Guest Column: Sergeant deserves punishment

Ashley Fisher

Disbelief and outrage quickly spread across Afghanistan last week, as well as the U.S., when Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a vicious killing spree that resulted in the deaths of 16 innocent Afghan civilians. Both nations were left wondering what led to this deadly outburst by an active member of the U.S. military.

A great deal of controversy quickly surrounded the issue. Some condemn the soldier for his crime and demand punishment. Others blame post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other mental conditions, and claim he is not at fault. Despite the raging debate among the public, I believe Bales deserves punishment for the crimes he committed.

The events occurred on March 11 when Bales allegedly snuck off his post in the middle of the night and moved from house to house as he shot and burned innocent villagers in their beds. Nine of the 16 he killed were children. He then returned to his post and turned himself in. This senseless crime cannot be excused or explained, and the repercussions of his fatal attack are serious.

According to The Associated Press, the Afghan militia called the attack a “blood-soaked and inhumane crime” and the attacker representative of “sick-minded American savages.” The Taliban has vowed to seek revenge “for every single victim with the help of Allah.” There have been many news reports expressing the Afghan threats for retaliation against Bales’ family and many people also fear for his neighborhood in Bonney Lake, which has been so

publicly revealed.

Additionally, the slayings, which are collectively said to be among the worst atrocities committed by U.S. forces during the Afghan war, happened amidst the deepening public outrage prompted by last month’s Quran burnings. Contributing to the growing distrust between Afghans and U.S. forces, this recent incident has made U.S. officials begin to openly doubt our country’s ability to accomplish the mission in Afghanistan.

Despite the disturbing nature of his crime and the severe repercussions the entire nation will feel because of his attack, many continue to argue that Bales cannot be blamed for what he did. They speculate he may have suffered from PTSD and “his 11-year Army career had stalled with a missed promotion, and four deployments had taxed his family and finances,” according to an article by USA Today.

Yet this argument has an obvious flaw. Thousands of men and women who serve in the military experience the same pressures and stress that Bales felt, and none of them intentionally shot and killed more than a dozen innocent civilians. All of these courageous citizens have dedicated their lives to serving their country by their own sacrifice and expense, and have watched as the image of the U.S. military is soiled by another soldier’s devastating decision.

I know I have never spent a day at war fighting an enemy that wears no uniforms and hides among civilians to use them as shields. I have not endured multiple tours of duty or experienced the thankless nature of this war, while the ability to really see any success evades me. I have not walked in Robert Bales shoes. However, no mental condition or amount of stress could even begin to justify Bales’ heinous crime.

The bottom line is Bales killed defenseless men, women and children in cold blood. He undermined a 10-year mission, endangered his family and dishonored his country. He now awaits his fate in a cell in the military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. When his court date arrives, Bales should not be able to hide behind excuses but instead deserves to pay the price for the crimes he committed and the damage he caused our country.

Daily Evergreen, Washington State U. via UWIRE