JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, US: Afghan villagers whose lives were ripped apart by the bloody rampage of US army sergeant Robert Bales vented their anger after he was jailed for life, saying they would have preferred to have seen him executed.
Nine Afghans were flown to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord military installation in Washington state to be present as Bales was sentenced to life without parole for the cold-blooded murder of 16 people in March last year.
The 40-year-old had pleaded guilty in June as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty.
While the military jury passed the stiffest available sentence, it was of little comfort to Afghan survivors and relatives of those slain.
Haji Wazeer, who saw 11 members of his family killed, led the calls for the soldier to be put to death. “We were brought all the way here from Afghanistan to see if justice would be served but not in our way,” he said.
“Justice was served their way. We wanted this murderer to be executed but we didn’t get our wish. He is not crazy, he’s a murderer.
“He only got a life sentence without parole but I’m asking average Americans here: If somebody jumps in your house in the middle of the night, kills 11 members of your family and tries to burn them, what punishment would you hand that person?”
Haji Mullah Baran’s brother was murdered and he now cares for his six orphaned children. “I have a message for Americans: What would you think if someone at three in the morning jumps and kills the members of your family, your brothers, your children or your women? And when you come home and you find out that members of your family have been murdered, executed, their brains splattered all over the house.
“I’m asking the American people: What would you think of that murderer? What would be your judgment? The sentencing on this gentleman has only satisfied us five percent of what we expected.”
Mohammad Haji Naeem, 60, was shot in the face and the neck but survived. He lamented the US military’s 12-year involvement in Afghanistan, saying it had failed to rebuild his homeland.
“We were hoping the Americans were coming over here to help us rebuild our country. We had higher expectations for them but our country has been destroyed rather than being fixed. A few years ago when the Americans used to come, the kids used to run to them. Now when they show up, our kids run away and hide.”
Naeem also had little sympathy for Bales’ mother, who cried as her son was sentenced.
“His mother tried to cry but at least she could go and visit him. What about us? Our family members are six feet under and there’s no way we can go and visit them. They’re gone.
“When Americans go to Afghanistan or any other people, try to send the right people, not maniacs and psychos like him.”