Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier President Obama traded for five Taliban detainees at Gitmo, will not be going to jail, despite the fact that he went absent without leave in Afghanistan.
This prompted the president to take to Twitter:
The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
The president’s reaction is not surprising. On the campaign trail, Trump had called for Bergdahl to be executed as a “dirty rotten traitor.” That would have been a considerably harsher sentence than the one Bergdahl received.
Certainly a fine and a dishonorable discharge is a far cry from a firing squad.
Execution was never an option, but military prison was
In any case, execution was never on the table. The prosecution was seeking 14 years in a military prison.
The last time the military resorted to capital punishment was in 1961, when U.S. Army Private John A. Bennett was hanged for rape and attempted murder.
The last deserter to be executed was Eddie Slovik in 1945. He was one of 49 soldiers who were given the death penalty for their desertions in World War II. His was the only one whose sentence was carried out.
“They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army; thousands of guys have done that,” Slovik said before facing a firing squad near the French village of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines.
“They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for. They’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.”
Eddie Slovik is likely the last example the military has the stomach to make. This is a country that no longer puts soldiers to death for deserting their posts. That’s probably a good thing, but the president isn’t likely to be convinced.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie ‘Bowe’ Bergdahl, center, 31 of Hailey, Idaho, arrives at the Ft. Bragg military courthouse with his attorney Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt (left) for a pretrial military hearing on May 17, 2016, in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faced charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.)