Archive for Monday, March 19, 2012

Many willing to cut Afghan shooting suspect slack

March 19, 2012


Bales to meet with lawyer today

With formal charges looming against his client within days, the lawyer for an Army sergeant suspected in the horrific nighttime slaughter of 16 Afghan villagers was flying Sunday to Kansas and preparing for his first face-to-face meeting with the 10-year veteran.

John Henry Browne of Seattle said he planned to meet today with Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is being held in an isolated cell at Fort Leavenworth’s military prison.

Bales, 38, hasn’t been charged in the March 11 shootings, which have endangered relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan and threaten to upend U.S. policy over the decade-old war. But formal charges are expected to be filed within a week, and if the case goes to court the trial will be held in the United States, said a legal expert with the U.S. military familiar with the investigation.

That expert said that charges were still being decided and that the location for any trial had not yet been determined. If the suspect is brought to trial, it is possible that Afghan witnesses and victims would be flown to the United States to participate, he said.

— He is accused of the kind of crime that makes people shiver, the killing of families in their own homes under cover of night, the butchery of defenseless children. Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment.

Not so in the case of Robert Bales — at least, not for some Americans.

So far, many seem willing to believe that a 10-year U.S. military veteran, worn down by four tours of combat and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, simply snapped. That somehow there must be, if not an excuse, at least an explanation.

Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its warriors.

‘A turning point’?

On the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War, organizer Aaron Hughes declared that Afghan war veterans “believe that this incident is not a case of one ‘bad apple’ but the effect of a continued U.S. military policy of drone strikes, night raids, and helicopter attacks where Afghan civilians pay the price.” Those veterans, he wrote, “hope that the Kandahar massacre will be a turning point” in the war.

“Send a letter to the editor of your local paper condemning the massacre and calling for an end to our occupation in Afghanistan,” Hughes wrote.

On March 11, authorities say, Bales, a 38-year-old married father of two from Washington state, stalked through two villages, gunned down civilians and attempted to burn some of the bodies. The dead included nine children.

In Lake Tapps, Wash., neighbors knew Bales as a patriot, a friendly guy who loved his wife and kids, and a man who never complained about the sacrifices his country repeatedly asked of him. They find it hard to believe he could be capable of such depravity.

“I kind of sympathize for him, being gone, being sent over there four times,” said Beau Britt, who lives across the street. “I can understand he’s probably quite racked mentally, so I just hope that things are justified in court. I hope it goes OK.”

Paul Wohlberg, who lives next door to the Baleses, said: “I just can’t believe Bob’s the guy who did this. A good guy got put in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

No exceptions

Talk like that infuriates Fred Wellman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Fredericksburg, Va., who did three tours in Iraq. He said comments like those of Bales’ neighbors and his attorney simply feed into the notion of “the broken veteran.”

Wellman does not deny that 10 years of war have severely strained the service. But while others might see Bales as a wounded soul, Wellman sees a man who sneaked off base to commit his alleged crimes, then had the presence of mind to “lawyer up” as soon as he was caught.

“That may play well with certain circles of the civilian community, which doesn’t understand our lives,” Wellman said. “But he’s going to be tried by a military court ... and chances are three or four of those guys had things happen to them, may have had three or four tours, may have lost people, may have been blown up. And NONE of them snapped and killed 16 people.” He added: “It’s just too easy, and a lot of us, we’re not buying it.”


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

"Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Murder Is Not an Anomoly in War by Chris Hedges

"The war in Afghanistan—where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal—feeds the culture of atrocity. The fear and stress, the anger and hatred, reduce all Afghans to the enemy, and this includes women, children and the elderly. Civilians and combatants merge into one detested nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short. And murder happens every day in Afghanistan. It happens in drone strikes, artillery bombardments, airstrikes, missile attacks and the withering suppressing fire unleashed in villages from belt-fed machine guns."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism The latest atrocities in Afghanistan are just par for the course.

by Glen Ford’s-achilles-heel-its-barbaric-racism

jaywalker 6 years, 2 months ago

"the American government is asking too much of its warriors."

No freakin' doubt about it.

pace 6 years, 2 months ago

Who ever is running AP has bizarre journalist standards. Several stories like this. On this, not so many ready to blow off murdering families, children, after all the stress. Not so many. What a horror story, and what a horror headline. No, I am not ready to give slack. I am ready for information, but it would be insane to give slack for murders without information.

booyalab 6 years, 2 months ago

"Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment."

A life sentence with possibility of parole and lots of plea bargaining, right? I assume we are talking about the same America.

booyalab 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually, in most courts in this country he would probably get an insanity plea.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

I need to get more info before I decide on what punishment Sgt. Bales should receive. As a former Marine who was in Bosnia in 96', I have sympathy with how combat can have an affect on someone but when I think about the 9 childeren who were murdered, it is a tough pill to swallow. I will wait for more info but my condolences go out to all involved.

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