Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Aaron MkII
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Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by Aaron MkII »

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/us/ro ... .html?_r=0
SEATTLE — The United States Army will seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday.
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The Army has charged that Sergeant Bales, 39, who was serving his fourth combat tour, walked away from a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan and shot and stabbed members of several families in an ambush in two villages in the early morning hours of March 11. At least nine of the people he is accused of killing were children.

Prosecutors at a week of pretrial hearings in early November at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Sergeant Bales was stationed, suggested that he had acted in deliberate fury, perhaps in revenge for a bomb attack that had caused a fellow soldier to lose a leg. Defense lawyers said evidence presented in the hearing about Sergeant Bales’s use of alcohol, steroids and sleeping aids complicated the picture of his mental state.

Sergeant Bales’s lead lawyer, John Henry Browne, called the Army’s decision to move ahead on what appears to be a fast track of prosecution “understandable but totally irresponsible.”

“The Army is trying to take the focus off the failures of the Army, which are substantial,” Mr. Browne said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. He said that Sergeant Bales, who has pleaded not guilty, had post-traumatic stress and a concussive head injury, but that the Army sent him anyway “to one of the more intense battlegrounds of Afghanistan, on his fourth deployment.”

For both sides the legal path ahead promises to be long and winding.

Since the system for military prosecutions in capital cases was revised in 1984, 16 men have been sentenced to death and five are on death row. Nine of those sentences were set aside on appeal and two were commuted to life in confinement.

The rules require that a death sentence be approved by the president to be carried out, and that has happened only once in any of the 16 cases, in 2008, under President George W. Bush. That case was then tied up in appeals. No military death sentence has been carried out since 1961.

For capital punishment to be imposed, the Army said in a statement, the court-martial panel must unanimously find Sergeant Bales guilty, with at least one aggravating factor that “substantially” outweighs any extenuating or mitigating circumstances.
Whether he gets it or not, I've no idea. But I am going to say that I don't think he should have been sent. Four combat tours, possible PTSD and a cranial injury?

And thanks to Knubs for showing me this.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Assuming the claim by his defence lawyer is correct, I would agree that he should not have been there.

In any case, it is positive the US is getting serious with going after war criminals.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by Stark »

Its just one case. This guy is a) super public b) probably crazy and c) lacks powerful friends. It'd make sense to burn him just to be able to say LOOK WE CAN DO JUSTICE!
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by Flagg »

And it's one case where one mentally imbalanced nut went on a one man rampage. If this were an actual coverup massacre like has happened countless times they'd be getting slapped on the wrist. The fact that the military is choosing to nail this obviousely insane person to a cross in order to gain credibility is sickening.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Flagg wrote:And it's one case where one mentally imbalanced nut went on a one man rampage. If this were an actual coverup massacre like has happened countless times they'd be getting slapped on the wrist. The fact that the military is choosing to nail this obviousely insane person to a cross in order to gain credibility is sickening.
Probably because he did it alone, without approval from his superiors.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Would it be more or less sickening if they weren't seeking the death penalty?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Because of his likely incapacity, they can seek the death penalty and then commute. Being an isolated guy with a medical history, he can be convicted without implicating the rest of the military.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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I just find this case interesting, because when they seek harsh punishment it's a cynical attempt to look good by creating a scapegoat. But if they don't seek harsh punishment, it'd be evidence they weren't taking it seriously.

What is the proper way for the Army to handle this case without being criticized?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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How about you wait for the case to end before you cry about people expecting it to be just like all those other massacres? Maybe they will execute a man they pushed too far for doing something terrible. Does this set the US Army back to zero somehow? It'll take a long time to build up a reputation for being fair and/or just in prosecuting American war criminals.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Simon_Jester wrote:I just find this case interesting, because when they seek harsh punishment it's a cynical attempt to look good by creating a scapegoat. But if they don't seek harsh punishment, it'd be evidence they weren't taking it seriously.

