Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has admitted to slaughtering the villagers in attacks on their family compounds in Kandahar province in March 2012. A military jury has sentenced a US soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year to life in prison without a chance of parole.
He pleaded guilty to the killings in June in a deal that spared him the death penalty, and a sentencing jury of six military personnel deliberated less than two hours on Friday before deciding he should spend the rest of his life in prison.
Haji Mohammad Wazir took the witness stand during the sentencing of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, to describe the impact of losing 11 family members in the attack, including his mother, wife and six of his seven children.
Wazir received $550,000 in condolence payments from the US government, out of $980,000 paid in all. He told the six-member jury that the attacks destroyed what had been a happy life. He was in another village with his youngest son, now five-year-old Habib Shah, during the attack.
“If someone loses one child, you can imagine how devastated their life would be,” Wazir said. His son “misses everyone”, he said. “He hasn’t forgotten any of them. I’ve gone through very hard times. If anybody speaks to me about the incident … I feel the same, like it’s happening right now.”
Defense attorneys had contended that Bales carried out the killings after suffering a breakdown under the pressure of the last of his four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury even before shipping off to Kandahar province.
The U.S. Army soldier spoke to the jury Thursday, calling the massacre an “act of cowardice” and asking jury members for leniency in his sentence.
When the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, asked Bales why he carried out the rampage, Bales said: “I’ve asked that question a million times, and there is not a good reason in the world for the horrible things I did.”
Afghans have expressed outrage that Bales is not being put to death, and some called for him to be tried in Afghanistan. The brother of Mohammad Daud, who was slain in the massacre, told CBS News that not putting Bales to death shows that “America is encouraging its soldiers to kill Afghan people, destroy and torch their houses, then come to America (and receive) a Medal of Honor.”
“We wanted this murderer to be executed, but we didn’t get our wish,” Wazir said through an interpreter Friday from the Washington state U.S. Army base where the sentence was handed down.
“I’m asking the average American right here: If somebody jumps into your house in the middle of the night and kills 11 members of your family and tries to burn them, what punishment would you be passing on that person?”
The Taliban vowed to retaliate “by killing and beheading Americans anywhere in the country.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai suggested, after meeting with villagers who’d seen the carnage and wanted Bales to be tried there to “heal our broken hearts,” that the incident had put U.S.-Afghan relations at a breaking point.
If America is to improve its image, there must be accountability, Haji Mohammad Naim said. And if Washington wants to help rebuild Afghanistan, “try to send the right people, not maniacs and psychos like (Bales).”
It is good to remember at this point that the same military court of the US sentenced Aafia SIddique several life-times amounting to 86 years for shooting at and American solider in self-defense, and compare that with a US solider killing 16 innocent civilians in sheer barbarism, which is being given cover up of psychosis. Maybe Bales was in a psychic phase but the US military court should analyze its own conduct and standards of justice, looked upon by all sectors of humanity; justice is a state that leaves all parties satisfied to the optimum level of possibility, else it may well be thought of as justice un-done.