Soldier Sentenced To Life Without Parole In Massacre Of 16 Afghan Civilians
The solider who was responsible for the 2011 massacre of 16 Afghan civilians has been sentenced to life in prison:
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians inside their homes, will spend the rest of his life in prison, a military jury decided on Friday.
The decision came after three days of wrenching testimony that painted a moment-by-moment, bullet-by-bullet account of one of the worst atrocities of the United States’ long war in Afghanistan.
The six-member military jury considering Sergeant Bales’s fate had two options: sentence him to life in prison with no possibility of parole, or allow him a chance at freedom after about 20 years behind bars. His guilty plea in June removed the death penalty from the table.
In pressing for mercy, the defense team said Sergeant Bales had been a good soldier, a loving father and a stand-up friend before snapping after four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. But prosecutors said he was a man frustrated with his career and family, easy to anger, whose rage erupted at the end of his M-4 rifle.
“He liked murder,” a prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, said in closing arguments on Friday. “He liked the power it gave him.”
In the end, the jury sided with that argument. It deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning to a courtroom packed with soldiers, relatives of Sergeant Bales, and nine Afghan men and boys who had testified earlier in the week about the harm Sergeant Bales had inflicted on them and their families.
As the sentence was read, an interpreter gave a thumbs-up sign to the Afghans. On the other side of the courtroom, Sergeant Bales’s mother wept, holding her face in her hands. Sergeant Bales, 40, showed no reaction. He responded with polite “yes, sirs” to the judge’s questions about his appellate rights, before being led away.
He will be dishonorably discharged.
Outside the court, the Afghan villagers told reporters that the sentence did little to ease their anger and loss. Many wanted Sergeant Bales to be executed, and said his crimes represented the barest fraction of the pain and death that Afghans have endured over the last decade.
The men tugged at the maroon pants of a boy named Sadiqullah, revealing a leg scarred and disfigured by bullet wounds.
“We came all the way to the U.S. to get justice,” said Haji Mohammed Wazir, who lost 11 members of his family in the massacre. “We didn’t get that.”
Had Staff Sgt. Bales not plead guilty, his case would have assuredly been appropriate for death penalty consideration. That said, though, it strikes me that a life sentence with no possibility of parole strikes me as entirely appropriate in this case.