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2012: Year in review

11-year Army veteran allegedly opens fire on Afghans, killing 16

In what would be the worst U.S. military atrocity since the Vietnam War, a U.S. soldier wandered off a small combat outpost in Kandahar province’s volatile Panjwai district on March 11 and allegedly killed 16 civilians, including nine children in two villages.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, an 11-year Army veteran, was arrested for the killings and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The Army announced Dec. 19 that it would seek the death penalty.

Bales’ lawyer, John Henry Browne, who once defended serial killer Ted Bundy, is attempting to put the military on trial and highlight the mental stress put on soldiers with multiple deployments. Bales had done three tours in Iraq.

Browne said the Army was diverting attention from its culpability in sending a traumatized and possibly brain-injured soldier into combat for a fourth deployment.

“I do not think the Army is taking responsibility for its own,” Browne was reported as saying.

What was surprising was the reaction in Afghanistan.

While the burning of Qurans at Bagram Airfield earlier in the year spawned deadly riots in several cities, reaction was local, with villagers venting their anger at investigators and not tolerating U.S. patrols for weeks.

U.S. troops, especially those in hot spots close to the massacre, were horrified and angered that one of their own was accused of committing an act sure to put his comrades in danger of reprisal attacks.

In the aftermath of the attack, the Pentagon made an attempt to scrub government websites of articles that mentioned Bales, in the hopes of protecting the family’s privacy, a spokesman said.

druzinh@estripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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