Robert Bales and military justice

The Army Seal: will the Army do justice to Robert Bales?
Print Friendly

Recently, 16 innocent villagers died horribly in Afghanistan. The Army says that they died at the hands of one of their own, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. No one who did these deeds deserves an ounce of sympathy, and Robert Bales’ lawyer can allege nothing in mitigation, unless he can show that some other soldier(s) did it. But we must ask ourselves: why is the Army moving so much faster in his case than in that of an officer who killed almost as many people, those being his comrades-in-arms?

Facts on the ground

The facts of the case should make anyone shudder. Sixteen people, including women and children, lie dead. Whoever killed them, seems to have done it execution-style. Sources close to the region tell CNAV that Robert Bales, the chief suspect, has no sympathy from anyone in the military.

He put them all at more needless risk and he should have known better. He has also given Al-Qaeda a new recruiting tool and given Hamid Karzai a reason to back out of already sensitive negotiations.  It has also hurt the military good will efforts with the Afghanistan people.

Comparisons: Robert Bales v. Nidal Hasan

The Army Seal: will the Army do justice to Robert Bales?

Seal of the Department of the Army, formerly the Department of War. Image: US Department of Defense

So the rank-and-file seem to think. On the other hand, writer Gene Hoyas asks why the Army is moving so fast in Robert Bales’ case, while it has barely moved an inch in the case of Major Nidal Hasan, accused of 13 murders at Fort Hood, Texas?

Hoyas might well ask this. He speculates that the Army will execute Robert Bales as soon as a court-martial so directs. He probably remembers that the Army has not executed anyone since 1961.

Hoyas might also have heard the rumors that more than one soldier took part in killing the villagers. Today the Associated Press quotes Afghan officials as saying that no witness personally saw more than one soldier committing the murders. (The AP published that report today. Hoyas first published his essay on his own site two days ago.)

More to the point: the Obama administration seems to treat the Fort Hood incident as an act of “workplace violence.” Not so the Afghanistan massacre. Why should the Army treat Nidal Hasan as a worker “gone postal” and treat Robert Bales as a cold-blooded murderer and renegade?


Thus far, no one has brought forth any credible evidence that anyone but Robert Bales killed those villagers. He has one of the best lawyers in the Army, one used to “defending the indefensible,” as criminal defense attorneys must often do. Even he can’t defend cold-blooded murder. The only defense would be: “some other dude(s) did it.” That defense is now almost impossible to believe.

But Robert Bales and Nidal Hasan do not seem to have the benefit of “equal protection of the laws.” The Army accuses each man of equally horrible crimes. So why won’t the Army treat each man the same as the other?


Robert Bales is a dead man walking