Has over a decade of War caused the Military to lower its Recruiting Standards and overlook troops in trouble?
Afghan Massacre- What do we know? What does it say?
US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was a war hero, veteran of 4 combat tours. No man could have been asked to do more, yet he was and he did…. And then the wheels came off. He served his country, but now he stands accused of an atrocity unheard of in United States Military since the Court Martial of Lt. William Calley in connection with the Mi Lai Massacre. On a night in March of this year Bales went on 2 separate trips off his base in Afghanistan
and allegedly murdered 16 civilians. After the murders he piled up and burned the bodies.
A timeline is emerging, and details, both horrifying and bizarre.The chain of events was apparently started with Bales drinking alcohol with other soldiers in a combat zone, a violation of Army Regulations. Then things become fuzzy for awhile as Bales prepared for what would mark the lowest point so far of the US Occupation of Afghanistan. Witnesses to the shooting spree gave some indications he appeared drunk as he was carrying out the killings.
This week via Satellite from Afghanistan some children and old men fortunate enough to be spared in the massacres testified about Bales killing children, wantonly. Apparently after the first round of atrocities he returned to base where he woke a fellow soldier and boasted of his deeds. Though I am sure he is wracked with guilt, who can blame this guy for writing it off as crazy drunk talk and simply going back to sleep? Because here we are after the fact with overwhelming evidence that he did these horrible things and I still can’t believe it.
What happened to this man? Was it something stateside? Was it the brutality he must have experienced in combat tours that amount to more time than anyone ever was able to serve in WW2? A conflict which lasted just under 4 years after the Pearl Harbor Attack and ended in decisive victory?
Bales, according to witnesses, indiscriminately killed women and children in what I can only call a blood orgy. He was armed with an M4 sub-machine gun with an under barrel grenade launcher, a pistol and a knife. All were used in the attacks according to wikipedia. He was wearing his combat pants, helmet, a headlamp, some nightvision gear and a cape of some sort made from what a report called ‘a decorative window or door fabric’. On top of the fact that Bales actions alone show he was
insane, at least at that point, this is pretty freaky.
A cape? Did he imagine himself some avenging Superhero? Because outside Star Trek Villains and comic book Superhero’s I don’t see a lot of people working the cape. Hamid Kharzai, who I think is insane DOES wear a cape and is not a superhero. Whether or not Kharrazi is a Star Trek Villain is an open question. His name, manner of dress and apparent gracious yet malevolently inept nature do fit the mold.
Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the gripping testimony, given through translators, was apparently the final murder of the spree. Bales piled the bullet riddled corpses, many stripped naked, on top of each other. At this point, after dealing out so much merciless death, Bales was perhaps only an observer to his own actions in some ways, the man’s mind is unquestionably deeply damaged.
Grimly, purposefully, he made the funeral pyre. He set the fresh corpses on fire. As the flames spread and consumed those already murdered, Bales went back and seized another victim, a two year old girl, and simply threw her into the flames still alive to burn with her family. Given the afterthought quality of killing this child, who would never be able to testify against him, in such a gruesome and painful manner, one wonders if the verdict against Staff Sergeant Bales can be anything but Death. Certainly if this crime is not befitting a Death Penalty, then there should be no Death Penalty at all.
The Los Angeles Times provides further detail, related by a man named Adin who happened on the scene the next morning and spoke to survivors in the aftermath of the killings : “He described a grisly scene of bodies, many of them naked, burned in a pile; of women and children who had been shot directly in the head; of Nabiyah, less than 2, who it appeared was not shot. ‘It seems like she was just brought alive from her bed and put on fire,’ Adin testified. Two of the children, 4-year-old Fareeda, and 3-year-old Palwasha, had boot marks on their faces. ‘It appears she was kicked, because I saw some shoe mark on her face,’ Adin said of Fareeda. The other child, he said, had such marks on both her head and the rest of her body.”
The military personnel thanked him and Adin finished his Afghan massacre testimony with this simple appeal: “My request is to get justice.”
There are no words I can add to this to underscore the hideous nature of the crimes or the deeply damaged mind that sits inside of the body of what was once Robert Bales from outside Cincinnati, Ohio. Sadly the good man who was Robert Bales exists no more. He died inside when he took up a weapon and left the base. The collection of nerves, bone, muscle and tendon left behind is no longer what would be considered human anymore. If the deaths of Afghani civilians, mercifully low compared to what the Soviets did to them, do not pull at the conscience of the American people, perhaps the tale of a man who left behind the fields and factories of the American midlands for the mountains of Afghanistan to serve his country and was consumed by the War will.
What happened to this man? It raises questions as to what has been gained by remaining in Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden is dead. The brutalization of something like 3 generations of American soldiers who are veterans of more combat than any other American Veterans of any American War ever will be unfolding until the last Veteran passes away . This will not help the already unfair image of the PTSD affected vet, unemployable and mangled inside from years of grueling sacrifice.
Bales is an aberration. He went off the deep end in a way your vet neighbor never will, but he has perpetuated a stereotype.
One of the most disturbing things about the situation is how anyone could have been sent back after so much combat time. Are we sending people to combat way too much because the nation would never stand for a draft? Even worse, would the war have ended decisively and quickly if there had been a draft?
SSgt Bales is like Major Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter in some ways. Most similar is that fact that clearly, he was not qualified to continue serving, yet no one caught it or it was ignored because of man power problems. The thought that unfit people are being trained and weaponized is disturbing.
If the burden of war has now extended to a lowering of military recruiting standards it poses a danger in and of itself. No amount
of head shrinking can mitigate severe damage or plumb the depths of a determined or exceptionally dark or clouded mind. That’s not the point, the point is, can the military lay out a justifiable case that they are still screening as well as they once did? Could SSgt Bales have been found out and rehabilitated, perhaps honorably discharged contingent on continuing aftercare BEFORE he was sent back to do what he did?
This is just one more reason we need to leave Afghanistan and consider the idea of simply quarantining it as an outlaw nation, something like ‘Escape From New York’, but on a national scale.
Maybe that’s Utopian but we had better start thinking of something, because Mission Creep is a chronic disorder and now it seems the casualties on our side have mounted in ways the most farfetched episode of “Homeland” could never imagine.