Yesterday, U.S. Army officials announced they would seek the death penalty against Army Sgt. Robert Bales in court martial proceedings "on charges he murdered 16 civilians" outside a remote army outpost in southern Afghanistan.
At a preliminary hearing in November Afghan witnesses testified about what they witnessed that night. Most significantly, the initial Army investigation discovered the DNA blood samples from Bales boots, clothing and weapon, (all covered with blood), matched the blood found at the shooting scene.
Defense lawyers for Bales had argued he "wasn't in his right mind" that night having suffered "a concussive head injury" from an earlier incident and was suffering from PTSD from several previous incidents.
John Henry Browne, the civilian defense attorney for Bales responded yesterday saying, "I think the Army is not taking responsibility for the soldiers in general and is trying to take the focus off the considerable errors they made as far as Sgt. Bales is concerned, as far as a lot of other soldiers are concerned. It's a system failure." Ah some real insight here most probably because Browne isn't a part of the military and can speak freely.
Yet despite Browne and Bales other defense attorney's efforts to place the onus on the Army's culpability regarding Bales mental state at the time of the massacre, with the prosecution having the DNA evidence in hand Bales most probably will suffer the ultimate consequences.
But its attorney Browne's comments and insight that bear review because he places the onus where it truly belongs: on the Army and those that authorize multiple deployments ("stop loss") for soldiers after they've served a previous tour in a war zone.
In fact the real onus begins with President George W. Bush who initiated this unnecessary war, current President Obama who continues it and the Congress that funds this misadventure.
But as is typical when a Bales like incident occurs, can't be kept secret and gives the military a black eye, low level scapegoats must be made solely to blame. Think of the Abu Ghraib torture videos in Iraq where low level Army non-coms were solely held accountable while the Bush administration officials who authorized the torture techniques (enhanced interrogation) were never held accountable, (so much for equal justice under the law).
We turn these guys loose in trumped invasions and occupations or garrison the world with large and small military bases, get status of forces agreements with the national governments which provide the military and private defense contractors immunity from prosecution by the local governments and when crimes committed are so heinous they can't be swept under the rug, we either pay "blood money" as happened in Lahore, Pakistan with the acting head of the CIA Raymond Allen Davis after he killed two Pakistani men, wisk the culprits out of the country as happened with the "Blackwater" security guards in Iraq after a murderous incident at a Baghdad intersection that saw the unprovoked deaths of Iraqi citizens or like in Bales case or Abu Ghraib, hang the blame solely on low level non-coms.
Now we have the massacre of little children at an elementary school in Connecticut where the killer used a military type assault weapon. Adam Lanza chose to commit suicide. But the onus for this massacre remains solely on him with new gun legislation being pushed banning assault weapons. Yet there's no discussion and no focus on the society or the government policies that promote the senseless brutality and murder we commit with impunity in all our foreign entanglements.
As for Bales he'll likely be hung or killed by firing squad or by whatever death penalty techniques the Army currently uses.
Somebody has to pay; something must be found to blame.
Only the underlying causes are hardly uncovered, much less discussed or even mentioned, and those ultimately responsible for authorizing the horror are never held accountable.
This just doesn't happen in contemporary America.