Category Archive: FOR THE RECORD

The Massacre in Zangabad, Panjwai: Afghan Testimony, As Reported

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For details of the U.S. Army’s investigation of this mass murder, and the commanding general’s AR 15-6 review, see the Timelines linked in the December 31, 2015 note atop Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

More than a year ago, a horrifying war-crime massacre was committed by at least one American soldier stationed in the Zangabad area of Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Seven months ago (or eight months later), the U.S. Army held a pre-trial “Article 32” hearing, in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), at a military base in Washington state, to assess the evidence against SSG Robert Bales, who was taken into custody on March 11, 2012 and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on March 23, 2012. That November, 2012 hearing took sworn testimony from other American soldiers, and from Afghan survivors. The media was allowed to cover the hearing – but not to film it, or record the audio – in an overflow room of the small military courtroom. There, over seven straight days, they saw Americans testify in person, and then, late at night, Pacific time, watched 11 Afghan survivors, 2 Afghan National Army guards, and 1 Afghan Uniform National Police investigator testify by video link from an Army base in Kandahar city.

The official transcript of that pivotal Army Article 32 hearing, however, remains secret – concealed from the public and the press. Thus, the only sworn testimony of Afghan survivors and witnesses, describing what happened that night, exists in the snippets of testimony that the handful of reporters present managed to capture and preserve for the public record, during the three late nights of Afghan testimony heard at the conclusion of seven days of attack testimony. Also concealed from the public is the subsequent report by the investigating officer, based upon the evidence produced at the hearing (including four days of testimony by American soldiers), that formally recommended to the Army that SSG Bales be referred for a court-martial trial (advice that the Army commander implemented in late December, 2012).

The U.S. Army has similarly concealed the names of all of the children listed on their two Charge Sheets for SSG Bales – March 23, 2012 Charge Sheet; June 1, 2012 Charge Sheet – and thus the identities of the victims behind the numbers remained a secret until January 17, 2013, when Gene Johnson of the Associated Press obtained the full list of Charge Sheet victim names from defense attorneys for the accused. (The names of the adult victims on the current Army Charge Sheet were only pried out of the Army by the media in November, 2012.) The AP’s January list confirmed that the only existing, semi-official (Afghan-sourced) public list of massacre victims’ names was not the same as the June 1, 2012 Army Charge Sheet. The AP’s list of victims also publicly confirmed for the first time that there are notnine children” listed among the dead on the current Army Charge Sheet, as has been – and continues to be – unquestioningly accepted, and repeated as fact by members of the media, since President Karzai and U.S. military spokesmen first made unsupported statements to that effect soon after the massacre. Yet such unexplained discrepancies, like all the many other disturbing discrepancies in the U.S. government’s version of this story (for particulars, see my repeatedly-updated July, 2012 post and its maps, in addition to the reporting below), remain unmentioned and uninvestigated by our Free Press (whose reporting is largely responsible for the obvious existence of those discrepancies), and by our representatives in the House and Senate. (While Panjwai Massacre victims still living in the war zone that is Zangabad, like Haji Mohammad Naim – who’s had one son killed since the massacre by a NATO airstrike, and another arrested – now plead for help and justice from “human rights organizations” – see subtitled June 5 video below.)

Congress, to the best of my knowledge, has convened not a single public hearing to examine what happened that night, during the commission of the worst American war crime in decades. Significant monetary compensation from U.S. taxpayers, however, was hurriedly issued by the Department of Defense (or the CIA) to the subsistence farmers affected, the day after Bales was charged – before Army investigators had even made it to the scenes of the crime to investigate.

And today, June 5, 2013, his lawyers announced a week ago, SSG Bales will be pleading guilty, effectively as charged (thus, to 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder), in order to avoid the death penalty – and, evidently, so that the Army can avoid having its evidence tested at trial.

First video-recorded interview of wounded Panjwai Massacre survivor Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, with his nephew Abdul Baqi and victims Samiullah and Haji Baran, filmed in Zangabad June 5, 2013 by Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani

Bales guilty plea: Victims’ reactions, from 2470media on Vimeo. Click on image to play June 5, 2013 video.

