Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Mourning, Anger Sweep Afghanistan After Massacre


Massacre in Afghanistan (NBC Nightly News, March 12, 2012) — The Taliban have called for revenge after a 38-year-old U.S. staff sergeant allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children, and then burned many of the bodies. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports. (03:34)

Reuters and
March 12, 2012

Afghanistan’s parliament on Monday condemned the massacre of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier, with some legislators calling on President Hamid Karzai to step down. …

The country’s lower house of parliament closed in protest on Monday and some legislators called for President Hamid Karzai and his vice president to resign if they couldn’t ensure security for ordinary Afghans, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. …

The soldier suspected of being responsible has been detained but has yet to be identified. However, a senior U.S. defense official confirmed to NBC News that he is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Wash. …

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U.S. Soldier Accused in Afghan Massacre Had Brain Injury History


Was soldier who killed 16 a sociopath? (NBC “Today,” March 12, 2012) — Retired General Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about what could have possibly driven a U.S. soldier to killed 16 civilians, including nine children, in Afghanistan. (03:15)

NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, Reuters, and the Associated Press via
March 12, 2012

The American soldier accused of massacring 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan on Sunday was a 38-year-old staff sergeant based in Washington State who had no history of behavioral problems, but had been treated for traumatic brain injury after a previous deployment to Iraq, senior U.S. defense officials told NBC News.

The soldier, reportedly married with two children, enlisted in the Army soon after the terror attacks of Sept. 11 and did three combat tours to Iraq before arriving in Kandahar in December 2011.

The soldier was from the 2nd Battallion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker brigade, 2nd Infrantry Division based out of Joint Base Lewis McChord located south of Seattle. He was among 2,500 soldiers sent to Afghanistan for a yearlong deployment. …

The attacker left his base in Panjwai district early on Sunday and broke into the homes of local villagers, according to reports. Nine children and three women were among the 16 slain. Some of the bodies were also reportedly set on fire. The BBC reported that the soldier was thought to have suffered a breakdown. …

The staff sergeant accused of killing the Afghan civilians was treated for traumatic brain injury in 2010 after his vehicle rolled over in an accident that was not caused by an IED explosion, according to a senior U.S. defense official. He was medicated for some time, the official said.

The soldier was given a clean bill of health and received both pre- and post-deployment health assessments which did not indicate any problems, according to the defense official.

Officials said it was premature to state whether there was any link between the 2010 injury and the Afghanistan incident.

Home to about 100,000 military and civilian personnel, Joint Base Lewis McChord has suffered a spate of suicides among soldiers back from war. The Army is investigating whether doctors at Lewis-McChord’s Madigan Army Medical Center were urged to consider the cost of providing benefits when reviewing diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. …

In a statement Monday, the Afghan Taliban pledged to “take revenge” against the “sick-minded American savages,” according to the AFP news agency.

“The American ‘terrorists’ want to come up with an excuse for the perpetrator of this inhumane crime by claiming that this immoral culprit was mentally ill,” the Taliban statement added. “If the perpetrators of this massacre were in fact mentally ill then this testifies to yet another moral transgression by the American military, because they are arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenseless Afghans without giving a second thought.” …

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3/16/12 Update

Afghanistan’s President Karzai: Get U.S. Troops Out of Our Villages


Karzai demands U.S. forces withdraw (NBC Nightly News, March 15, 2012) — The President of Afghanistan is asking the U.S. to hand over all security responsibilities by 2013. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (02:48)

NBC News and Reuters via
March 15, 2012

Afghanistan’s president on Thursday called for U.S. and other foreign forces in Afghanistan to leave villages in the country and move to larger bases instead, according to Hamid Karzai’s office.

In a statement — which comes amid the ongoing controversy over the killing of 16 Afghan civilians in Panjwai, Kandahar province, allegedly by a lone U.S. soldier — Karzai’s office said he had made the request to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and said that “Afghan Security forces currently have the ability to secure the villages around the country.”

The statement also said that NATO-led foreign forces needed to have “complete respect for their religion and the Afghan culture. No foreign troops should enter Afghans homes. And they should pay more attention on reconstruction and financial support for our country.”

“Karzai said that both sides should work on accelerating the process and that they should hand over all the security responsibilities in 2013 instead of 2014,” it added.

“We demand that the process move quickly and they transfer authority into Afghan hands,” it added.

In a near-simultaneous announcement, the Afghan Taliban said it was suspending nascent peace talks with the United States seen as a strong chance to end the country’s decade-long conflict. …

Full story


3/17/12 Update

U.S. Soldier Suspected in Afghanistan Massacre Identified


Accused soldier’s identity revealed (NBC Nightly News, March 16, 2012) — Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, has been deployed three times to Iraq where officials say he suffered a traumatic head injury. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports. (03:08)

By Miguel Almaguer and Jim Miklaszewski

March 16, 2012

U.S. officials told NBC News on Friday that the soldier suspected of shooting 16 civilians in Afghanistan is Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

Bales, 38, was deployed to Afghanistan in December with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Wash., the officials said.

