The Trial Proceedings and Bales’ Admission of His Crimes
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was prosecuted at a Washington base court for murdering 16 people during his deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Bales revealed to prosecution that he had formed the intent to kill the 16 victims, most of them women and children. Despite his chilling statement, he was unable to proffer a motivation behind his attack, and stated that he had “no good reason” to kill.
How a Murderer Managed to Escape the Death Penalty
Considering the graveness of the allegations, and Bales’ unwavering admission of his crime, it is surprising that he managed to escape the death penalty. The law states that the death penalty “is unique in its rejection of rehabilitation of the convict as a basic purpose of criminal justice.” Furthermore, “a death sentence cannot be obtained unless the sentence is in furtherance of its interest in retribution, in deterrence, or in the elimination of those likely to kill again.”
In this case, Bales avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty for the 16 counts of murder. Defense attorney Emma Scanlan attempted to soften Bales’ case by stating that her client was suffering from PTSD and a brain injury, and was under the influence of alcohol and Valium at the time of the murders. The judge seemed to believe in Bales’ potential rehabilitation. However, the question remains whether Bales is a cold-hearted killer with good attorneys. The prosecution’s theory is that Bales premeditated his attack after a bomb had hurt one of his fellow soldiers the night before. The judge seemed to believe in Bales’ potential rehabilitation. However, the question remains whether Bales is just a disturbed killer with good attorneys.
Strained Relations with the Middle East
Needless to say, Bales’ attack was brutal and painful not only for the victims but also for those who survived his rage. The young children and adults who testified against Sgt. Bales will return home with sadness, bitterness and disappointment at American troops in general. Not that America needed anything to add to its deteriorating reputation, of course. Most importantly, however, the Taliban swore revenge for the killings, and now has an even stronger impetus to fight back against the American troops as well as against the civilians on American soil. In a macabre quid pro quo, Sgt. Bales’ thoughtless and “inhuman” course of action in Kandahar is sure to compel Afghan retaliation.
Public Opinion on the US military
According to a recent NY Times poll, sixty-two percent of Americans do not support military deployment in Syria, and fifty-six percent of Americans similarly disapprove of military forces in North Korea. When the nation is increasingly reticent about the US military dipping into other countries already, news about slaughter and destruction committed by US soldiers adds insult to injury. Whether to preserve a facade or soldiers’ honor, the government hides most war crimes from American society. Accordingly, it is more and more difficult to look at US soldiers as role models. Soldiers are shipping off to brutal, emotional, and stilted wars. Evidently, cases like Sgt. Bales’ reveal the darker side of the military, and persuade more and more Americans to steer clear of enlisting.