June 23rd UPDATE: As blogged by Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times June 5, “During the hearing [Wednes]day, [SSG] Bales did not offer an apology to his victims,” but he did plead guilty, as expected, to all but one of the counts charged to him on June 1, 2012. The one count to which Bales did not plead guilty was an alleged violation of Article 134 of the UCMJ – Charge IV, Specification 1 – which stated that Bales did “wrongfully endeavor to impede an investigation . . . by damaging a laptop computer.” Here’s how Gene Johnson of the Associated Press reported the sworn testimony of U.S. Army Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, in that regard, during November’s Article 32 hearing:

But Bales also deliberately mangled his laptop, said two soldiers assigned to guard him as he gathered his things.

One of them, Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, testified that he removed the laptop from Bales’ rucksack after the defendant told him he didn’t want to take it with him. O’Rourke said Bales then grabbed the computer and folded the screen back, breaking it.

That didn’t damage the hard drive, O’Rourke said, and investigators still could have retrieved information from the computer. O’Rourke didn’t testify about what information might have been uncovered.

On Monday, Cpl. David Godwin testified that Bales asked him to bleach his blood-soaked clothes.

And here’s how Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog described the pertinent Article 32 testimony of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell:

Two soldiers who guarded him that day said they gave Bales the benefit of the doubt when he told them he wanted to retrieve his laptop while he awaited a helicopter flight out of Belambay. Bales told them he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t get destroyed, [SFC James] Stillwell remembered.

Stillwell lifted it out of a rucksack containing Bales’ clothes and left it for the captive staff sergeant. Bales promptly snapped it, Stillwell testified today.

At the conclusion of the June 5 plea hearing, a press conference was held by defense attorneys, including the military defense counsel for SSG Bales. Hal Bernton attended the news conference, and reported as follows on his Seattle Times blog:

[Defense co-counsel Army Maj. Greg] Malson said that “what [Bales] wants more than anything” is for Afghans to understand that other soldiers now on the ground in Afghanistan had nothing to do with what happened in those two villages.

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I linked above (as an example of “nine children” reporting) to a June 2nd Guardian article by Emma Graham-Harrison and Afghan reporter Mokhtar Amiri, on the Bales plea deal and reactions to it. Notably, this pair of reporters is responsible for one of the Panjwai Massacre’s multiple, never-explained March, 2012 ‘ghost’ victim/witness articles. Meaning reporting about a victim – in this case, the wounded “father” of 26-year-old “Muhammad Zahir” from “just south” of COP Belamby, about whom the Associated Press also reportedwho we now know was not charged to SSG Bales.

Remarkably, this same Guardian pair may have just repeated that feat in their June 2, 2013 article – again without explanation, or apparently any recognition of, or appreciation for, the import of and public interest in what they, or at least Mokhtar Amiri, have reported. Specifically, Afghan journalist Amiri (I assume) reportedly had a conversation, within the last month, with an “eyewitness” to the Panjwai Massacre named “Haji Satar Khan” – no village or location mentioned by the Guardian – whose existence is news to me, and whose “eyewitness” account of the massacre has never been publicly heard in English-language reporting, as far as I know. Furthermore, Amiri (or Graham-Harrison) spoke within the last month to “Abdul Halim Noorzai, a former mujahideen commander from Panjwai district,” who told the Guardian that “[t]wo of his family members were injured in the attack” – again, however, no names, no ages, no village, no location for those victims is mentioned. Noorzai may well be a (close or distant) relative of two of the six Panjwai wounded charged to Bales (all of whom are from one Alkozai neighborhood). For example, Noorzai could be, and I believe would have to be, a relative of the unnamed and uninterviewed wife of wounded Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, and thus of her two wounded children (Parmina and Sadiqullah) – but there’s no way to tell if that’s the case from the Guardian’s reporting. And unless “Haji Satar Khan” is not in fact an “eyewitness,” his unheard account of what he saw that night ought to be considered worthy of recounting by any journalist, given the paucity of massacre accounts by adult eyewitnesses available in English.

Meanwhile, to tout the “local uprising” in the Zangabad region – AFP; embedded NYT; AAN; embedded CBS; embedded LATimes; embedded NPR – in late May this year U.S. Army special forces hosted an embedded CBS News reporter inside Camp Belamby itself – the first visit, to my knowledge, of any U.S. reporter to Camp Belamby (or massacre homes), period, since before the massacre. During her Army-arranged tour, London-based reporter Elizabeth Palmer visited and filmed (screen captures: 1, 2, 3, 4) what may well be Haji Mohammad Naim’s former Alkozai home – now being used as an Afghan Local Police (ALP) post (Palmer doesn’t mention it, but Haji Naim told Mamoon Durrani June 5 that he’s relocated his family to another village, and has himself refused to join the ALP). There, Palmer spoke off-camera to, and filmed on-camera, an unnamed massacre survivor – apparently a witness to his unnamed Alkozai father (perhaps Naim, or one of the two adult male neighbors of Naim who were killed) being “mowed down” – who has joined the ALP. Palmer too assures us, in her one-sided, Army-directed CBS Evening News report, four full months after the Associated Press demonstrated otherwise, that the deaths of “nine children” were charged to SSG Bales.

