An update from Steve N. who spent 30 years with the JAG departments in the US Navy, Army, and Air Force. Steve earlier wrote:
As you know I have about 30 years serving in the JAG Departments of the Navy, Air Force and Army. That time leads me to raise red flags when I read or hear about a particular military criminal case. Today, red flags arose while reading about SSGT Bales case. As you know he is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to include children. He went back to his base and turned himself into authorities.
It appears at this time he will be charged under a General Courts-Martial for the murder of the 16 Afghan civilians. Most likely his defense attorney(s) will plead him not guilty.
The government now has a quandary on its hands. What witnesses we have to the actual incident(s) are Afghan citizens. Absent a guilty plea and his own testimony, the government would need to look to the Afghans to prove their case. Are they going to bring a bunch of angry Afghans to the US, babysit them, ensure their testimony for a trial?
As a secondary issue this might create a hostile witness scenario. Yes, we have alleged witnesses to a possible drinking situation prior to his departure of the post but that is merely disobeying a “general order”. While it would be a court-martial offense such an offense is generally dealt with via non-judicial punishment, Article 15, UCMJ. Of course it would be added to his court-martial more serious charges for no other reason than should the government fail in its attempt to convict him of the murder charges they would have at least a conviction of a lesser offense. That would at minimum give them grounds for an administrative discharge. The government never loses. It simply finds another way to accomplish its objectives when it comes to misconduct of its members.
From merely a personal perspective, this is another situation where the brass has reacted without reasoning or marching to the orders of someone who is obviously clueless, i.e., Obama merely to cover his own butt. We have unfortunately had several murder incidents via military troops in combat. The others all had other military members as government witnesses even if it included making a deal for their testimony. They all were sent back to their home installation to face the charges. Most of those have been at Fort Lewis where SSgt Boyles is also assigned.
Here is some irony. The Fort Hood Shooter trial is to start this month at Fort Hood. He remains at Fort Hood after killing twice as many people as SSgt Bales. The Major kills active duty soldiers wearing his same uniform and some civilian employees while SSgt Bales is accused of killing 16 civilians in a combat zone and is in maximum security at a prison reserved for the most dangerous military criminals after they have been tried and convicted.