Bales arrived late Friday at a U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will be held in a solitary cell, the Army said. …

Bales, a married father of two, has a clean record of conduct, the officials said. He joined the military after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“He felt it was his calling to stand up for the us after 911 and then decided to make his career the military,” said his civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, who spoke to Bales on Thursday night.

Bales had been deployed to Iraq three times before going to Afghanistan. While in Iraq, officials say, he suffered a traumatic head injury in a crash and also suffered a foot injury in a separate incident. In Afghanistan, Bales reportedly saw a friend lose a leg.

What role those incidents may have played, if any, in the shootings, remains unclear. Browne says the soldier may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Browne also said the soldier never expected a fourth deployment.

“Overnight he was told he was going back and he told his family and told me that he did what he was ordered to do ’cause he was a soldier,” Browne said.

Officials are investigating reports that Bales may have been drinking before he left the base in Afghanistan on the night of the killings over the weekend. Among the dead were nine children.

Bales, a native of Ohio, has been based at Lewis-McChord his entire career. He and his family live close to Lake Tapps, a reservoir not  far from the base, and have family roots in western Washington. Bales’ wife is said to be an executive at a Seattle-area company.

Brown said the suspect’s family will remain on base for the foreseeable future for their own protection.

The Army, in a statement obtained by NBC News, said Bales will be held in pre-trial confinement at the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth. The Army described the prison as a state-of-the-art, medium/minimum custody facility for pre-trial confinement and military sentences of up to five years.

Also located on Fort Leavenworth is the Disciplinary Barracks housing military inmates sentenced to more than five years.

Bales will be in special housing in his own cell and not in a four-person bay, the Army said. He will be afforded time outside the cell for hygiene and recreational purposes. He may have religious support. …

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3/18/12 Update

Afghanistan Shooting Suspect Robert Bales Faced Financial Troubles, Records Show

This home near Lake Tapps in Washington state is owned by Robert Bales. (Photo credit: Anthony Bolante / Reuters)

March 17, 2012

As Robert Bales, an 11-year military veteran with a string of commendations for good conduct, sat in an isolated cell in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Saturday, divergent pictures emerged of the Army staff sergeant accused of gunning down 16 civilians in an Afghan war zone.

While classmates and neighbors from his younger years remembered him as a happy-go-lucky football player who loved military history and watched out for troublemakers in the neighborhood, emerging records and interviews about his past decade reveal financial troubles and brushes with the law. A blog written by his wife suggests the emotional and financial stress they faced as a military family.

Military officials say that after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, Bales, 38, crept away in the night on March 11 to two slumbering villages, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the 16 killed were children and 11 belonged to one family.

Bales hasn’t been charged yet in the shootings, which have endangered complicated relations between the United States and Afghanistan and threatened to upend U.S. policy over the decade-old war.

Court records and interviews show that Bales, 38, had joined the Army after a Florida investment job went sour, had a Seattle-area home condemned, struggled to make payments on another and failed to get a promotion or a transfer a year ago, according to a report by The Associated Press.

His legal troubles included charges that he assaulted a girlfriend and, in a hit-and run accident, ran bleeding in military clothes into the woods, court records show, the report said, citing legal records.

Months before the Afghanistan incident, Bales was eyeing a way out of his job at a Washington state military base, records and interviews showed.

His wife, Karilyn, hinted at the family’s troubles on multiple blogs [New York Times link added] with names like The Bales Family Adventures and BabyBales, the AP and the New York Times reported. …

It was Bales’ fourth tour in a war zone since joining up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. He had spent three years in Iraq during three separate assignments.

The AP reported that Bales studied business for three years at Ohio State but did not graduate, then handled investments before a market downturn pushed him out of the business. …

He was struggling to keep payments on his own home near Lake Tapps, a reservoir about 35 miles south of Seattle; his wife asked to put the house on the market three days before the shootings, real estate Philip Rodocker said, according to AP.

Bales and his wife bought the Lake Tapps home in 2005 for $280,000; it was listed this week at $229,000, AP reported, citing records. …

The AP reported that Bales and his wife also own a home in Auburn, about 10 miles north, according to county records, but abandoned it about two years ago. …

In Washington state, court records showed a 2002 arrest for assault on a girlfriend. Bales pleaded not guilty and was required to undergo 20 hours of anger management counseling, after which the case was dismissed.

A separate hit-and-run charge was dismissed in municipal court in Sumner, Wash., three years ago, according to records. It isn’t clear from court documents what Bales hit; witnesses saw a man in a military-style uniform, with a shaved head and bleeding, running away.