In lieu of compiling a list of the many unanswered questions that SSG Bales should be, but probably will not be [and, as it turned out, in fact was not], required to answer as part of his plea deal, the rest of this post is my (reporting-derived) version of a public transcript of November’s Article 32 hearing testimony by Afghan survivors – now unable to travel to the U.S. to testify in person at a future court-martial for SSG Bales – as they answered questions about what was done to them in our name. [Unanswered questions like why SSG Robert Bales – while under guard waiting to be airlifted out of COP Belamby – said to a fellow soldier, with regard to the number of people he thought had been killed: “My count is 22” (according to U.S. Army SGT Jason McLaughlin’s sworn testimony). Another reporter in attendance heard (and tweeted) either the prosecutor’s opening argument or actual testimony stating that Bales told a fellow soldier (presumably McLaughlin): “he thought he killed 20 people.” (Including the ‘ghost’ victims in media reports – see the excerpts immediately following the casualty box in the July postI count descriptions of 29 separate deaths in the Panjwai Massacre.)] As with the high-profile Bradley Manning court-martial now underway in Maryland, this effort to create a partial substitute for the official transcript is made necessary because the military is being allowed to close the doors of the UCMJ-governed military justice system, in all but name, by withholding essential court documents from the press and public.

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On January 19, 2014, at Storify.com – as introduced here (this link’s also at the top of the sidebar) – I posted a “partial substitute” for the August, 2013 Bales sentencing hearing transcript, as well. That hearing relayed, for the first time, 32 pages of uncontested facts about the massacre, including, as recorded by reporters who were present, the following undisputed stipulated facts:

He called Afghans “muzzis,” said soldiers could cover up anything they did in Afghanistan

Jury hears #Bales told fellow soldiers under his command not to worry about actions in Afghanistan b/c they could “always cover up” actions

A fellow soldier had a limb blown off. [] #Bales wasn’t there and wasn’t a friend.

After the attack, Sgt Bales told colleagues: “[] My count is 20,” referring to the number of Afghans he believed he had killed.

After returning to Afghan base from his killings, Sgt #Bales said, “My count is 20.” And “we shouldn’t worry about collateral consequences.”

#Bales to soldiers: [] “My count was 20,” referring to number of people killed.

[] #Bales told soldiers “My count was 20” referring to victims he killed #jblm

#Bales “[] My count is 20. That MFer with the PKM won’t bother us anymore.”

#Bales asked a fellow soldier to help him destroy evidence after massacre while being held. He didn’t. Bales did destroy a computer #jblm

[] #Bales destroyed his laptop to get rid of evidence

#Bales stomped on his laptop. [] Bales knew it had porn & video of casualties. []

Then, in unsworn answers to his attorney later in the hearing, SSG Bales finally apologized – apparently mostly to his “Patriot Brotherhood” (as tweeted by reporters who were present):

More #Bales: “I love the army. I’ve stood next to some really good guys, some real heroes. I can’t say I’m sorry to those guys enough.”

#Bales choked up esp when apologizing to soldiers: I love the Army …I can’t say I’m sorry to those guys enough. #Afghanistan

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I believe the long collection of excerpted testimony reports below – supplemented by the few English-language media interviews of survivors that exist – speaks for itself. I’ll only add this sampling of Article 32 testimony by American soldiers at Camp Belamby (testimony that’s not otherwise included in this post, but may be in future, depending on what develops today). This relates to the alleged movements of SSG Bales that night, according to American and Afghan witnesses, in connection with the murders both north of the base, and at the Wazir and Dawood homes south of Camp Belamby:

[Bales defense attorney Emma] Scanlan said the timeline laid out by prosecutors also raises questions, beginning with the Afghan guard who testified that he checked his watch, and was certain that the U.S. soldier he saw — returning from the initial killings in Alkozai, prosecutors allege — had returned to Camp Belambay at 1:30 a.m.

The shots heard from the direction of Alkozai didn’t stop till 1:50 a.m., the defense attorney said [apparently quoting Article 32 testimony that didn’t otherwise make it into the media with such specificity -pow wow].

