The latest on the SSG Robert Bales murder case

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The latest on the SSG Robert Bales murder case

On the list of topics I wanted to talk about today, this one doesn't even make the top 25, but folks are emailing me constantly on it, so thought I should address.

I realize there is an email going around comparing the Bales case with that of Major Hasan.  Just some quick points on that...The pace of trials is not something that the military has a great deal of control over.  Both Major Hasan and SSG Bales are constitutionally obligated to get their day in court, and it will come when the defenses (and prosecutors) think that they have all the info ready to proceeed to trial.  I think it is horrid how long it has taken Hasan to get to trial, but it isn't like he is out enjoying himself at Disney World.  He's in jail, and is likely to remain there to the end of his days, no matter how soon that comes.  As for Bales, same thing.  The email makes mention that folks are calling for Bales to be tried, convicted and executed like yesterday....yeah, I have noticed that too.  Regardless of what he did or didn't do, he's entitled to due process, and he will get it.  I don't know why everyone is calling for his head when we don't even know fully what happened yet, but it is what it is.

With that caveat, here is some of the latest from the investigation.

The Daily Mail in England has a sort of odd article up:

The American soldier accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians outside a military base told comrades that he had killed some local men, according to a senior official.  However, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales did not tell the other soldiers that he had also shot women and children, even though nine of those who died were said to be children.

When commanders took Bales into custody he refused to talk further without being accompanied by a lawyer.  Earlier reports, including from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, suggested that the soldier had confessed to all 16 killings when he was first apprehended at his base. Bales's lawyer has repeatedly claimed that his client does not remember what happened on the night of the alleged massacre.

USA Today looked at the wife and her appearance on NBC's Today Show:

The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians says her husband showed no signs of PTSD before he deployed, and adds that she doesn't feel like she'll ever believe he was involved in the killings....

The Washington state woman said her husband joined the Army after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to "protect his family, friends and country. He wanted to do his part," and added that her husband is "very brave, very courageous."

"He loves children, he's like a big kid himself," she said. "I have no idea what happened, but he would not … he loves children, and he would not do that."

Meanwhile, NBC also did a video about other military wives trying to help Mrs. Bales:



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Now, as far as I know, the Defense Attorney hasn't even come up with any defense, which is as it should be, since he hasn't even talked to his client yet, or at least had not as of two days ago.  I have no clue why someone would do this, and I doubt anyone else will either, so he's not going to come up with tactics until he gets a handle on what the facts in the case are.  And so far, all our facts come from sources I wouldn't trust if I had a client whose very life was on the line.

Nonetheless, I predicted a few weeks ago that a "Mefloquine defense" might make an appearance at some point, and Huffington Post came out with that one this morning, leading my buddy Jonn Lilyea to ask me if I was a seer.

Nine days after a U.S. soldier allegedly massacred 17 civilians in Afghanistan, a top-level Pentagon health official ordered a widespread, emergency review of the military’s use of a notorius anti-malaria drug called mefloquine.

Mefloquine, also called Lariam, has severe psychiatric side effects. Problems include psychotic behavior, paranoia and hallucinations. The drug has been implicated in numerous suicides and homicides, including deaths in the U.S. military. For years the military has used the weekly pill to help prevent malaria among deployed troops.
The U.S. Army nearly dropped use of mefloquine entirely in 2009 because of the dangers, now only using it in limited circumstances, including sometimes in Afghanistan. The 2009 order from the Army said soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury should not be given the drug.
Don't get me wrong, not saying that defense would work, or that it is proper or anything else, I just see it being used.  For my part, that Mefloquine is some bad stuff.  I look back on taking it and get scared.  We had guys hearing voices, unable to sleep, wetting the bed and a host of other bad things.  Would it cause someone to go off the rails and kill folks?  I doubt it, but then again, I watched a buddy watch 8 seasons of CSI straight while on it and he kept talking about how he wanted to study the stuff.  He didn't sleep for at least 3 days.  Bad juju.
The Meflaquine story noted some past problems with the drug...
“This medication has been increasingly associated with neuropsychiatric side effects, including depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.”
In 2004 in the United Press International, this reporter and reporter Dan Olmsted chronicled use of the drug by six elite Army Special Forces soldiers who took mefloquine then committed suicide. (Suicide is relatively infrequent among Special Forces soldiers).
"You're ready to take that plunge into hurting someone or hurting and killing yourself, and it comes on unbelievably quickly,” said one Special Forces soldier diagnosed with permanent brain damage from Lariam. “It's just a sudden thought, it's the right thing to do. You'll get a mental picture, and it's in full color."
Also that year, the UPI report showed how mefloquine use was a factor in half of the suicides among troops in Iraq in 2003 -– and how suicides dropped by 50 percent after the Army stopped handing out the drug.
In a case that echoes the Bales’ case, that year the Army dropped charges against Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany. Pogany had been the first soldier since Vietnam charged with cowardice. Like Bales, Pogany faced a possible death sentence. The Army dropped the charges after doctors determined that Pogany suffered from Lariam toxicity, which affected his behavior in Iraq.
In 2002, three elite soldiers, who took mefloquine in Afghanistan, returned to murder their wives and then commit suicide. Friends and neighbors described the soldiers’ behavior after taking the drug as incoherent, strange and angry.
So again, we'll have to wait and see what happens, but bear in mind that someone accused of a crime like this(or any other) needs to be able to defend himself in court.  We'd all like trials to be quick and over, but the reality is there are a lot of things that goes into ensuring that all of our men and women get the constitutional protections to which they are entitled.
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Let the most capable hands of the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) prevail. This legal issue will be resolved within the military justice system, and there is legal appeal available also.

This entire event makes me wonder what the base security and perimeter LP's and OP's and roving patrols were doing? Security vehicles and night vision scans saw and heard nothing? Can't imagine one man going out and returning to base. The various Malaria medications have had these side effects since the first Gulf War. I think this war has gone on long enough and hope we pull out soon.
It is like the Vietnam of the Middle East. Bring the soldiers home and provide mental health counseling. It's time to bring closure...

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.