The case of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is deeply troubling for any person of decency and sensitivity. He is accused of gunning down 16 Afghan civilians, including nine innocent children, and is awaiting a court ruling on whether he should be subject to court martial with the potential to be executed.
The prosecutor appropriately characterizes the crimes of which Bales is accused as, “heinous, brutal, methodical and despicable.” It could not have been better stated.
We are told that Bales was under the influence of Valium and alcohol at the time. Prominent mention is made of Bales' supportive wife and the fact that he has two young children. I am sure we will also be told by the defense that war is hell and that individuals like Bales are dehumanized as they are trained to kill the enemy. These factors must not be permitted to interfere with an objective and appropriate analysis of his case, and if found guilty, a sentence of execution or life in prison dispensed.
The Afghan people and the entire civilized world surely watch with rapt attention to learn whether the American tenet of regard for human life will be demonstrated through the manner in which a mass murderer is treated. Interested onlookers have the right to demand that we honor the lives of those who were slaughtered by holding their monstrous killer accountable.
If there is to be a death penalty for military crimes, what case would merit its imposition more than this one?