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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Trauma in Afghanistan

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of shooting to death sixteen Afghani civilians, including nine children, last week. Yesterday the New York Times discussed whether the strain of multiple tours and the stress of combat might have caused Sgt Bales to behave as he did. A US army spokesman, Colonel Thomas W. Collins, dismissed the suggestion, arguing that, "Lots of soldiers have four deployments, and they’re not accused of things like this". According to the New York Times the profile of Sgt Bales - a 38-year-old father of two - is typical of many soldiers and marines serving in Afghanistan; like many combat soldiers, Sgt Bales had experienced psychological trauma during his service: the day before the massacre he witnessed a colleague lose a leg in an explosion. Reports suggest that Sgt Bales was drinking alcohol before he left the US military base in Kandahar on the night of the massacre; but Mr Browne, his lawyer, says there is no evidence 'on the public record' of Sgt Bales having a drink problem. Mr Browne does suggest, however, that Sgt Bales was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) having himself lost part of a foot in a mine explosion. The evidence suggests, therefore, that against a background of chronic and acute stress, Sgt Bales experienced a severe mental breakdown, marked by a murderous rage that was targetted at innocent villagers.

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