“I don’t know what that means,” Scanlan said. “But one thing it means is, if you believe what the government is telling you, that Sgt. Bales is the one who came back through that wire at 1:30, then somebody else was firing for another 20 minutes.” – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 14, 2012

Emma Scanlan was similarly quoted by Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times on November 13, 2012 (in a hearing/closings summary article that, in introducing this statement, seems to confuse or merge testimony by U.S. soldiers with testimony by an Afghan soldier):

“We need to know why there are shots fired after they say Sgt. Bales returned to the base.”
– Bales defense attorney Emma Scanlan, Nov. 13, 2012

More on the timing from a Najiban woman interviewed on March 11, 2012 about the Wazir home murders, but never again since (a neighbor, and possibly a relative, whose name may be either “Gul Bashra” or “Anar Gul”) – she was already awake when the attack began:

It was 2:00 in the morning [she holds up two fingers, apparently to represent the time -pw]. I woke up for my fasting breakfast. When I turned the light on, I heard noises. I told my son [looks at and gestures toward him on the other side of the minivan -pw] not to speak because the Americans are here. They were telling us to be quiet, and not to come out. When he kicked the door, my door had a stone so it didn’t open. They moved from my door, and went next door and the first thing they did was to shoot the dog, and then there was a muffled bang inside the room – but who could go and see. And then there were two planes overhead.” – The BBC, March 11, 2012

I’ve now (as of June 13th) compiled some of the American and Afghan soldier Article 32 hearing testimony, as reported, into a timeline, along with media accounts from Afghan villagers (the sworn Article 32 testimony entries are bolded, the unsworn media accounts are not):

TIMELINE

12:00 AM, Midnight, March 11: SSG Bales was inside Camp Belamby, and, apparently after a shift on guard duty, was visiting and talking about an earlier IED attack (among other things) with SFC Clayton Blackshear, who was trying to sleep, Blackshear testifed under oath. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

No reported sightings of an original, pre-1:30 AM departure by any soldier from Camp Belamby on March 11.

  • No known Article 32 testimony about a pre-1:30 AM departure by SSG Bales
  • No known media reports from any witnesses of a pre-1:30 AM departure from Camp Belamby of SSG Bales
  • No known Article 32 testimony from victims about the time of the Alkozai attack
  • Ibrahim Khan Houses, Alkozai attack timing said – by injured Samiullah son Rafiullah, in an October, 2012 media interview with Der Spiegel – to be after “one side of sleep”
  • Non-witness Samiullah, whose mother was killed and two children wounded in the Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood of Alkozai, said in a recorded March 12, 2013 Al Jazeera interview (as translated): “He killed them at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.”
  • U.S. Army brigade surgeon MAJ Travis Hawks testified at the Article 32 hearing that five Alkozai wounded [Haji Mohammad Naim, his daughter Parmina and son Sadiqullah, and his neighbor’s grandchildren Rafiullah and Zardana, all from Ibrahim Khan Houses] arrived at FOB Zangabad (the a battalion headquarters, location unconfirmed; reportedly either “about 20-30 kilometers” from Camp Belamby, or “just over a mile” from Camp Belamby per “military in the area”) at 3:30 AM (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4)

From about 1:15 AM until about 1:50 AM: Gunfire heard in the direction of Alkozai, per sworn testimony by American soldiers PFC Derek Guinn and PFC Damian Blodgett, who reported it while on guard duty together (on the roof of the Camp Belamby operations center) that night. They used thermal imaging and then shot up a 20-second flare to unsuccessfully try to locate its source. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

  • Gene Johnson of the Associated Press, November 6:

      Two other soldiers, Pfcs. Derek Guinn and Damian Blodgett, testified Tuesday that they were on a guard shift early March 11 when they heard scattered gunfire coming from Alkozai, the first village attacked. […]

      Blodgett said he reported it to the operations center on base, and a specialist told them to monitor it and let him know if it came toward them.

      The shooting lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, Blodgett said.

  • A CBS News media interview reported on November 8, 2012 (just before the Afghan testimony began) that “[Rafiullah] told us the shooting lasted half an hour.”

