It was a typical March night in Southern Afghanistan for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales and his fellow soldiers. They watched “Man on Fire”, a fictional account of a former CIA operative on a revenge spree. Cpl. David Godwin testified that Bale seemed normal as they shared whiskey and discussed Bales’ anxiety over whether he would get a promotion and about another soldier who lost his leg a week earlier in a roadside bomb attack. Shortly before leaving the base, Bales told a Special Forces soldier that he believed that the troops should have been quicker to retaliate for the March 5th bomb attack.
The next day, March 11th, Bales allegedly slipped away from the remote outpost with an M-4 rifle equipped with a grenade launcher to attack the villages of Balandi and Alkozai, in a dangerous district. Morse, the prosecutor, said Bales broke the killings into two episodes. Bales walked first to one village, returned to the base, and then slipped away again to carry out the attack on the second village. Between the episodes, Bales told a fellow soldier about shooting people at one of the villages, Morse said. The soldier apparently took it as a joke and said: “Quit messing around.”
After the attack on the second village, “a caped figure captured on surveillance video came running out of the darkness to the edge of a remote Army outpost in southern Afghanistan. Blood was smeared on his face, prosecutors said, and soaked into his clothes. Less than a mile away, 16 Afghans, including nine children, were dead, some of their bodies on fire in two villages.” When Bales was taken into custody, he said: “I thought I was doing the right thing.” He also asked one of the soldiers, “Did you rat me out? Did you rat me out?”
Bales, 39, was serving his fourth combat tour after three stints in Iraq. He now faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder. The hearing is said to last up to two weeks. The defense did not give an opening statement. Bales lawyers, Emma Scanlan and John Henry Browne said that Bales remembers little to nothing about the two attacks. They also declined to say to what testimony they hope to elicit that can be used to support a defense of mental defect. Bales himself will not make any statements.
Bale’s arrest prompted a national discussion about the stresses that soldiers face from multiple deployments. This event was also described as “one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars”.
Was Bale simply a vigilante soldier? Did he take the war into his own hands, because he did not like the way the U.S. was fighting it. Or was he so overworked from multiple deployments that he cannot be held responsible for his actions? Do you think he should even be charged? Do you think a defense of insanity has any merit?
Source: The Associated Press