Monday, March 19, 2012

The Name of Horror

So now horror has a name and it is Robert Bales, Staff Sgt. 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army. He is currently sitting in custody while the military decides what to charge him with in connection with the murder of 16 Afghan citizens, most of whom were children.

Looking at a brief history of his life, courtesy of the New York Times on the surface he seems like the All American kid. He is the youngest of 5 children and was raised in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio. He apparently was outgoing and friendly. He played middle linebacker on the football team and was voted one of the best dancers in his class. Everyone called him Bobby.

The people he has been acquainted with over the years seem to be in shock and disbelief that the nightmare that evening could have been perpetrated by him. By all accounts he was a completely decent, although utterly average sort.

There are, however,  hints at a darker Bobby Bales that peek between the cracks every now and then. He signed his yearbook football picture with the name "Doom." He dropped out of Ohio State after three years for reasons not explained, or at least currently public. He knocked around in the financial business, first in Ohio, then with a brother who opened up a firm in south Florida. It went belly up rather quickly.

He joined the army at age 27 two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks and was assigned to Ft. Lewis in Washington after basic. While there he was arrested for assaulting a woman at a local motel. He paid a fine and attended a court mandated anger management course. He left the scene of an accident where he rolled a vehicle. Later he claimed he fell asleep at the wheel.

He got married and he and his wife had two children. And, he began multiple deployments to Iraq.

He was described as a calming and mature influence and a good team leader. And apparently he liked it hot. On his second tour in Iraq he and his unit became involved in a pitched battle with hundreds of insurgents as U.S. troops tried to recover a downed Black Hawk Helicopter. He was interviewed by the Ft. Lewis newspaper afterward and described the encounter this way, "The cool part about this was that it was World War II style."

He described his third tour as "boring and pretty dumb" and was upset there was a lack of combat.

Somewhere in there that attitude changed. He suffered a wound to the foot, but it was minor enough it didn't get him sent home. He was also involved in a vehicle accident and incurred a head injury.

By the time he got home it looks as if he had tired of combat. He trained as a recruiter, but was passed over for a promotion while still only about half way to twenty years of service and retirement. The army not only didn't give him the recruiter's position, they shipped him out once more, this time to Afghanistan.

At home things were going south financially. After his marriage he moved into a house his wife owned in Auburn, Washington. They moved to a new house in Lake Tapps, Washington and rented out the old place, but things weren't going well. They fell $17,000 behind in payments and owed $195,000 to the bank. The house now has reportedly sat empty and in disrepair for quite some time.

Three days before the massacre his wife contacted a real estate agent to sell the Lake Tapps house, because the family was stretched so thin financially.

A day or two before it happened one of his buddies lost a leg to a land mine.

The army says marital problems, stress, and alcohol caused him to snap.

Bales' lawyer claims he doesn't have problems with alcohol and his marriage is solid.

What we know for sure is that no one is saying he didn't do it. At some point on that terrible night he walked away from his post and went utterly berserk.

What we also know is that just before he ceased to be a soldier and became a murderer, Bobby Bales sent his wife this terse message. "Hard day for the good guys."

Indeed. And they are going to get harder still thanks to, Sgt. Robert Bales. It is downhill from here. All that is left in Afghanistan is more deadly outrage and gruesome atrocities. The war needs to end before there are more ghastly acts on either side. It needs to end immediately.


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