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Sergeant who killed Afghan civilians should be punished

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 00:03

Disbelief and outrage quickly spread across Afghanistan and the U.S. last week when Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly went on a vicious killing spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 innocent Afghan civilians. Both nations were left wondering what led to this deadly outburst by an active member of the U.S. military. 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, Bales deserves punishment for the crime s
he committed.

March 11, 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 17 he killed were children. He then returned to his post went in willingly when arrested. This repercussions of his fatal attack are too serious to be excused.

According to The Associated Press, the Afghan militia called the attack a “blood-soaked and inhumane crime.” 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 publicly revealed.

Additionally, the slayings, which collectively are said to be among the worst atrocities committed by U.S. forces during the Afghan war, happened amid 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 severity of his crimes, many continue to argue that Bales cannot be blamed for what he did. They speculate he may have suffered from PTSD and reason that “his 11-year Army career had stalled with a missed promotion, and four deployments had taxed his family and finances,” according to 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.

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.

Ashley Fisher is a student at Washington State University.

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