What is the proper way for the Army to handle this case without being criticized?
I would imagine holding whoever authorised him to return to combat for a fourth tour being held accountable when, if his defence has the right of it, suffering from PTSD and a brain injury.

I mean the guy is a fuck-up, and should be punished for what he did. But a bigger issue out there is that this may well have been prevented, if the army were serious about dealing with mental illness in their combat veterans rather than adopting an apathetic attitude and just throwing the guy back into the lion's den.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by Stofsk »

Good question. I still think it's worthwhile to explore what processes the army employs when choosing to redeploy someone who, at least what I'm getting from the article, implied to be diagnosed with PTSD and a concussive brain injury at the time.

I'm assuming the defence lawyer has the right of it; but he may not.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Simon_Jester wrote:I just find this case interesting, because when they seek harsh punishment it's a cynical attempt to look good by creating a scapegoat. But if they don't seek harsh punishment, it'd be evidence they weren't taking it seriously.

What is the proper way for the Army to handle this case without being criticized?
Put some generals behind bars.

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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Which general, precisely, should go to jail because a sergeant was (stupidly, unjustly) sent back to duty, went mad, and started murdering innocent people?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Maybe the guys who were in charge of personnel planning and/or dealing with medical policy?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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I remember once there was an army that judged its enemies with the idea that leaders and commanders were responsible for the crimes committed by the troops they controlled.

Can't remember who they were, though.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Stofsk wrote:I mean the guy is a fuck-up, and should be punished for what he did.
Should he? Would he have done this under the same circumstances during his first tour?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Simon_Jester wrote:Which general, precisely, should go to jail because a sergeant was (stupidly, unjustly) sent back to duty, went mad, and started murdering innocent people?
Maybe not due to this one, but generals under whose control Bagram torture occured should be sent to jail. Okay, okay, will never happen, I know *crawls back into the zen-lair*
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Stark wrote:I remember once there was an army that judged its enemies with the idea that leaders and commanders were responsible for the crimes committed by the troops they controlled.

Can't remember who they were, though.
As I recall they had some high-publicized trials in several countries which featured declarations that this was a new age in criminal responsibility as well. I recall they hanged quite a few generals and field marshals for atrocities committed under them as well, even if it could not be proven they were aware of the crimes committed.

I think they spoke of some strange thing called command responsibility.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by K. A. Pital »

The practice of saving useful officers, even if war criminals, however, was also born at Nürnberg and afterwards. And we're talking about officers of real enemies like Japan and Germany. What to say of your own officers? I know that the Allies executed several thousand low-ranking officers involved in rapes and other crimes in occupied territory, but going after your own officers was always a problem. Now to imagine that a nation - undefeated in war - would jail their own generals is unthinkable.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Stark wrote:I remember once there was an army that judged its enemies with the idea that leaders and commanders were responsible for the crimes committed by the troops they controlled.

Can't remember who they were, though.
Most armies I know of that do that judge officers at the level of the offense. If a platoon starts torturing and killing in one place at one time, one blames the platoon commander. One doesn't blame the general for the crime of "having such a platoon in his army," however much you might fantasize otherwise.

If the platoon keeps doing it for a long time, that's different. Higher-level officers can then be held responsible, because it was their job to find out about this while it was going on. You might not be able to stop a platoon from doing something horrible on the other side of a hill today, but if it keeps happening every day for a week, you had plenty of time to find out and put a stop to it.

If a general gets this applied to him, it's going to be because the whole army was committing crimes at his orders, or if large chunks of his command were committing them constantly for a long time and he didn't do anything to stop it. Many people for a long time, not one person once.


If anyone imprisoned generals for the singular, random acts of low-ranking individuals... it wouldn't be long before they didn't have an army left. Anyone placed in command over ten thousand people is going to see a few of them do some really horrible shit sooner or later.
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Havok wrote:
Stofsk wrote:I mean the guy is a fuck-up, and should be punished for what he did.
Should he? Would he have done this under the same circumstances during his first tour?
I don't know; I don't know how far he's going to get with the PTSD/brain injury defence.

