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Afghan Killings: What Will They Mean to Military Families?

Afghan Killings: What Will They Mean to Military Families?

Photo: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division  August 23, 2011 at an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort  Irwin, Calif.

In the past two months, the military community has been reeling from a surplus of terrible news. From the bloody riots that followed the burning of the Koran in Bagram  and the retaliatory killings of seven coalition servicemembers to the inexplicable killings of 16 innocent civilians by a Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army, the news has been terrible.

Family agony

I have never met Staff Sgt. Bales. In the midst of the horror of seeing the pictures of dead children younger than my own granddaughter, I also thought of his children. Watching the grieving of the family members of those civilians murdered in their beds in the middle of the night, I thought of his family too. Nothing can ever excuse what he did. Nothing. And whether we will ever learn the truth of why he may have done this, I do not know.

Mrs. Bales is a member of a very small community. We share the experiences of the sleepless nights, the grinding worry, the highs and lows of multiple deployments. When I think of her children, I think of the children of my friends, the little ones who ask “where’s daddy” every morning; the sullen anger of the teenager who realizes that his dad will miss yet another year; the acting out in defiance of a tween who still cries at night because her daddy’s not home.

The Bales family, who has been sequestered on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is living through something none of us can imagine. I, with many others, was relieved that SSG Bales’ name was not released until his family had been informed and brought to a safe place.  The nightmare that they are living is something I don’t think any of us can ever imagine.

Staff Sgt. Bales’ actions cannot and should not ever be excused. Many of us hope that, while we may not ever know the real reason for what he did, we might be able to see the other factors that led to this breaking down of a man. Whether or not SSgt. Bales is one of the over 200 soldiers whose PTSD diagnosis was overturned by the head of the Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis McChord will come out during pretrial or trial.  The media has seized on many “facts” with, I would assume, the usual percentage of truth, falsehoods and misinformation. While I may have an opinion, I will wait to hear what truth might trickle through the legal maneuvering.

Not all the same

While we mourn the deaths of those sleeping villagers, our community asks that America not paint all of our returning veterans with the same brush. There are tens of thousands of honorable men and women who have served, who may have been wounded, and who have come home and continued their lives. They continue to be members of communities of faith, scout leaders, cops, firemen, doctors, lawyers and guys at the corner gas station.

Many of them may have been diagnosed with PTSD and no one around them will ever see it or know it, and they should not be treated as being damaged. The old stereotype that I remember after Vietnam, a crazed gunman, a hermit in the woods or a powder keg waiting to explode may be even further revived. We dread knowing that, having served their country, these veterans might be treated differently, be shunned and treated as “damaged goods” with ramifications up to and including not being able to find jobs or housing because of this stereotyping.

Together with millions around the world, the grief, shock and sadness of this action has run through my community. But we also mourn for his family, his wife and his children whose lives have been turned upside down; and we wait to hear why.

 

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AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock

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170 comments

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2:42AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

It would meen a great deal to those families if the murdering pieces of crap were all caught after a proper investigation. It's clear now that the chief pos didn't act alone. Go to the link to see all as well as a video of winesses.

http://warisacrime.org/content/msnbc-evidence-multiple-shooters-night-raid-sgt-bales-case

MSNBC: Evidence of Multiple Shooters, Night Raid in Sgt. Bales Case
Ralph Lopez

April 25, 2012

The first story was shaky from the start, that Sgt. Robert Bales "sneaked" off a combat outpost into hostile, landmined territory in the middle of the night, walked north a little over a half mile to a village, engaged in bloody murder, then walked back that half mile, past the base, and another mile south, killed more people, then turned himself in at the gate, all within an hour. Sharp-eyed bloggers did the math and recalled from other reports that Bales has part of a foot missing from a wound in Iraq, making the feat all the more remarkable.

Among the dead were a number of children, including a two-year-old.

Two weeks later the Pentagon's story changed, and Bales had managed to sneak off the base twice over a longer timeline:

"Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is suspected in the shooting deaths this month of 17 Afghans, sneaked off his remote outpost twice during his alleged 90-minute rampage in two Afghan villages, two senior U.S. o

10:10PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

A tragedy... long term!

8:32PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

As awful as the tragedy of Trayvon Martin is, in our (necessarily important) following of him and all the petitions on Care2, the butchery by Robert Bales of the 17 Afghan civilians has disappeared into the ether. Where are the petitions? Where is the hue and cry? Will this butcher be allowed to slink off into 3 months of jail time and released because we forgot or ignored this to happen?

There is NO justification for this - he doesn't have PTSD; he wasn't deployed any more than many good non-butchering soldiers there; he didn't have a buddy that was hurt or killed days previously (one of his many lies); he DOES have a long history of beating up on women; and he has a long history of unethical abuses of family, neighbors, driving, and his credit.

The guy is a slimeball who must be overjoyed that Trayvon wsa murdered because now the nation's attention is on Zimmerman instead of Bales.

Please, do not forget. Stay angry about this - keep it in the headlines.

We must never forget.

1:52PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

michael. you still didn't answer my question. Not voting for Hitler would not have prevented the terrible tragedies he committed. Wishful thinking would not have stopped it. Assuming your simply not voting for Hitler didn't remarkably prevent the slaughter that ensued, what else would you suggest? Do you believe just asking everyone to not join the military would have stopped Hitler, and made his army go back home? I am not in favor of war, as I have stated numerous times. I do not want our soldiers in Iraq, or Afghanistan. I do not want us to bomb Iran, or Syria. So, please stop stating I should listen to my dad. I agree with him. I DO NOT WANT WAR!! Now, again, what else would you have done if Hitler's armies were subjugating other countries - wished it away? I'm puzzled by your blanket statements, when sometimes there are no alternatives.

