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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Army Is Seeking the Death Penalty for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales

Posted by on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 2:05 PM

That's the latest news in the case of Sergeant Bales, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (just south of Tacoma). As you have probably heard, he is accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan:

The Army has charged that Sergeant Bales, 39, who was serving his fourth combat tour, walked away from a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan and shot and stabbed members of several families in an ambush in two villages in the early morning hours of March 11. At least nine of the people he is accused of killing were children.

Sergeant Bales has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have cited post-traumatic stress and a head injury. (Also note: four combat tours.) For the death penalty to be imposed, "the court-martial panel must unanimously find Sergeant Bales guilty" and then the death sentence must "be approved by the president to be carried out."

 

Comments (23) RSS

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1
I cannot reason why Americans claim mentally ill people should not own guns when its government sends PTSD-scarred soldiers on multiple tours of combat duty. My cousin's hair is prematurely white now, he has had three tours of combat duty, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and we cannot visit unless he is having "a good day."

Please teach me about your people.
Posted by Glad my cousin was not charged with this massacre on December 20, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Former Lurker 2
If the victims were American, he would get the death penalty. Obama will let this one slide as a life sentence....
Posted by Former Lurker on December 20, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
WFM 3
Not sure what to think of that. Obviously the premeditated slaughter of women and children merits the death penalty, if anything does. However this smells a bit like the Army wanting to make this embarrassment just go away. An NCO held responsible for many troops, on a fourth combat tour, diagnosed with PTSD, under financial strain at home, taking **steroids and psychoactive medications**... really, Army?

It's like you take a friendly Golden Retriever, train it as an attack dog, put it in a dogfighting ring multiple times, pump it full of drugs, chain it to a fence, and then when it bites a child you're all OMG BAD DOG, PUT THAT DOG DOWN.

That in no way exonerates him, and there are plenty of troops under similar stress who don't attack villages, but... I don't know. The facts will come out, I hope.

Posted by WFM on December 20, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Pick1 4
@3 It's a horrible tragedy which is the consequence of horrible circumstances that were completely avoidable.

The problem with that example, though, is that we would be all over the owners of the fucking dog as abusive, terrible assholes. The army will get a shrug, and a "war does terrible things to people" and not even a slap on the wrist.
Posted by Pick1 on December 20, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Gern Blanston 5
Considering what just happened in Connecticut, I doubt that Obama is predisposed to show any mercy to a child killer.
Posted by Gern Blanston on December 20, 2012 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 6
Kurtz: It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.
Posted by Max Solomon on December 20, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 7
What @1 said.

Why should we refuse to allow mentally ill people to own guns when we already send our military into so much combat that it drives them insane?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on December 20, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 8
@3 nails it.

While Bales should not be let off for killing a bunch of people, the government should be at least partly liable as well. We can't keep sending these guys back over there again and again and again, and expect that nothing could possibly go wrong.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on December 20, 2012 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Cascadian 9
I don't think any government should execute any convicted criminal.

I can see why they want to in this case--not only because of the innocent victims, but to show people in Afghanistan that our soldiers there are accountable for at least some of their criminal acts. People will be very upset in Afghanistan if Bales is sentenced to life in prison.
Posted by Cascadian on December 20, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 10
Remember, all those PTSD fellows will be back home in the States soon enough. If you thought Timmy McVeigh was a bad one .....
Posted by Sir Vic on December 20, 2012 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 11
@6
Strange, I was thinking the exact same thing.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on December 20, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 12
@8: Indeed. There's a whole discussion right here on SLOG about holding the mother of the Sandy Hook killer partially responsible for his crimes - after all, she raised him up, and she purchased the weapons that he used.

Well, the United States of America made this man, and it put a gun in his hands.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on December 20, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
OOF POOF 13
Plenty of soldiers do four combat tours and DON'T return broken shells of their former selves and DON'T murder Afghans.
Posted by OOF POOF on December 20, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 14
I have no problem with the death penalty. Some crimes deserve death. See Charles Rodman Campbell.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 20, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Teslick 15
13 & 14 are correct. Bales isn't a dog or automaton.
Posted by Teslick on December 20, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
16
I admit that I haven't been following this case at all...how did they find out he did this? Did someone turn him in, or was it video or Wikileaks or what?
Posted by zobot http://wsu.academia.edu/zoealeshire on December 20, 2012 at 7:13 PM · Report this
17
@13 Well that's a load off my mind - not ALL soldiers and veterans become lone-wolf mass killers of children.

[FWIW: I think the military made this guy. When you run X number of guys and gals through what this guy was deliberately put through, a certain percentage are going to develop this man's psychological state. We have to hold some kind of punishment up as an example to those who have more self control than Bales, but a Bales or a group of Baleses is a predicted outcome of the process, which our military tries hard to minimize. We the people of the United States through our representatives have determined that, like the children killed by drones personally approved of by President Obama, the civilians killed by Bales are an acceptable side-outcome relative to the overall goals. So, put him away, but death penalty? The @3 dog training analogy is pretty on target here. Did you know that the US military concluded after WW I that only 15 to 20% of soldiers actually fired at the enemy? An enormous amount of effort has gone in to figuring out how to get that rate up, way up, since that time, but that doesn't mean it is healthy or that the same emotional/moral processes can be expected from those individuals who have learned to do what they in their hearts once believed to be wrong. ]

In the last year the VA treated 100,000 Iraq and Afganistan war vets for PTSD.

According the VA stats:

- About 11-20%, or 11-20 out of 100, Iraq or Afghanistan Veterans experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [note: 2.4 million soldiers have served in Iraq]

- - Less than half of soldiers with mental health problems seek treatment.

Between 10 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Possible consequences of this internal injury include anger, suicidal thoughts, and changes in personality.

Fort Drum base commander Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates estimates that 20% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans turn to heavy drinking or drugs once they return to the U.S.

[Note: I was listening to the former director of the ATF talking, as a gun supporter (!), about how the Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle used by the Newtown killer is a favorite weapon of veterans. Woo Hoo!]
More...
Posted by cracked on December 20, 2012 at 9:24 PM · Report this
18
Correction: my stats for willingness to fire on the enemy are actually for WW II. In Vietnam they believe they got the rate of those willing to shoot to kill up to 95%, but that sounds high to me...
Posted by cracked on December 20, 2012 at 9:32 PM · Report this
19
@14,

There might be a better example, but I'm at a loss to remember one - at least child molester/murderer Westley Alan Dodd had the good grace to not cooperate with his defense attorneys and demanded to be executed. I drank a toast to that fucker's death the night they dropped him.

That said, I think Bales may well be not guilty by reason of insanity - but I can also see why the Army can't exactly go that route given the politics of the situation.
Posted by Hanging is too good for some people on December 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM · Report this
20
@12, I believe the Sandy Hook killer had a father also, who had had joint custody and perhaps should have been exercising that to the point where he knew there were guns in the house and his son was not doing well. Stop with the automatic mother-blaming.
Posted by sarah70 on December 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 21
@20: Read my comment again. I'm not the one blaming his mother.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on December 20, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Report this
22
@21, I'll take your word for it, but you made that particular analogy, so it pretty much sounded like you were.
Posted by sarah70 on December 20, 2012 at 11:11 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 23
No one deserves execution.

No matter what their crimes.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on December 21, 2012 at 5:42 AM · Report this

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