Robert Bales Allegedly Started Doing Steroids January 1, Accused of Assault on Afghan in February

As I reported here, DOD released a new charge sheet for Robert Bales. I’m going to start by laying out the chronology it portrays, then talk about the identities of the victims at the end. Here’s his original charge sheet for comparison.

The Charges

November 1, 2011-March 10, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge VI) of violating a general order prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in Afghanistan going back to November 1, 2011. Significantly, however, he is not accused of drinking on March 11; the endpoint on this charge is March 10, 2012.

January 1, 2012-March 11, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge V) of possessing and using stanozolol while receiving special pay. Update: Let me correct this. Bales was charged with using steroids starting on January 1. He was charged with possessing steroids starting on February 1. Both because of the assault and the claims by Bales’ lawyers that he got steroids from the special ops guys, that may be significant.

February 1, 2012-February 29, 2012: Bales is accused (Charge III Specification 7) of “unlawfully strik[ing] a male of apparent Afghan descent whose name is unknown on the face and body with his hands and knees.”

March 11, 2012: Bales is accused of 16 counts of premeditated murder (this is one fewer female victim than his prior charge sheet); the charge sheet says that in addition to shooting all the victims, he burned 10 of them (which as I’ll show below is clearly Mohammed Wazir’s family). He is also charged with attempted murder and assault against 6 more people (two girls, two boys, a man, and a woman); these charges appear to line up with the previous charges. In addition, the new charge sheet adds two charges of impeding an investigation, one by “damaging a laptop” and another by “wrongfully burn[ing] bodies.”

The Identities

As I said above, the murders described in Specifications 7 through 16 must be Mohammed Wazir’s family, because we know they were all burned (see this WSJ article for his description of him; see this post for the last time I tried this trick). That section lists 6 females and 4 males. Wazir says he lost 7 females and 4 males, though that includes his daughter Palwahsa who, he described, had no bullet wounds. The last 10 or 11 names listed on the first charge sheet don’t line up perfectly–they include 8 females and 3 males, though I did wonder whether DOD had gotten the sex of one of Wazir’s family members wrong in the first count, so if Palwasha were not listed and they had corrected the sex of one of his sons, then the last 16 on the new charge sheet would correlate to the last 17 of the old one.

The redacted name in Specification 6 in the original charge sheet appears to match the redacted name in Specification 5 in the new one. For the moment, I’ll suggest that’s Mohammad Dawood, who like Wazir’s family was in Najiban. That might mean Specification 6 in the new charge sheet is just another of Wazir’s family members, but one whose body wasn’t dragged into the fire.

The sexes of the first four Specifications match (though not some of the redactions). This would mean they’ve since named the female victim in Specification 4, who was unnamed in the original.

And if all that’s right, then the victim originally listed in Specification 4 would be the one now absent from the charge sheet.

But all this means there’s still a discrepancy between who Afghans say got killed–which consist of 8 male and 8 female victims, and who DOD says got killed–which consist of 7 male and 9 female victims. In a scenario in which Mohammad Dawood got killed by JSOC guys on an official night raid, that would then mean there’s one more female who Bales is charged with killing–probably at Alkozai–whom the Afghans haven’t identified.

In other words, there’s still something funky.

Update: powwow did her own version of a list of victims back in April here (read comments for updates). I’m going to try to match up my list to this.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

31 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    I’m still in the “single gunman” camp, but EW is making good points about the potential of another SOF raid either that same night or nearly so.

    Some of my thoughts as we plumb the latest charge sheet and the latest news that has come out with it:

    1) I notice that the Army has not charged Bales with one of their more significant violations. Namely, that being Dereliction of Duty – Section 92 of the UCMJ, or the even more serious derivation of a Sentinel/Lookout, UCMJ Article 113 – Misbehavior of sentinel. These particular UCMJ violations have a punishment of up to and including death in wartime.

    I wonder why neither of these UCMJ articles were charged. Particularly the Sentinel/Lookout charge of “Leaving one’s post without being properly relieved”. It may be simply that Bales was not “on duty” when he left Camp Belambay, but I doubt that Bales still had permission to wander off the base, or it may be that given all the other charges, the Army gave him a pass on this one.

