Just look at this guy. Occupying a country where alcohol is taboo. Taking steroids. To the Afghans he’s got to look like some creature from hell. Then he gets life in prison. I can’t argue for more. I don’t believe it is man’s place to destroy God’s work if not in self defense (self defense is protecting God’s work). This piece of human debris is not solely to blame and shouldn’t be the only one to pay. Anyone, and I mean anyone who hasn’t done anything to attempt to keep our men from aggressive war is also to blame. But certainly his officers and our government officials should be punished for their involvement in this affront to nature called American foreign policy. Sergeant Bales is a symptom of a deranged nation.
Wall Street Journal (I lost the paper and I coulda sworn it was last week sometime. Now the date is 2013. Could this be a typo in The Journal?)
Soldier Gets Life in Massacre
Jury Denies Staff Sgt. Robert Bales Possibility of Parole in Murder of 16 Afghans
By JOEL MILLMAN
Updated Aug. 23, 2013 4:42 p.m. ET
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash.—It took a jury of six soldiers less than two hours Friday to condemn Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the premeditated murder of 16 Afghan civilians during a rampage in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in March of 2012.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales ENLARGE
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales ASSOCIATED PRESS
Staff Sgt. Bales, a 40-year-old career soldier and a veteran of combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, had agreed to plead guilty in June in order to avoid the death penalty.
He showed no emotion when the sentence was read in court. The day before, he told the court that the commission of his crimes was an “act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bull— and bravado.”
Staff Sgt. Bales is an Ohio native who had served with distinction on other deployments.
The massacre of Afghan civilians was one of the most shocking atrocities reported from a region where the U.S. has deployed troops since 2001. The soldier’s arrest, and subsequent evacuation from Afghanistan for trial in the U.S., sparked angry protests in Afghanistan, as did the U.S. military’s decision earlier this yearto accept his guilty plea.
An Afghan villager holds his head as he listens with other Afghan villagers who traveled to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to testify at the sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. ENLARGE
An Afghan villager holds his head as he listens with other Afghan villagers who traveled to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to testify at the sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The sentencing stage of the trial that began on Monday concerned only whether Staff Sgt. Bales would go to prison with, or without, any chance for an eventual release.
From the beginning, U.S. authorities presented the defendant as a soldier who deserved little sympathy. Lt. Colonel Jay Morse, the Army’s lead prosecutor, called Staff Sgt. Bales “a man of no moral compass.”
The prosecution offered a graphic depiction of the crimes, at one point displaying a photograph of a girl’s bloody corpse, lying next to her father, who the defendant also admitted to killing. Lt. Colonel Morse ran a surveillance videotape of the defendant returning to base from his rampage, and said it depicted “the methodical, confident gait of a man who has accomplished his mission.”
John Henry Browne, who directed the soldier’s defense team, left the base without speaking to media assembled for the trial. Later in the day, in a telephone interview with The Wall Street Journal, he called the sentence “disappointing, but totally understandable.”
Mr. Browne added: “We won the case when we got the death penalty off the table, which we thought was going to be the best we can do.”
Afghan boys joined the men as they talked with reporters Friday. ENLARGE
Afghan boys joined the men as they talked with reporters Friday. ASSOCIATED PRESS
In courtroom proceedings earlier this summer, the defense team indicated it would present testimony concerning combat stress and the defendant’s suffering of a traumatic head injury, as well as his abuse of alcohol and steroids, in order to persuade a U.S. Army court that Staff Sgt. Bales deserved at least a possibility of parole, which he would be eligible to seek after serving 20 years in a military stockade.
Also expected to come up as an issue at trial: the military’s own culture, which critics say encourages U.S. troops in Afghanistan to act aggressively, even if soldiers placed noncombatant Afghans at risk.
But during a week of proceedings here at this military base south of Tacoma, Wash., the Bales defense team presented little more than character witnesses on the defendant’s behalf. Staff Sgt. Bales’ defense ended when he took the stand to apologize to the many Afghan witnesses called by the prosecution.
Afterwards, several of those survivors addressed media assembled for the trial, and denounced the sentence as inadequate. “We wanted this murderer to be executed,” said Haji Mohammad Wazir, like Bales a 40-year-old father. Mr. Wazir said that among the dead and wounded civilians Staff Sgt. Bales admitted he assaulted were eleven members of his family. “We came all the way to the U.S. to get justice, and we did not get that,” he said.
Mullah Baran Noorzia, another Afghan witness, scoffed at a U.S. justice system that allows defendants to raise issues of combat stress or mental incapacity to reduce their punishment. “He is not crazy,” Mr. Baran Noorzia said. “He is a murderer.”
Write to Joel Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org