Afghan Suspect’s Life Marked by Honors, Personal Setbacks

Posted: March 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm

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By Peter Robison, James Nash and Alison Vekshin - Sun Mar 18 18:05:59 GMT 2012

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- John Henry Browne, a lawyer representing the U.S. army sergeant held in connection with the killings of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, discusses his communication with the soldier and his family. Emma Scanlan and Richard Adler also spoke at the news conference yesterday in Seattle, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the soldier's home station. (Source: Bloomberg)

Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians, was a decorated veteran who also experienced wounds in service and setbacks at home.

He once spoke of saving civilians when his infantry unit in the Iraq war found villagers and family members of Iraqi fighters after the 2007 Battle of Najaf, also known as the Battle of Zarqa, that left 250 insurgents dead. The American soldiers turned from fighting to saving lives, according to a military account.

Ive never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day, for the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that, three or four hours before, were trying to kill us, Bales said in an interview for the 2009 report.

Yet women and children were among the 16 victims of the March 11 shootings in two villages in southern Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials who on March 16 identified Bales, a 38-year-old married father of two, as the suspect. The killings threaten to erode U.S.-Afghan relations, drain remaining U.S. and European support for the war and add pressure to speed troop withdrawals.

Along with a career marked by military honors, a portrait emerged of Bales as a man who had faced financial troubles and brushes with the law. He was a soldier who had been injured twice in Iraq, spurned when he sought a promotion and deployed to Afghanistan even though his family opposed him going into combat again.

Bales was flown March 16 to a U.S. military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Army Colonel James Hutton said in a statement. Bales was being held in a medium-security facility in his own cell and no charges had been announced in the killings. Baless attorney, John Henry Browne of Seattle, will meet with his client tomorrow at the prison, Brownes colleague Emma Scanlan said today in an e-mail.

The Army turned down a request from Bales for a promotion last year, his wife Karilyn wrote March 25 on a blog she maintained as an online family diary. She said her husband was very disappointed after all of the work Bob has done and all the sacrifices he has made for his love of his country, family and friends.

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Afghan Suspect’s Life Marked by Honors, Personal Setbacks

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March 18th, 2012 at 11:53 pm