1:30 AM: Hurried entry by an American soldier into Camp Belamby from the north, in the midst of ongoing gunfire at Alkozai, per sworn testimony by Afghanistan National Army (ANA) soldier Pvt. Naimatullah (who checked his watch and is certain of the time the soldier arrived during his Midnight-2:00 AM guard shift, but apparently did not hear the Alkozai gunfire), and by American soldiers PFC Derek Guinn and PFC Damian Blodgett (who heard the gunfire, but did not see the soldier entering); all three were on camp guard duty (at two different locations) at that time. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

  • Timing matches Naimatullah’s late March, 2012 media interview with Yalda Hakim of Australian public television
  • Timing also matches a March 23, 2012 account given to Robert Burns of the Associated Press by “members of the Afghan delegation investigating the killings”
  • ANA soldier Naimatullah testifed that the soldier, who was wearing body armor, “seemed nervous,” and when Naimatullah several times asked him to stop, he just said “How are you?” in Pashto and then something in English and pushed on into the base (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)
  • Bill Rigby of Reuters, November 6:
      Testifying at a pre-trial hearing to determine whether Bales can be sent to a court martial, Private First Class Derek Guinn said he was told by Afghan guards that two U.S. soldiers were seen entering the compound in the early hours of March 11, and one was seen leaving again.

      But Guinn, who spoke to the guards through an interpreter, said he personally did not see anyone leaving or entering Camp Belambay.

  • Adam Ashton of McClatchy/The News Tribune, November 12:
      Last week, a U.S. soldier testified that he and three other junior soldiers at Bales’ outpost approached an Army criminal investigator with a theory that a second sergeant was involved in the killings. They based their speculation on reports from an Afghan guard that two Americans walked into Belambay late on the night of the killings, and one American left the base about 3 [2:30, per testimony? -pw] a.m.
  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:
      Sitting under guard in the camp’s medical unit, Bales mentioned an earlier incident in Najiban, one of the two villages where the shootings occurred, in which U.S. troops were pinned down for up to half an hour by an insurgent’s PKM machine gun.

      Though aerial surveillance pinpointed the location of the gunner, a decision was made not to drop a bomb on the site because of possible injury to civilians. “He said basically, ‘Your team leader was weak,'” Sgt. 1st Class Derek King said Bales told him.

      “He said, ‘Remember that [expletive] PKM? That’s not going to happen again,'” Bales said, according to Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, who was sitting with King.

  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog, November 6:
      For the second straight day, soldiers who served with Bales at Belambay expressed their disbelief that someone would independently leave a NATO combat outpost to kill Afghan villagers.

      “Utter amazement,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lance Allard, another 7th Special Forces Group Green Beret who was the No. 2 commander at Belambay.

      […]

      Allard explained that soldiers normally dress themselves in body armor and coordinate their plans to protect themselves. Witnesses said Bales did not wear his Kevlar vest when they saw him return to Belambay [from the south (when taken into custody) -pw]. Instead, he had a sheet tied around his neck like a cape.

      [Sgt. 1st Class Derek] King [of the 7th Special Forces Group] also overheard Bales connect his alleged massacre to a previous ambush soldiers encountered near Belambay. At the time, Bales of Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was frustrated that the American Special Forces commander leading the patrol did not have the attacker killed when a surveillance camera spotted the enemy’s position.

  • Laura Myers of Reuters, November 7:
      Several witnesses on the first two days of the hearing testified that Bales had been upset by the lack of action over an attack on a patrol several days [March 8th? -pw] before the shootings in which one soldier had the lower part of a leg blown off by [an IED] bomb.
  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune blog, November 5:
      Three of the witnesses have suggested that Bales was upset about a March 5 [or March 8? -pw] attack that severely wounded a Navy explosive ordnance technician. Bales wanted to hit the enemy hard, Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Blackshear said, and was disappointed that the soldiers had waited to gather resources and intelligence.
  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:
      [Bales] was particularly irate that no action had been taken in response to two homemade explosives planted in a nearby village [Mokhoyan, March 8th? -pw] five days before the shootings, one of which blew off the leg of a U.S. soldier.

      Under cross-examination by defense attorney Emma Scanlan, Master Sgt. Clifford Uhrich said he understood that 20 local men had been rounded up near a mosque and questioned about what they knew. [Rare, belated confirmation of a key portion of this important March 21, 2012 Associated Press report by Mirwais Khan. -pow wow]

      But nothing further had been done, unit members said, because the camp was short-staffed, and investigators hadn’t completed their work.

      [Sgt. 1st Class Clayton] Blackshear testified about another eerie middle-of-the-night visit he received as he was almost asleep, shortly before Bales is believed to have left the compound. “A figure came in and sat down on the chair. I recognized the figure … it was Sgt. Bales,” he said. Bales started talking about the IED attack.

