An All-Around Tragedy


Sad story:

Robert Bales gets life without parole

With all of the discussions taking place around the web concerning Nidal Hasan and Bradley Manning, (sorry… still not calling you Chelsea) it was easy to overlook yet another military trial which came to a close this week. Robert Bales reached the end of the sentencing phase in his trial, held at an Army base in Washington state. As you will recall, Bales is the US soldier who admitted to leaving his post in Panjwai, Kandahar, going into two neighboring villages and shooting a large number of Afghan locals, including nine children and four women. Having already plead guilty to avoid the possibility of the death penalty, the jury decided Bales would be spending the rest of his life in prison.


From the beginning, the only word I’ve had for this case was “sad.” The original incident was a tragedy, the events leading up to it – and the missed opportunities to prevent it – were terrible and the end of this trial was just … sad. I also have to wonder if Bales had the best legal representation he might have gotten. The guilty plea was understandable, but his attorney, John Henry Browne, never even brought up the PTSD angle during the sentencing phase. In fact, he said the following:


We can neither ignore nor dismiss what Bales did, as he was clearly far outside of the rules of engagement. But even if bringing up the medical issues involved didn’t wind up reducing his maximum possible sentence, it might have at least ensured that he would get the treatment he needs while incarcerated. The defense had what they described as “a ton of documentation” regarding the soldier’s mental state, and the warning signs had been there for a while. Bales had already done three tours in Iraq totaling 37 months before going to Kandahar and was treated for traumatic brain injury following an accident in 2010. He was in a place where everyone was under constant stress, including seeing people who were supposedly our allies and comrades in arms strolling into camp and blowing themselves up. He’d run into problems readjusting to civilian environments in between tours, having gotten in trouble with the law for fighting and sought treatment for anger issues and related problems. Why the defense found this not worthy of mentioning seems questionable.

But if nothing else, the sad story of Robert Bales should at least serve as a reminder to the rest of us regarding the type of support our troops need and deserve, not just while serving, but afterwards as well. The vast, vast majority of our combat veterans deal with the stress of combat and come out of it okay after conducting themselves honorably throughout their service. But they are still human, and some of them won’t manage that feat. There is help available through the VA, though some may need a nudge to seek it out. Private groups offer support as well, including such diverse programs as matching up veterans with pets to help provide some furry therapy. Bales may never set foot outside of prison as a free man again, but it’s not a story we should just ignore.

Some stories lack moral clarity. We turn a young man into a killer and then are shocked when he kills.

I have often said that one of the worst sacrifices our service men and women have to make is not their lives but their consciences. We ask them to do things they have to spend the rest of their lives dealing with.

Asking someone to commit an act that we tell them is immoral and wrong creates cognitive dissonance. We desensitize them to killing to make them warriors. Some lose their way.

Nowadays when a cop kills someone in the line of duty most departments require them to take some paid leave and participate in counseling. But the problems from such a powerful event may not manifest themselves for years.

Too bad Bales didn’t get help in a timely manner.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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9 Responses to An All-Around Tragedy

  1. votermom says:

    I heard about it on the radio.

  2. insanelysane says:

    Beloved Leader, calls the innocents killed by his cruise missiles “likely terrorists”.
    Anyone killed by his drones are guilty by just being killed by the missile.
    No one is held accountable. War is hell and all that.

    This soldier did nothing more than what Obama has done and yet he has to pay and pay and pay.

  3. votermom says:

    We saw Percy Jackson 2 (treat for the kid’s bday) today – I like it better than the first movie.

  4. 49erDweet says:

    Add Bales to the list of victim’s at Ft. Hood. The scrambled-egg military brass is doing some serious dereliction of duty lately, IMO, all across the board. Years ago they used to be warriors. (yes, I know there’s new thread)

  5. I can’t get on board with this one. While my sympathies are with PTSD victims of the military, my heart is much more with little kids and women who did not choose to join the military and who are now dead, dead, dead.

    • yffub says:

      Lola, “I can’t get on board” I have much to tell you about ptsd, mpd. I hope to find a way to blog about it all. it’s painful stuff but I am ready.

    • Erica says:

      Yes, that’s the horrible flip side to the case, for sure. Very sad on every level.

  6. Erica says:

    Three tours, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD? Any one of those could have led to a breakdown and rampage by a soldier. The more I learn about how our soldiers in harm’s way are handled, the less respect I have for this administration.

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