circumstance, Conservatives would have complained, regardless.

That time I checked, Bergdahl had neither been tried nor convicted for desertion.

*Last time I checked* grr.

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