The soldier responsible for the massacre of 16 Afghan civilian men, women and children is that of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Bales spent all weekend in pretrial isolation as prosecutors from the military began putting together a case that could bring with it the death penalty. Military officials said they could issue the charges sometime this week. The attorney retained by Bales was planning on meeting with the suspect sometime Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The attorney for Bales has not denied the charges against his client, who is a married father of two young children, but the attorney did say that they would go through his military history to determine if any factors played into the shooting. This information could suggest that the lawyer will be using a mental-health defense that could have been beyond his control. The lawyer also points to the fact that Bales worked on three tours of duty in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. During those tours of duty Bales suffered a severe foot injury and a traumatic brain injury.
“It is too early to determine what factors may have played into this incident and the defense team looks forward to reviewing the evidence, examining all of Sergeant Bales’s medical and personnel records, and interviewing witnesses,” attorney John Henry Browne said in a statement.
One thing that could shed some light on the incident is a conversation Bales had with a friend on Facebook from April of 2010. The conversation took place while Bales was on his third tour of duty in Iraq. The friend began the conversation:
“Sup brother?” wrote Steven Berling. “Hope all is well overseas!!! Been a long time, look me up when you get back in town,,, we’ll go drink some brews!!!”
“You got it,” said Bales. “Overseas is boring this trip, pretty dumb. Giving money to Hagi instead of bullets don’t seem right.”
Berling said he did not know what Bales meant by Hagi but supposedly Bales meant to write hajji, which is a term used by American troops in reference to Iraqis. The U.S. commanders in Iraq have been trying to end the use of this term. With Bales’ use of the term, it contradicts his attitude, which was portrayed in an article about a battle in Najaf back in 2007. Following the battle in Najaf, Bales was quoted, “I’ve never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day, for the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us.”
Officials from the military think that alcohol could have been involved in the incident and records show that Bales has been involved in minor skirmishes with the law over the past decade or so.
Retired Captain Blake Hall served alongside Bales in Mosul. The two are also from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“There were no red flags that I was aware of,” said Hall, who called Bales “typical, solid NCO (noncommissioned officer), always with a goofy grin on his face.”
“What he did is not systemic; he was a lone actor,” said Hall. “The media is painting this as ‘too many deployments,’ [but] he broke several orders, first drinking and then shooting women and children.”