    2) The charges in Specifications 7 through 16, as EW has already noted, are for both murdering 10 victims and then burning them. As has already been noted in other posts on the subject, moving 10 dead victims is both time-consuming and laborious effort for a single individual. Particularly for one who is buzzed out of his mind with either adrenalin from the violence of the moment and/or ‘roid rage with steroids.

  2. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: To further expand on the “on duty” point, if Bales wasn’t the US soldier “on duty”, who was?

    I simply can’t imagine that the US forces at Camp Belambay in the middle of enemy territory would have only Afghan forces doing guard duty in the middle of the night. It seems totally out of character for Army doctrine, and in particular, given that the “green on blue” incidents where the Afghan government forces have killed or wounded US forces have been skyrocketing, a major failure of command responsibility.

    So either there was a US soldier on guard duty that night or there wasn’t. If the former, why hasn’t that US soldier been charged? If the latter, why hasn’t the commanding US officer of Camp Belambay been charged?

    This is one area that the MSM journalists have not reported on. Whether or not there were any charges or disciplinary actions against any other US personnel from Camp Belambay or higher command taken as a result of this massacre.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: You know, look at the booze and steroid charges there, too. One was tied to when he was receiving special pay, the other to being in Afghanistan. That is,neither was tied to whether he was on duty.

    But then, of course, there’s teh weird bit with the drinking charge ENDING on March 10, not March 11.

  4. MadDog says:

    An updated report from about 20 minutes ago from the Los Angeles Time’s Kim Murphy:

    “…Except for the new evidence of substance use, the main difference in the new charge sheet is that it reduces the number of alleged murders from 17 to 16, clearing up a continued point of confusion since the killings first were reported. Army officials said a detailed investigation since the original charges were brought revealed that one of the victims was originally named twice…”

  5. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Could be that the March 10th date for consuming the alcohol meant before midnight of that evening, and before he went out of Camp Belambay.

    On the “special pay” thingee, I don’t understand why the Army would consider that relevant. Using stanozolol would be illegal regardless of whether Bales was receiving “special pay”. I wonder why the Army added that tidbit?

  6. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And Time is now confirming or at the least, reporting the same thing as what the LA Times reported:

    “…Due to discrepancies in the names on lists of the victims, officials had apparently counted one of them twice, but are now certain there were 16 killed, said Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, where Bales is based…”

  7. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And so too is Reuters:

    “…Army Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state where Bales was assigned, said the reduction in the number of murder counts stems from the fact that one of the dead Afghan villagers was double counted. “You had the same name twice,” he said…”

  8. MadDog says:

    Another tidbit via the NYT’s report:

    “…John Henry Browne, Sergeant Bales’s lawyer, said in an interview that the steroids probably showed up in blood taken from the soldier the night he was arrested…”

    I’m guessing that we all assumed there was a blood test done, but this seems close to a confirmation from Bales’s lawyer.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: Not sure I buy that. Bales is charged with ‘roids going back months. It’s more than that one test.

    Though maybe the booze didn’t show up?

  10. Jeff Kaye says:

    @MadDog: “…it may be that given all the other charges, the Army gave him a pass on this one.”

    Hardly. I think Gareth Porter and Shah Nouri did a pretty good job of making the case the other day that Bales was part of the JSOC operation, and this was covered up.

    The stanozolol charge is a gift to the defense. FWIW, Anders Breivik is said to have been “high” on stanozolol when he did his killings.

    I’m very curious about the “damaging the laptop” to impede the investigation charge. First I’ve heard anything about that. Did Bales access that night’s operational plans for his own use? Did he even do the “damaging”?

  11. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: In regard to the ‘roids, if they had multiple tests showing it, the question arises of why wasn’t it dealt with earlier. Or was it, but handled informally (i.e. no NJP or formal charges)?

    Oh, and NJP stands for Non-Judicial Punishmentt. Commanding officers of units basically act as judge and jury for relatively minor offences that don’t rise to the level requiring a Courts Martial. In the Navy, it is called “Captain’s Mast”.

    As to the booze, I seem to remember a news report that other US soldiers at Camp Belambay had admitted to the investigators that Bales had been drinking with them earlier that day/night.

  12. MadDog says:

    @Jeff Kaye: I did read that Gareth Porter and Shah Nouri piece, and that’s why I admitted that EW was making some good points regarding a SOF raid.