When deputies found him in the woods, Bales told them he fell asleep at the wheel. He paid about $1,000 in fines and restitution and the case was dismissed in October 2009.

Full story


Who is Staff Sgt. Robert Bales? (NBC “Today,” March 18, 2012) — NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports on financial and other stresses likely to get an airing when Staff Sgt. Robert Bales stands trial for killing 16 Afghan civilians, including women in children. (03:24)


Commentary: The psychological profile of Robert Bales beginning to emerge from his personal history as reported in the media is that of a workplace shooter. In this case, the working hypothesis is that Bales was angry, and possibly depressed, about his life circumstances and blamed others — specifically, the Afghan people — for his misfortune and lashed out against them in a paroxysm of rage.


3/24/12 Update

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales Charged with 17 Counts of Murder in Afghanistan Massacre


Mounting evidence against Robert Bales (NBC Nightly News, March 23, 2012) — The defense attorney for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, has said the military lacks much of the physical evidence necessary to establish a solid case against his client. But prosecutors say there is ample evidence: surveillance video, shell casings and more. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports. (02:36)

The Associated Press and
March 23, 2012

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged Friday with 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder, along with other charges, in connection with a shooting rampage in two southern Afghanistan villages that shocked Americans back home and further roiled U.S.-Afghan relations.

The charges come almost two weeks after the massacre in which Bales allegedly left his base in the early morning hours and shot Afghan civilians, including women and nine children, while they slept in their beds, then burned some of the bodies. …

Bales’ civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, said Friday without commenting on the specific charges that he believes the government will have a hard time proving its case and that at some stage in the prosecution his client’s mental state will be an important issue. …

The decision to charge him with premeditated murder suggests that prosecutors plan to argue that he consciously conceived the killings. …

The maximum punishment for a premeditated murder conviction is death, dishonorable discharge from the armed forces, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade and total forfeiture of pay and allowances, Kolb said. The mandatory minimum sentence is life imprisonment with the chance of parole. …

Full story


3/25/12 Update

U.S. Paid Close to $50,000 Per Shooting Spree Death


Wife: Accused shooter ‘loves children’ (NBC Nightly News, March 25, 2012) — U.S. officials paid $50,000 to the Afghan families of the dead. Meantime, Karilyn Bales tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that her husband “is like a big kid.” NBC’s John Yang reports. (02:16)

NBC’s Atia Abawi, Reuters, and The Associated Press via
March 25, 2012

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The United States paid close to $50,000 in compensation for each Afghan killed in the shooting spree attributed to a U.S. soldier [Staff Sgt. Robert Bales] in southern Afghanistan, a U.S. official told NBC News on Sunday.

The official, who asked not to be named, would not say exactly how much was paid to the families, but added the amount was close to the $50,000 reported by Afghan officials. …

The 38-year-old soldier is accused of using his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher, to kill four men, four women, two boys and seven girls, then burning some of the bodies.

The Associated Press earlier reported that the families of the dead received $50,000 for each person killed on Saturday at the governor’s office, citing Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai.

Agha Lalai told the AP that each wounded person has received $11,000 and that they were told the money was from U.S. President Barack Obama. Community elder Jan Agha has confirmed the same figures.

The American official who handed over the money said it was not compensation, but the U.S. government offering to help the victims and their families, Kandahar provincial council member Haji Nyamat Khan said.

But a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Col. Gary Kolb, said the money was compensation.

Full story


Related reports on this site

Image: An effigy of President Obama is burned during a protest in Afghanistan
Protesters chant anti-American slogans and burn an effigy of President Barack Obama in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Rahmat Gul / AP)

Setback for U.S. in Afghan War (Jan. 13, 2012)

No Way Forward in Afghanistan (June 27, 2011)

Koran Burned, Many Dead (April 3, 2011)

Soldiers Pose with Afghan Corpse (March 21, 2011)

‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010)

Afghanistan Worn-Out Welcome (Nov. 21, 2010)

‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)

Afghan Support for U.S. Plummets (Feb. 10, 2009)

2 Responses to “Horrific Massacre by Deranged American Soldier in Afghanistan”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Taliban Launch Spring Offensive With Attacks Across Kabul Says:

    […] Heavy street fighting between militants and security forces in the Afghan capital of Kabul raged for 18 hours in what the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, called the start of its Spring Offensive and retaliation for the burning of Qurans at a NATO base in February 2012, the murders of 17 Afghans allegedly by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in March 2012, and videos that surfaced in January 2012 apparently showing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters. […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » U.S. Soldiers Posed With Body Parts of Afghan Suicide Bombers Says:

    […] In January 2012 video surfaced of U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses; in February 2012, the burning of Qurans in a fire pit at the main American base in Afghanistan sparked violent protests and revenge killings of six Americans; and in March 2012, 17 civilians, mainly women and children, were killed in a nighttime rampage, allegedly by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. […]

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