      “He expressed quite a bit of concern about, I guess, the [camp’s] actions after the incidents that we hadn’t done enough, or wanted to do more to try to find the people that were responsible,” Blackshear said.

2:00 AM: Shooting started in the Najiban neighborhood of the Mohammad Wazir home, per March 11 media interviews of neighbors Gul Bashra/Anar Gul and Agha Lala.

  • Apparent Mohammad Wazir neighbor and Najiban ‘ear-witness’ Gul Bashra/Anar Gul told the BBC on video March 11 that: “It was 2:00 in the morning. I woke up for my fasting breakfast. When I turned the light on, I heard noises.”
  • Apparent Mohammad Wazir neighbor and Najiban eyewitness Agha Lala told Reuters March 11 that “he was awoken by gunfire at about 2 a.m.”

2:00 AM – 2:15 AM: SSG Bales was present inside Camp Belamby, per sworn testimony by American soldier SGT Jason McLaughlin, where and when Bales woke McLaughlin (whose alarm was set for 2:5030 AM ahead of a 3:00 AM guard shift), and told him: “I’ve just been to Alkozai and I shot up some people.” (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times, November 6:

      “He said he’d just been to Alkozai, shot some people…. ‘I shot some military-age males.’ And I said, no you didn’t,” Sgt. Jason McLaughlin testified on the opening day of an Article 32 hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is charged with attacking two small farm villages during assaults that spanned five hours.

2:30 AM: Exit by a “laughing” American soldier from Camp Belamby, per sworn testimony by Afghanistan National Army soldier Pvt. Tosh Ali (who relieved Naimatullah at 2:00 AM, and was warned by Naimatullah to be “on the lookout”). Pvt. Tosh Ali heard gunfire half an hour later (at about 3:00 AM, halfway through his 2:00-4:00 AM guard shift). (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3)

  • Timing matches unnamed second Afghan soldier’s late March, 2012 media interview with Yalda Hakim of Australian public television
  • This timing also matches a March 23, 2012 account given to Robert Burns of the Associated Press by “members of the Afghan delegation investigating the killings”
  • ANA soldier Tosh Ali testifed that when this soldier was asked to stop, he too said “How are you?” in Pashto, and kept going, wearing body armor and a helmet (Testimony reports: 1, 2)

About 2:30 AM: The attack at the Mohammad Wazir home (1+ KM southwest of Camp Belamby) began, per a March 23, 2012 media interview of Mohammad Wazir, quoting (never-interviewed?) eyewitness and Najiban neighbor “Palwasha.”

  • Wazir told BusinessWeek/Bloomberg: “Most of the neighbors heard the attack but they stayed hidden in their homes because they were afraid … Palwasha told me that the gunfire woke her about 2:30 in the night, and she came out and saw the light flashes from guns — not one gun, but different guns — at my house,” Wazir said. “It was too dark to see the soldiers’ uniforms, she told us.”

2:00 or 3:00 AM: The attack at the Mohammad Dawood home (0.50 KM northeast of the Wazir home) began, per non-witness Haji Baran’s March 16 public statement (on behalf of family witnesses) to President Karzai in Kabul.

  • Non-witness Haji Baran told President Karzai March 16, 2012 on video that “it was two or three in the morning” when the Mohammad Dawood home was attacked
  • No known media interviews, or Article 32 testimony, of witnesses Massouma (Dawood’s wife) and Hekmatullah (Dawood’s son) mention what time they think the attack occurred at their home; except that this October 28-29, 2012 DailyBeast/Newsweek statement was apparently drawn from the interview with Massouma that Afghan reporter Muhib Habibi conducted for the article: “The men entered around 3 a.m.”

Around 3:00 AM: The attacker(s) at the Mohammad Dawood home entered the room, per a March, 2012 media interview of apparent witness (and Dawood nephew) Toor Jan/Ali Ahmed.