    That said, I’m still in the camp of a “single gunman” for that very same reason I brought up originally. That being that I find it extremely hard to believe that in the face of death penalty charges, anyone would take the heat for others’ involvement.

    It may still be that Bales is doing just that, but again, I find it really hard to swallow.

    As to your point about the defense and their gift of the stanozolol charges, to a certain extent I agree with your take. The defense sounds like it is happy, but I would also suggest that the defense may be overenthusiastic about the benefit. Given that the military is conducting the “trial” with military folks as both judge and jury, that apparent benefit may amount to nothing much at all.

    Kind of like the chances detainees see in military commissions. Little or none.

  13. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Sadly, I’m guessing that many military folks over in Afghanistan wouldn’t regard beating up an Afghan as worth a moment’s notice.

    It sounds like the prosecution wants to lay the groundwork for prior animus against Afghans by Bales, and the prior beating up of an Afghan charge is meant to bolster their theory of the case. Goes to motive perhaps?

  14. MadDog says:

    Totally OT to this post, but related to today’s earlier postings, this from CNN:

    “…In the latest case, the White House denied it was orchestrating the leak. Asked Friday if the Times’ story detailing the cyberattack on Iran was an “authorized leak,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest disagreed “in the strongest possible terms.”

    “That information is classified for a reason. Publicizing it would pose a threat to our national security,” Earnest told reporters…”

    Hmmm…I think I know why his parent’s named him “Josh”.

  15. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Hah! I’m sure you will have noted that Josh did not specifically state that the information “leaked” was not authorized.

    He danced around the actual substance of the question by giving a song and dance response about national security and classified information, but he never actually denied that the leak was authorized.

    Josh was just joshing. *g*

  16. MadDog says:

    @tjallen: Which is really bizarre. Back when I was in the military (72-76), midway through my service, they first started the testing of all service members for drug use including pot.

    I can’t imagine that they’ve stopped such testing, and it is quite likely that it has become even more frequent and more specific. They certainly do so upon one’s entrance into the armed forces, and as I stated, they did so in the middle of my service. All members on my ship were required to pee in the bottle, and that included both enlisted and officers.

    Again, I would guess that folks deploying overseas would at a minimum be screened for illegal drug use prior to actually being deployed as part of their physical checkup.

    In addition to ‘roid usage as that link identifies, there have been numerous news reports about drug use such as pot by US soldiers in Afghanistan.

  17. tjallen says:

    @MadDog: The steroid test is too expensive to be part of the standard package of tests. The article suggests the steroid test is $250, compared to THC test for $8, so the steroid testing is rare, in comparison to other controlled substances.

  18. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: And btw, Gawker’s piece quoted Josh exactly. The White House’s own press gaggle transcript from today shows that, and again, Josh never explicitly denies that the leaked info was not authorized.

    In addition, I’m guessing there will be no investigation either. Heh:

    “…Q So let me ask you this. Given that, does the President intend to open an investigation into the apparent leak of this secure information?

    MR. EARNEST: I don’t have any information for you on that right now…”

  19. MadDog says:

    More OT – So you don’t miss it, via the AP:

    Court: US must decide terrorist designatio

    “A federal appeals court on Friday gave Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton four months to decide whether a group opposed to Iran should be removed from a list of foreign terrorist organizations.

    The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran first received the terrorist designation 15 years ago. But the organization maintains that it ended a military campaign against Iran, surrendered its arms to U.S. forces in Iraq and shared intelligence with the U.S. government on Iran’s nuclear program.

    A three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Clinton has been slow in providing the group with material it needs to respond to the terrorist designation and gave her a deadline to take final action…”

    Hmmm…4 months from now to give it up on the MEK. By October 1st or so. Isn’t there something else going on? Oh yeah, the 2012 elections.

    What a coincidence. Not!

  20. orionATL says:

    @tjallen:

    my question, too.

    did the military allow the steroids, directly or by looking the other way?

    the implications of deliberately using this chemical for “improving” soldiers’ performance of duties is heinous.

  21. orionATL says:

    @wavpeac:

    jeez, unbelievable.

    there’s no way the army can’t be well aware of this. which suggests a tacit admission that we have a dysfunctional professional/volunteer army which needs drugs to continue functioning.

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