Your Montana Public Radio
Wed August 21, 2013
Soldier Who Admitted To Massacre Hears From Afghan Survivors
Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 4:11 am
Details of the massacre of 16 Afghans by a U.S. soldier last spring are emerging in a courtroom near Tacoma, Wash., where survivors of that attack traveled to confront Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. A six-member military jury is hearing testimony at a sentencing hearing for Bales.
At least seven people made the trip from Afghanistan to Washington state to speak at the hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales' Army unit is based.
The AP describes the night in question:
"Bales, on his fourth combat deployment, had been drinking and watching a movie with other soldiers at his remote post at Camp Belambay in Kandahar Province when he slipped away before dawn on March 11, 2012. Bales said he had also been taking steroids and snorting Valium.
"Armed with a 9 mm pistol and an M-4 rifle, he attacked a village of mud-walled compounds called Alkozai then returned and woke up a fellow soldier to tell him about it. The soldier didn't believe Bales and went back to sleep. Bales left again to attack a second village known as Najiban."
In order to avoid the possibility of capital punishment, Bales pleaded guilty to the charges this summer — a development that outraged many in Afghanistan, where victims and their family members had called for Bales to be put to death.
The AP reports that one of the Afghans who testified against him was Haji Mohammad Naim, who took the stand wearing a turban and traditional Afghan dress.
"This bastard stood right in front of me!" he said through an interpreter. "I wanted to ask him, 'What did I do? What have I done to you?' ... and he shot me!"
Naim ended his testimony by breaking down and asking the prosecutor not to ask him any more questions.
The Los Angeles Times reports that another Afghan witness was Samiullua, who described the effects of the rampage on his teenage son. The Times reports:
"'He wakes up at night with nightmares,' he said. 'He thinks the Americans are chasing him.' And his daughter — a bright girl, he said — had been shot in the head, left with severe brain injuries. 'She's no longer the same person. Her life is not the same.'"