  • Toor Jan/Ali Ahmed told CNN on video in March, 2012 that “it was around 3 at night that they entered the room” at the Mohammad Dawood home

About 3:15 AM: SSG Bales was not in his Camp Belamby room, per sworn testimony by American soldier SGT Jason McLaughlin [which apparently finally prompted base preparations to ‘rescue’ or find Bales, which included a roll call, going to the gate and calling his name, and shooting up more flares]. (Testimony report: 1, 2)

  • After hearing, right after coming on guard duty at 3:00 AM, from Afghan soldiers about what they’d seen, and from the preceding American guard shift about the gunfire near Alkozai, SGT McLaughlin “ran to see if Staff Sgt. Bales was in his room” at Camp Belamby and found that “Staff Sgt. Bales wasn’t there.” (Testimony report: 1)

3:30 AM: Five Alkozai wounded [Haji Naim, Parmina, Sadiqullah, Rafiullah, and Zardana, all from Ibrahim Khan Houses] arrived at FOB Zangabad – location unconfirmed; reportedly either “about 20-30 kilometers” from Camp Belamby, or “just over a mile” from Camp Belamby according to “military in the area” – per sworn testimony by American Army medic MAJ Travis Hawks, who treated them, and by Haji Mohammad Naim’s son Faizullah, who drove them there. Notably, before SSG Bales returned to the base (at about 4:45 AM), COP Belamby received “reports of civilian casualties” (presumably including from FOB Zangabad after these five wounded arrived). (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4)

4:36 AM: A balloon-mounted surveillance camera at FOB Zangabad spotted and recorded Bales headed toward Camp Belamby “from the direction of Najiban,” per Army video evidence shown at the Article 32 hearing – where American soldier SFC Clayton Blackshear testified that he saw Bales apprehended by fellow soldiers at about 4:45 AM. CPL David Godwin (who apprehended Bales with SGT Jason McLaughlin) testified that Bales was not wearing body armor, but had his helmet and night vision goggles, and was carrying a pistol and an M4 rifle with a grenade launcher. (Testimony reports: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Bill Rigby of Reuters reported the Article 32 opening statement by Army prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Joseph “Jay” Morse, about the return of SSG Bales, this way:

      He is seen being confronted by three soldiers, including the two men prosecutors said he had been drinking with, who ordered him to drop his weapons and took him into custody as he is heard saying, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
  • Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times reported the same opening statement this way:
      A video surveillance camera from a helium balloon captured images of Bales, with a cape across his shoulder, approaching the base and being apprehended.

      [LTC Jay] Morse said Bales appeared surprised by his detention.

      His first reaction was, “Are you (expletive) kidding me,” Morse said. According to the prosecutor, Bales also asked a Special Forces soldier, “Did you rat me out?”

  • Adam Ashton of The News Tribune describing the opening statement video, and the subsequent witness testimony about the return of SSG Bales:
      [LTC] Morse capped his opening argument with a silent, 15-minute surveillance video that prosecutors say shows Bales returning from the second village. In it, a caped figure slinks along mud walls as he approaches the entrance to Bales’ outpost.

      The figure jogs to the gate, where he is met by armed U.S. soldiers. The man in the video drops an M4 rifle, a grenade launcher and a pistol. He puts his hands on his head and is escorted inside.

      McLaughlin and Godwin were the two soldiers who brought Bales into custody about 4:45 a.m. that day. They remembered him as bloodied from his face to his boots.

      […]

      Each thought Bales had a strange appearance – heavily armed, not wearing his Kevlar vest, but wearing a sheet like a cape. They figured he wore it like that because he’d heard Taliban insurgents were using tarps to conceal themselves from American surveillance cameras.

  • Also from Adam Ashton, at The News Tribune blog:
      “Are you (expletive) kidding me?” [Bales] shouted at two soldiers who raised their weapons at him while he jogged into Belambay, three witnesses have testified.
  • From Gene Johnson’s Associated Press testimony summary:
      When Bales returned, [Sgt. Jason] McLaughlin testifies, he was one of the soldiers to confront him and tell him to surrender his weapons: “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are you (expletive) kidding me?'”

Of the 11 Afghan family members who testified at the Article 32 hearing, the prosecution apparently called nine (all male), and the defense two (both young girls, one of whom was the only survivor called to testify about the deaths of Haji Nazar Mohammad and his two-year-old daughter Tora/Gulalai). The lone adult eyewitness present during the attack who was called to testify was Haji Mohammad Naim of Alkozai (Naim was shot three times at close range, and lost consciousness for four days). Apparently Leona Mansapit – the U.S. Army investigator who had interviewed Massouma, eyewitness widow of Mohammad Dawood – was a defense witness too; Mansapit was called to testify (on November 10-11) about what Massouma had privately told Mansapit in June, 2012. (See the foot of the post for Massouma’s accounts.) “The prosecution says that 17 Afghans have said they are willing to testify via video,” Ernesto Londono of The Washington Post wrote during the early portion of the Article 32 hearing, when Americans were testifying. Of the 14 Afghans (including two Army soldiers and a police investigator) who in fact testified by video link later that week, I’ve never seen English-language media interviews of Faizullah or Quadratullah from Alkozai, or of Khamal Adin about the Najiban scene he sorted through, or of Major Khudai Dad about the Afghan police investigation. Most of the other Afghans who testified have been interviewed very rarely by English-language reporters – only once or twice each, in general, as documented below. And, as noted at the beginning of my July, 2012 post, multiple (often key female) eyewitnesses have never been heard from at all (in the media or in the Article 32 hearing), including the eyewitness widow of Haji Nazar Mohammad of Alkozai.

