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War Creates Monsters

March 18th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

Sergeant Robert Bales consumed some alcohol and then without further ado went door  to  door and started shooting and stabbing Afghan civilians, mostly women and children; when the killing spree was over, it left 16 innocent people dead. What an alarming and sickening tragedy this is! When I first read about the story, I immediately thought of the Mai Lai Massacre in Vietnam in 1968 in which 2 dozen soldiers, led by Lieutenant William Calley went berserk and simply cold-heartedly slaughtered more than 500 unarmed civilians. As in the Bales incident, most of the victims were women and children.
Sgt. Robert Bales did not have fangs and breathe fire in fact he was a husband and father who had two children and by all accounts was said to be a solid citizen all around. On the front page of the New York Times there was an article on what it might be like to be married to a man in the military – detailing not just the loneliness of being separated for long stretches at a time but she also elaborated (taken from her personal blog) on the anguish Karilyn Bales felt knowing that her husband was deployed 4 times to the hot spots of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yesterday’s headline read: ‘G.I. Sapped Under Strain’. What surprised me was that Bales had been in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 – more than a decade of hell on earth. This blog is not about exonerating Sgt. Bales for his unspeakably heinous actions but here is a man whose intentions were honorable when he enlisted a week after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and a week ago he had been transformed from being a potential hero into a diabolically mentally disturbed mass murderer. There were strangers in a distant foreign land who were trying to kill him for more than 10 years; the horrors of war he witnessed and experienced I’m sure haunted him day and night. I’m personally left with a feeling of immense sadness and anger over the unthinkable disgust of it all.
I wonder what will become of Sgt. Robert Bales – will he now spend the rest of his natural life in a federal prison cell? I uncovered an article on the web in which Lieutenant William Calley was sentenced to life but he only served 3 and a half years under house arrest; hardly seems fair, does it ? So WhaDaYa Think ? What do you think ? Should we treat Bales just like any other vicious killer or should we take into account the fact that he was completely deranged after serving his country for more than a decade in the heat and stress of combat. For a moment, I feel a bit of empathy for Bales but then I see the dead bodies and all sympathy for the sergeant disappears.

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3 Responses to “War Creates Monsters”

  1. Rick Says:

    I’m suprised this is the only incident like this. Take a mentally unstable person put him or her in a unstable situation and presto bad things happen. Considering the amount of soldiers faced with this environment it tells me one thing. We have a damn great military.

  2. Sal Paradise Says:

    I agree with Rick in that we’re fortunate incidents of this nature, if not magnitude, aren’t more common. As a psychotherapist I’ve worked with a couple of Gulf War and Irag War veterans who exhibited PTSD symptoms and a notable commonality is the lack of supports and resources available to combat/conflict veterans. The Veterans Administration is an obsolete, dysfunctional bureaucracy that is grossly underfunded and underserves those who’ve sacrificed so much. As a result, we have untold ‘walking wounded’ among us; men and women who’ve never been properly assessed for PTSD or recieved any therapeutic support. As horrific and tragic as Sgt. Bales story is he’s a statistical outlier. Far more common, and ultimately taking far more of a societal toll, are the innumerable men and women who are equally damaged but turn their rage inward; with debilitating mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, family strife and broken families as the less newsworthy but far more pervasive and damaging consequences.

  3. Michael Tabor Says:

    Great insight Sal.

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