Afghan Shooting Suspect Identified, Moved To United States
The U.S. military has identified the suspect in the shootings last Sunday in Afghanistan:
The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.
The release of Sergeant Bales’s name, first reported by Fox News, ended an extraordinary six-day blackout of public information about him from the Pentagon, which said it withheld his identity for so long because of concerns about his and his family’s security.
An official said on Friday that Sergeant Bales had been transferred from Kuwait to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he had a cell to himself in the medium-security prison there. His wife and children were moved from their home in Lake Tapps, Wash., east of Tacoma, onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home base, earlier this week.
Military officials say Sergeant Bales, who has yet to be formally charged, left his small combat outpost in the volatile Panjwai district of Kandahar Province early in the morning last Sunday, walked into two nearby villages and there shot or stabbed 16 people, 9 of them children.
Little more than the outlines of Sergeant Bales’s life are publicly known. His family lived in Lake Tapps, a community about 20 miles northeast of his Army post. NBC News reported that he was from Ohio, and he may have lived there until he joined the Army at 27. Sergeant Bales’s Seattle-based lawyer, John Henry Browne, said several members of the sergeant’s family moved to Washington after he was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Mr. Browne said the sergeant joined the Army right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then spent almost all of his career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he was part of the Third Stryker Brigade in the Second Infantry Division, named after the armored Stryker vehicles.
The killings have severely undermined longstanding NATO efforts to win support from villages in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and have shaken relations with the government of President Hamid Karzai, who this week told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who was on a visit to Afghanistan, that he wanted American forces out of villages by next year.
We will learning more about Sgt. Bailes over the coming weeks and months I’m sure, but there are many questions that have already arisen ranging from the treatment of the aftermath of Traumatic Brain Injuries by the military to the serial redeployments that many troops experienced during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. There’s also the question of how Bailes was able to get off-base, alone and armed, in the middle of the night and traverse the three miles to the village where the massacre took place. Based on some reports, it seems that there is surveillance blimp footage of at least his capture so, didn’t anyone notice that he had left, and if so had they given any thought to investigating what he was up to?
I thought the early reports were that Afghan sentries saw him go and reported it. A search ensued.
It would seem reasonable that Afghan sentries would not say “stop or I’ll shoot” to an American, and so given that arraignment, sure he could get off base.
Even without TBI, I can’t help but think four year-long deployments would mess up anyone’s head.
@Gold Star for Robot Boy: Bit of a double standard that no one ever questions Tlaiban fighters’ mental state when they kill civilians. They automatically get labelled Evil Monster Terrorists, so why shouldn’t this guy get the same treatment?
@Ben Wolf: Tlaiban = Taliban
Joint Base Lewis-McChord has been criticized for not properly diagnosing TBI and PTSD and I’m sure that Bailes lawyer will point that out to everyone.
More info here.
PTSD diagnoses at Lewis-McChord reexamined
As a veteran of GWOT, I can sympathize with whatever horrors this guy experienced. And while I don’t suffer from it, I have seen friends go through hell dealing with the way the military and VA go about dealing with PTSD and TBI. If there could be any silver lining to this mess, maybe it will shake up some of the mental health problems out there (though it has gotten much better in the past 5 years than it was at the start of GWOT).
That being said, 4 deployments and a TBI are still not an excuse for murder. A root cause perhaps, but this guy needs to either be shot or never see the light of day.
@Bennett: I’m certainly not willing to excuse him but he should not be the only one on trial. I’m a Vietnam era Veteran. You went to Vietnam for one tour unless you volunteered for a second. There was always a light at the end of the tunnel. Should the people who sent a soldier with TBI on a 4th combat tour be on trial as well? That is the question I was asking.
@<a href="#comment-1508201″>Ron Beasley: Well since the alternative to trying HIM is to investigate the prospects of trying the guys who fashioned this debacle, I assert that tryjng Sgt Bailes is the only option available. The families of those he killed deserve something that at least resembles justice, and contrary to a previous post by James Joyner on a similar event simply whitewashing these events is not “better than the alternative.”
@Ron Beasley: I agree if we are talking civilian trials concerning rendition, torture, or the nature of the war. We don’t need any high level military trials unless it comes to light that they acted without orders of the government or hid evidence of cause of war.
Concerning the Vietnam angle, I will mention this is an all volunteer military. That my buddies had/have bad job prospects outside of the field, or in another case agreed with the current conflict does not mean a thing considering they reenlisted during a time of war.
Cannonfire has a post on the malaria drug Lariam given to troops in Afghanistan.
From the linked NYT item:
He just snapped.
Is this an accepted medical or psychological term? I’ve heard it used when people commit unprovoked violent attacks but it seems to be too vague and undefined to be considered an explanation for the behavior.