Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the man blamed for an infamous massacre in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan (the 16 victims include men, women and children), is facing sentencing. His lawyer has asked for leniency
Then survivors took the stand. The Army flew in nine of them. Yesterday, it was the turn of two men who'd been away from the village at the time of the massacre. They told the court what it was like to come home and find their families' partially-burned bodies stacked up like cordwood.
Forty-one-year-old Khamal Adin recalled seeing the corpse of an infant with a shoe print on her face. Then his cousin, Haji Muhammed Wazir, took the stand. He lost his mother, his wife, his brother and six of his seven children. Through an interpreter, Wazir said that even now, more than a year later, it feels to him as if the massacre is still happening.
After the prosecutor's last question, Wazir asked to make a further statement. The judge didn't allow it. That frustrated Wazir, who clearly had something more he'd planned say.
Too bad, because there is evidence that Bales was not the sole perpetrator of this atrocity:
The earliest news reports said that more than one party committed the crimes
(in two separate locations, miles apart), and foreign press accounts continued to take that possibility seriously even after the military fingered Bales. Locals reported multiple killers
who communicated via walkie-talkie. Survivors reported that the assassins were brought in by military helicopters
The bodies were wrapped in blankets, stacked like logs, and set afire. I find it hard to believe that one man could move so many corpses, and wrap them in blankets -- while simultaneously holding his weapon
. Think about it: If Bales had no helper covering him, he would have to keep the rifle in his hand and his finger near the trigger at all times.
Why would a lone killer even bother
to burn the bodies (and thereby eradicate forensic evidence)?
Perhaps the reports of multiple assailants are in error, but so far, I've not seen anyone mount a detailed argument to that effect. I outlined the case for conspiracy in this earlier post
How did he [Bales] get out of the base at 3 am unchallenged and without anyone’s knowledge? How did he manage to do so much damage alone?
We are told that, after killing a number of people in one village, Bales went back to his base to restock his ammo. I presume that the base has a guard. I also presume that a Staff Sergeant would need to give the guard a reason to be out and about at that time of night. Unfortunately, Bales' guilty plea means that we may never learn the details of how he (supposedly) got in and out.
Odd, isn't it, that the court decided to "edit" the eyewitness testimony so tightly?
I suspect that what Wazir wanted to tell the court had to do with a story reported in the Australian press but not our own: Days before the massacre, a bomb took out an American tank, and an officer told the villagers that there would be a retaliatory strike against the entire community.
‘After that, they came back to the village nearby the explosion site. The soldiers called all the people to come out of their houses and from the mosque,’ he said. ‘The Americans told the villagers ‘A bomb exploded on our vehicle. … We will get revenge for this incident by killing at least 20 of your people,’ Mr Rasool said.
Even after the massacre, the hell did not cease:
One Mokhoyan resident, Ahmad Shah Khan, told The Associated Press that after the bombing, U.S. soldiers and their Afghan army counterparts arrived in his village and made many of the male villagers stand against a wall.
"It looked like they were going to shoot us, and I was very afraid," Khan said. "Then a NATO soldier said through his translator that even our children will pay for this. Now they have done it and taken their revenge."
Soldiers from the base have been linked to other atrocities and crimes. The 2010 Maywand District murders involved JBLM-based soldiers. Also in 2010, a recently discharged AWOL soldier from JBLM shot a police officer in Salt Lake City. In April 2011, a JBLM soldier killed his wife and 5-year-old son before killing himself. In January 2012, a JBLM soldier murdered a Mount Rainier National Park ranger. In two separate incidents, unrelated JBLM soldiers have been charged with waterboarding their children.
Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of a veterans resource center near Fort Lewis, said that the Kandahar killings offer more proof that the base is dysfunctional: "This was not a rogue soldier. JBLM is a rogue base, with a severe leadership problem", he said in a statement.
Bales himself is known to have psychological difficulties. From the beginning, he has claimed to have no memory
of what actually happened on that night. Nevertheless he has pleaded guilty (to avoid the death penalty) and has offered an apology. If he receives life with the possibility of parole, he could be out in 20 years.
So my questions are simple:
1. Will Bales receive more lenient treatment than Bradley Manning did?
2. Was Bales made the scapegoat for others? (In which case, shouldn't
he receive leniency?)
3. Aren't the true villains the men who made policy
Before you answer the third question, let me reprint this segment from my previous post. This report comes from the former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan:.
The method employed is simple: Identify those who provide financial support or protection to the militants. And those who even have sympathies with them. Constitute teams which would go to the houses so identified, knock at the door and as soon as the wanted man appears, shoot him dead. At times a substitute is killed who may be a guest in the house but was unlucky to greet the intruders at the door. On an average about 50 night raids take place daily. And every night about 25 people are killed in cold blood in different parts of the country.
The abominable practice of night raids was introduced by that much trumpeted and widely acclaimed head of the US forces Gen Stanley McChrystal. The idea was to save US ammunition and soldiers on the one hand and to eliminate all those who show any inclination to support the resistance. The assassination of targeted persons in cold blood is an insidious innovation in counterinsurgency. McChrystal’s successor Gen David Petraeus continued this cowardly programme that has become an entrenched tool of policy in counter-terrorism.
And yet the one we are supposed to despise is poor Bradley (now Chelsea
) Manning -- whose only real sin was releasing video proof of a similar atrocity.