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Letter: Let military justice prevail

With new reporting about U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stating he was tortured by the Taliban, there will be increased sentiment to let him off without military charges. It is vital for morale of the military that despite sympathy for him, the Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense ensure the Uniform Code of Military Justice is implemented.

The UCMJ is the foundation of military justice established in the Constitution. Both the President and Bergdahl took oaths of office to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Bergdahl's oath specifically agreed to conduct himself according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The UCMJ is not a draconian tool used to control our citizens in the United States military. It provides for good order and discipline required to conduct military missions, including fighting wars. Individual soldiers do not have the right to ignore it at their whim.

Although strong prima facie evidence from soldiers in Bergdahl's unit indicates he deserted, UCMJ procedures will get to the truth. These procedures include an Article 32 investigation to determine any charges. During this, he can cross-examine witnesses and present evidence. If facts warrant, he should be charged with desertion. However, facts could lead to lesser charges, including AWOL, failure to obey an order or regulation, or an Article 134 violation which reads in part, "… all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces …"

If convicted, this is the correct time to consider the circumstances of his detention to determine any appropriate punishment, not before potential charges are investigated. The bottom line is the Commander in Chief cannot treat this situation as the Politician in Chief. It is time for our government leaders, including our senators and congressman, the press and the public to honor the legacy of our military justice system, the soldiers who served and even died for it in the past and especially the ones who gave their lives trying to bring home a brother soldier who did not serve with distinction nor live up to his oath.

If you agree that our military should use the UCMJ as it was intended and to which Bergdahl agreed to in his oath of enlistment, please contact your legislative representatives now and ask them to demand military justice.

Dennis Mitzel

Hampstead

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