Eric M. Johnson
June 6, 2013
A U.S. Army sergeant who killed 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood last year pleaded guilty on Wednesday to premeditated murder and other charges under a deal with military prosecutors that spares him from the death penalty.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, admitted to leaving his Army post in the Afghan province of Kandahar last March to gun down and set fire to unarmed villagers, mostly women and children, in attacks on their family compounds.
“As far as why, I’ve asked that question a million times since then,” Bales said, in a calm, steady voice, when the judge pressed him for an explanation. “There is not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things that I did.”
The slayings marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on a single, rogue U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and further strained U.S.-Afghan relations after more than a decade of conflict in that country.