Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com has a report this morning linking to an AP article in The Australian that U.S. soldiers lined up against a wall all of the adult males in the village of Mokhoyan after an IED blew up a tank injuring American soldiers at a location near the village.
According to the report, the villagers said the Americans told them they knew they were responsible for the IED and they were going to kill at least 20 villagers, including children, to avenge the attack.
According to the villagers, the incident occurred on March 8th. Mokhoyan is in the vicinity of the two villages (Balandi and Alkozai) where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly murdered 16 civilians, including 9 children, setting some of the bodies on fire during the predawn hours of March 11th.
Jason Ditz also reports today that Bales’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client has no memory of the incident and he denies drinking more than a sip or two alcohol that night.
Mr. Browne also said that Bales told him that a friend lost a leg in an IED explosion while on a patrol on March 9th.
The U.S. military has neither confirmed nor denied that the IED explosion reported by the villagers of Mokhoyan is the same incident that Staff Sergeant Bales mentioned to his attorney.
The villagers in Balandi and Alkozai claim that a group of U.S. soldiers committed the murders. The military insists that Staff Sergeant Bales was the only soldier involved.
Appears that the bodies may have been buried before autopsies could be performed to determine specific facts, such as,
(1) the time of death for each victim;
(2) whether more than weapon was involved;
(3) whether the fatal shot or shots were fired from close range;
(4) what was the trajectory of bullet or bullets;
(5) whether there were any exit wounds;
(6) whether there was any evidence (i.e., ligature marks) that the bodies were bound (e.g., wrists tied behind the back);
(7) whether there were any puncture or slashing type wounds consistent with the use of a sharp piercing or cutting instrument like a knife; and
(8) whether there was any evidence of physical torture prior to death.
We also do not know if the houses in which the murders took place were investigated as crime scenes. For example, were any slugs and casings recovered and, if so, how many weapons and what type were involved. Another question I have is whether any bloody fingerprints or footprints were found.
I also wonder if there were any cigarette butts or empty bottles or cans of beer or booze at the crimes scenes. If there were, there would likely be recoverable saliva residue that could be DNA tested to determine the identity of the person or persons who contributed the saliva.
Even if no saliva residue were found, which is unlikely, the presence of more than one brand of cigarette would indicate more than one smoker.
I know from my personal experience in all of the homicide cases I handled, that the most common reason for a killer to burn or dismember a dead body is to prevent identification of the victim and/or to obstruct or prevent a determination of the cause of death and identification of the perpetrator. Staff Sergeant Bales would not have had any reason to burn the bodies, if he acted alone.
I am having a difficult time believing that one person is responsible and today’s news about soldiers lining men up against a wall and telling them they were going to kill at least 20 villagers, including children, is deeply troubling.
Given Staff Sergeant Bales’s convenient loss of memory, I am beginning to suspect that this matter, including the murders and his surrender, was planned and staged to obstruct an investigation to prevent anyone from being convicted.
Therefore, I am going to hazard a guess and predict that no bloodstains were found on his uniform or hands and his weapons had not been fired.
Also based on my experience, I would expect to find high velocity blood spatter on the clothing worn by any shooter who fired a shot within 12 to 18 inches from a victim. The sleeves, shirts, pants, and pockets would be a good place to look for blood spatter, smeared blood, and gunshot residue.
Staff Sergeant Bales will not be convicted if there is no physical evidence tying him to the murders, he did not confess, and he does not recall anything.
If my suspicion is correct, how far up the chain of command does the cover-up go and who had advance knowledge of the massacre?
Did Staff Sergeant Bales even participate in the homicides?
USA Today has reported that Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder, plus some additional charges related to the civilian massacre on March 11th.
No surprise there, but the question is whether they can prove it.
Here’s a surprise. According to the report his lawyer, John Henry Browne, said,
“I’m not putting the war on trial,” Browne has said, “but the war is on trial.” He added: “If I can help create a discussion about the war, that would be a great way for me to go out.”
That’s a rather odd remark for a lawyer to make. Sounds like he views the case as being more about him than his client.
I don’t want to be too hasty in criticizing him, but I find this remark disquieting.
(h/t to Madhoosier @ Smirking Chimp for the link to the USA Today story)
Cross posted from my law blog.