No reason for Afghan massacre: Soldier

2013-06-06 08:31
In this courtroom sketch, US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, left, stands in a military courtroom as his wife, Kari Bales, right, looks on during a plea hearing at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. (Peter Millett, AP)

In this courtroom sketch, US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, left, stands in a military courtroom as his wife, Kari Bales, right, looks on during a plea hearing at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. (Peter Millett, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington — A US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, many of them women and children who were asleep in their villages, pleaded guilty to murder and acknowledged that there was "not a good reason in this world" for his actions.

Robert Bales' plea on Wednesday ensures that he will avoid the death penalty for the nighttime slayings that so inflamed tensions with Afghans that the US military briefly suspended combat operations there.

Prosecutors say Bales slipped away before dawn on 11 March 2012, from his base in Kandahar Province. Armed with a 9mm pistol and an M-4 rifle equipped with a grenade launcher, he attacked a village of mud-walled compounds called Alkozai, then returned and woke up a fellow soldier to tell him about it.

The soldier didn't believe Bales and went back to sleep. Bales then left to attack a second village known as Najiban.

Relatives of the dead were outraged at the idea that Bales could escape execution when they spoke to The Associated Press in April.

"A prison sentence doesn't mean anything," said Said Jan, whose wife and three other relatives were killed. "I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge."

First public account

A jury will decide in August whether Bales is sentenced to life with or without the possibility of parole.

Wednesday's proceedings marked the first time the 39-year-old Bales provided a public account of the massacre.

At one point, the judge asked Bales why he killed the villagers.

"I've asked that question a million times since then," Bales replied. "There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did."

Bales said he decided to kill everyone after struggling with one of the women.

Survivors who testified by video link from Afghanistan during a hearing last year vividly recalled the carnage.

Taking drugs

A young girl described hiding behind her father as he was shot to death. Boys told of hiding behind curtains as others begged the soldier to spare them, yelling, "We are children! We are children!" A man told of being shot in the neck by a gunman "as close as this bottle", gesturing to a water bottle on a table in front of him.

The deaths raised questions about the frequency of combat deployments and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bales was serving his fourth deployment. Until the attacks, he had a good, if undistinguished, military record in a decade-long career. He suffered from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, his lawyers say, and he had been drinking contraband alcohol and snorting Valium — both provided by other soldiers — the night of the killings.

Bales said he was also taking three doses of steroids each week to make himself "smaller, leaner, more fit for the mission", and to help him recover quickly after rigorous activity.

The drugs "definitely increased my irritability and anger", he said.

Given Bales' prior deployments and apparent PTSD, military law experts have suggested that a jury is unlikely to sentence him to death. Defence attorney John Henry Browne had sought to place blame with the military for sending Bales back to war.

Read more on:    us  |  afghanistan  |  afghanistan shooting

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.