Why Did Robert Bales' Character Flaws Go Unnoticed For So Long?
By John Kays
Who is Robert Bales? Or better yet, who was Robert Bales at one time, and how did his identity change after four deployments in the theater of war? Did Bales completely snap on March 11th, when he allegedly kills 16 Afghan civilians in the province of Pajhwok? Robert has no memory of shooting the civilians, or that's what he's telling his lawyer anyway. There's a blaring disconnect between how friends and family sketch his past character and between what it looks like he did. Why?
As we read over news reports on Robert Bales, a tremendous amount of information is coming out about how he grew up in Norwood, Ohio, his schooling, employment record, and his apparent sterling record in the military, after enlisting for service in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. One good example is Bob Durham, who has been interviewed by CNN, and has publicly upheld the character of Robert Bales, in the ways he helped his son, who suffered from disabilities.
Yet this was some time ago (late '80s, early '90s) and Bales went through many changes which seemed to undermine his character, or that showed a darker side to him, which may have gone unnoticed by those who were closer to him, and who remained subjective in their assessments of both his personality and his behavior exhibited, along the path of his life.
For those who don't know him, there's a chance that they might be capable of more objectivity and independence in their attempts to piecemeal this complex personality puzzle. This massacre is a major event that affects our policy in Afghanistan, possibly hastening our departure from this war, which is hopelessly inconclusive and doesn't seem to be advancing the cause (whatever that is?) of the United States. Bales actions have even been compared to the Mai Lai Massacre, which helped in accelerating a U.S. departure from Vietnam.
This is a very complex problem and the ramifications of Bales' aberrant behavior is enormous in its scope, even of historical significance. Therefore, it is all the more tantamount that our judgments for what may have caused him to become unhinged are sound and based on the facts in the case. All of his life experiences must be factored in, along with the several warning signs in evidence, that contributed to his breakdown.
You'll want to look at these various black spots on Robert Bales' record. The 2000 issue, where he made unauthorized trades when he was a broker doesn't look too good. Then we hear of an assault charge of a girlfriend, which also doesn't look too nice. Furthermore, we hear of a hit and run, where Robert fled from the scene of an accident. One black mark by itself might not be too bad, but when combined, starts to wear on you!
The largest problem, which may have made the greatest contribution leading to Bales' going berserk, is the reality of four deployments in a theater of war, three to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. We hear his foot was wounded in the first deployment to Iraq. Then we hear also, Robert sustained head injuries in a vehicle accident. Then why was he not pulled from combat duties at this time?
Did the head injuries affect his judgment in a very touchy combat arena, where you don't know who are Taliban sympathizers and who arn't? And what about alcohol or substance abuse? How would these affect someone who already has head injuries? It's clear Bales snapped, but finding the reasons why is tricky business, but it has to be done.
John Kays identifies timeless remnants from our past that will endure, or be admired by future generations. Read more stories by John Kays.
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