He may not have done the same thing under similar circumstances during his first tour, but that's asking a hypothetical we don't really have the answer to. Another hypothetical we could ask is what would have happened had he not been deployed due to his medical conditions (at least that question has an answer). But the question of 'should' he be punished... Well, I'd like to see the evidence relating to how severe his PTSD was and how much the brain injury affected him. But even with that, he killed a lot of people. I'd imagine the medical evidence would be more mitigatory than exculpatory in nature. Then again, I'm not on his jury.

What do you think?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Simon_Jester wrote:
Stark wrote:I remember once there was an army that judged its enemies with the idea that leaders and commanders were responsible for the crimes committed by the troops they controlled.

Can't remember who they were, though.
Most armies I know of that do that judge officers at the level of the offense. If a platoon starts torturing and killing in one place at one time, one blames the platoon commander. One doesn't blame the general for the crime of "having such a platoon in his army," however much you might fantasize otherwise.

If the platoon keeps doing it for a long time, that's different. Higher-level officers can then be held responsible, because it was their job to find out about this while it was going on. You might not be able to stop a platoon from doing something horrible on the other side of a hill today, but if it keeps happening every day for a week, you had plenty of time to find out and put a stop to it.

If a general gets this applied to him, it's going to be because the whole army was committing crimes at his orders, or if large chunks of his command were committing them constantly for a long time and he didn't do anything to stop it. Many people for a long time, not one person once.

If anyone imprisoned generals for the singular, random acts of low-ranking individuals... it wouldn't be long before they didn't have an army left. Anyone placed in command over ten thousand people is going to see a few of them do some really horrible shit sooner or later.
This is really great stuff. These explicit statements of fact you make!

If there was a general who was judged by the actions of soldiers under his command, would you be surprised?
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

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Stofsk wrote:What do you think?
I don't know. Given the medical conditions, and all the attention that football players are getting in regards to concussions and depression and PSTD type symptom in different studies that are relating them all together, I'm not at this point beyond considering that while what he did was horrible, he is no longer the man that was originally deployed and it's not his fault.

If the medical findings hold up, I would be against killing him, and possibly even against standard military incarceration and would want to see him admitted to a medical facility. I doubt that is any better than Leavenworth, but it would appear to be the correct thing to do with this soldier.

Now what should be done to the myriad of people that put him back in the field... again, I don't know. Half were probably doing nothing more than signing papers they sign a hundred times a week or similar things to that nature. If there are specific people that knew about his supposed medical conditions and ignored them, they should be disciplined, but I'm guessing everything will fall under judgement calls that remained within military guidelines of what is acceptable.

It's too bad they couldn't have pointed this guy at actual targets. He'd be a hero now. :lol:
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Re: Army Seeks Death Penalty For War Criminal

Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

JLBM has some incredibly severe issues. The base is virtually not under control. There's a group of retired Army NCOs who run a coffee shop by it doing nothing but trying to get people out of the military who are stuck there. NCOs are usually the biggest supporters of the military so that's telling. There's no support for families, the base is an agglomeration of an Air Force and Army base (Joint-Base Lewis-McChord) which saw the original structures disintegrate, the support networks for people there are nonexistent, it might as well be plopped down into a foreign country.

The leadership at the base is systematically terrible, as the corps command headquarters which is stationed there has been overseas fighting our wars for the past decade, and there's been a succession of nobodies allowing systematic rot of the chain of command. Nothing works there, and you can be pretty much guaranteed that nobody is receiving any kind of mental health support at that base, in fact, they're just receiving more pressure to drive them over the edge. There's been a series of very high-profile shootings at JLBM including one trooper who went off into the Cascade mountains and shot and killed a park ranger earlier this year. I am not sure if anyone has started to clean it up yet, but some interesting and very grim profiles have emerged from the local media reporting, and I frankly wouldn't be surprised if a very disturbingly disproportionate number of incidences in Iraq and A-stan have been caused by soldiers from JLBM because of the total breakdown in discipline and support and morale which has occurred there and not been effectively addressed.
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