1:13PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

If i lived in germany at the time John, i would not have voted for him...If you've read so much why not "War is a Racket" by a US Marine General...? It''ll change what you think, and to whit, i would have joined the White Rose' in Hamburg...Which is basically what i do know in ameirca. Different times,but pretty much the same. A nations military being used for a vile agenda,a agenda old as the caves...war for profit...That is what i despise. And if we didn't have people joining these killing gangs for profit,we would not have war. We must convince people not to join the military thereby becoming mere unthinking,slaves with guns who kill at orders without question,without thought,without God...Its really quite simple...Thou Shalt not Murder! Love thy enemy...Forgive...etc...Armies are used by liers and cheats for profit...War is a racket and if we didn't have troopers, they couldn't make war....Its really so simple. Everyone finds an excuse to commits act collectively that individually they would and should recoil with every fiber of their soul..... Wars would end if the dead could live again. But so many who've never been to war find it so easy to anoint them glorious and worthwhile while they have never killed,never heard the screams of the dying calling for their mothers or seen shattered children dead by their own guns....How can you support what you know not of? You can't no matter how many books you've read....Listen to your Dad....Their is no glory in murder,never

12:17PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Mmmm michael, please do not distort what I said. I am note excusing in any what what the soldier did, killing all those innocent women and children. And, I have read a couple hundred books on WW II, including the Nuremberg trials. However, Rommel refused to carry out any orders that violated international treaties. He was also implicated in the bomb plot to eliminate Hitler, for which he paid for with his life. So, he would never have had to stand trial at the Nuremberg trials. Also, I hope you realize General Guderian never had to stand trial either. There were plenty of German soldiers, who were not members of the Nazi party, who refused to carry out orders.
I am curious, however, if you are ALWAYS against any military action? What would you have done about Hitler?

6:54AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Cont'd

Gen. Karimi, assigned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate the murders, told Hakim that he, too, wonders whether Bales acted alone and how he could left the base without notice.

"Village elders said several soldiers took part and that there is boot prints in the area," Karimi told Hakim. He said villagers told him that they saw three or four individuals kneeling and that helicopters were overhead during the rampage.

"To search for him?" Karimi said he asked them.

"No," he said they told him. "They were there from the very beginning."

6:53AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Cont'd

Noorbinak, 8, told Hakim that the shooter first shot her father’s dog. Then, Noorbinak said in the video, he shot her father in the foot and dragged her mother by the hair. When her father started screaming, he shot her father, the child says. Then he turned the gun on Noorbinak and shot her in the leg.

"One man entered the room and the others were standing in the yard, holding lights," Noorbinak said in the video.

A brother of one victim told Hakim that his brother’s children mentioned more than one soldier wearing a headlamp. They also had lights at the end of their guns, he said.

"They don’t know whether there were 15 or 20, however many there were," he said in the video.

Army officials have repeatedly denied that others were involved in the massacre, emphasizing that Bales acted alone.

Bales, who was flown to a maximum-security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was charged last week with 17 counts of murder and six attempts of attempted murder.

The massacre came several days after a roadside bomb attack that cost one soldier his leg. Village residents told reporters and Afghan government officials that after the roadside bomb attack, U.S. troops lined up men from the village against a wall and told them they would pay a price. The Pentagon has denied those allegations.

Gen. Karimi, assigned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate the murders, told Hakim that he, too, wonders whether Bales acted alone and how

6:52AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Child witnesses to Afghan massacre say Robert Bales was not alone (video)
By msnbc.com staff

March 29, 2012

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/29/10927844-child-witnesses-to-afghan-massacre-say-robert-bales-was-not-alone#.T3UN1HgLaHE.twitter

Here are two versions of what happened the night of March 11, when 17 Afghan villagers were shot to death.

First, the Army version: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, troubled by marriage woes, drunkenly left Camp Belambai, 12 miles from Kandahar, with a pistol and an automatic rifle and killed six people as they slept. Bales then returned to the base and left again for another village, this time killing 11. He acted alone and he admitted to the killings, according to the Army.

Then there is the account that child witnesses provided Yalda Hakim, a journalist for SBS Dateline in Australia. Hakim, who was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to Australia as a child, is the first international journalist to interview the surviving witnesses. She said American investigators tried to prevent her from interviewing the children, saying her questions could traumatize them. She said she appealed to village leaders, who arranged for her to interview the witnesses.

In the video, the children told Hakim that other Americans were present during the rampage, holding flashlights in the yard.

Noorbinak, 8, told Hakim that the sho

6:41AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Mmm john...so your saying that if one person in the act of a brutal gang rape, if one does not personally rape the victim then he is not accountable for the crime? Even if he protects his gang members from others who are are trying to stop the rape? Seems to me here that you,someone who has never been involved in war or at least in the military is defending such. Typical of so many who haven't been in the military or defend it because a family member was in it. Nepotism then allows any crime, any injustice because 'it's family' and they thought it was a worthy cause to do at the time. They defend what they do not know for goals that perverted and obscene. Rommel was a man of honor in a most dishonorable crime. Yet he defended that dishonorable act with his skills and so hence by linear logic,by law,by common sense became just as guilty as the rest. Read the Nuremberg Trials. Your argument was attempted by the German leaders on trial as their core argument. 'Gee, your honor we wus just following orders you can't pin the blame on us.' READ The eloquent answers that became the basis of international law at the individual level; In essence WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTABLE to our probity,to our conscience and your individual sense of morality supersedes, overrides any order that violates your probity. You have not just a right but an obligation to not commit what you know is a crime. One death committed by another is murder but to allow politicians to order us to do it by the thou

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