The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

March 24, 2012

Army sergeant charged in Afghan massacre

WASHINGTON — Charges filed Friday against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales reflect the horror of the crime: 17 counts of premeditated murder, more than half of them children, during a shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan. But while Afghans are calling for swift and severe punishment, it will likely be months, even years, before the public ever sees Bales in a courtroom.

One only has to look at two recent and similarly high-profile cases to see that the wheels of military justice turn slowly.

It’s been nearly 29 months since an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, allegedly killed 13 and injured two dozen more at Fort Hood, Texas. His trial is scheduled to begin in June. And it’s been 21 months since the military charged intelligence analyst Bradley Manning with leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information. It took nine months before he was deemed competent to stand trial.

The Bales case is likely to be equally complex, involving questions of his mental state and the role that the stresses of war and possible previous head injuries may have played in his alleged actions. Most of the eyewitnesses are the Afghan villagers and survivors who may be brought in for the trial.

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