This is the order in which the Afghans appear to have given their testimony in November (I followed a different order below):

Fri-Sat PT, Nov. 9-10, 2012

ANA soldier Naimatullah (12:00-2:00 AM Camp Belamby guard shift 3/11)
ANA soldier Tosh Ali (2:00-4:00 AM Camp Belamby guard shift 3/11, relieving Naimatullah)

Khamal Adin – (Najiban); Mohammad Wazir cousin
Faizullah – (Alkozai); Mohammad Naim son
Sadiqullah – Alkozai; Mohammad Naim son
Quadratullah – Alkozai; Mohammad Naim son
Mohammad Naim – Alkozai

Sat-Sun PT, Nov. 10-11, 2012

Samiullah – (Alkozai); Sayed Jan son
Zardana – Alkozai; Sayed Jan granddaughter
Rafiullah – Alkozai; Sayed Jan grandson
Robina – Alkozai; Nazar Mohammad daughter
Hekmatullah “Khan” Gul – South of Belamby; Mohammad Dawood son
Mullah Baraan – (South of Belamby); Mohammad Dawood brother

Sun-Mon PT, Nov. 11-12, 2012

Major Khudai Dad/Khudaydad,
Chief of Criminal Techniques,
Afghan Uniform Police

Map made possible by the invaluable on-the-ground Zangabad research of Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani. Superimposed graphic design by Lela Ahmadzai of 2470Media

Rare map made possible by Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani‘s invaluable on-site Zangabad research. Superimposed graphic design by Lela Ahmadzai of 2470Media. Click for larger version. *The identities of the victims listed on the still-redacted June 1, 2012 Army Charge Sheet are only known because of a January 17, 2013 Associated Press report that named them.

________________________________________________________________

ALKOZAI
(Ibrahim Khan Houses & Mosque)

(About 0.60 kilometer north of Camp Belamby; 4 killed; 7 wounded) ________________________________________________________________

Before I begin quoting the Article 32 reporting about Rafiullah’s testimony (which is quite abbreviated and confusing), this is my summary – based on a careful transcription of the translation of a lengthy interview of Rafiullah conducted in Kabul in October, 2012 (the month before the sworn Article 32 testimony quoted below was given) – of much of what Rafiullah said he experienced that night, first in his own home, and then in the home of his neighbor to the east, Haji Mohammad Naim, during the attack at the Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood of Alkozai village (north of COP Belamby):

Rafiullah is the grandson of farmer or “gardener” Haji Sayed Jan and his wife Nikmarghah – who’d raised him since he was one month old. Rafiullah’s grandmother Khalida (aka Nikmarghah, the wife of Sayed Jan) was shot and killed on March 11 while trying to protect her grandchildren from an American soldier – first in her own home, and then in the home of her neighbor Haji Mohammad Naim, where she and her family had fled. Rafiullah first awoke that night when a bare-headed American soldier (wearing no helmet) kicked open the door of the room in which he, his younger sister and grandmother were sleeping, in the home of his grandfather Haji Sayed Jan, and his grandmother began to scream. Upon awaking, Rafiullah saw the soldier standing in the doorway and heard his grandmother’s screams. Rafiullah too began to scream. The soldier beckoned them outside, while saying something Rafiullah did not understand. His sister Zardana ran ahead, and his grandmother and Rafiullah soon followed, first to an unused or damaged area of their home where they kept animals, and then east to the nearby home of their neighbor Haji Mohammad Naim. Left behind in a guest room of the Sayed Jan home was farm laborer Khudaydad (a cousin of Rafiullah’s father Samiullah), who was killed sometime during the attack (possibly while running to help in response to their screams, based on an April, 2013 Associated Press interview of Zardana – her first media interview). The family cow followed them part way to Haji Mohammad Naim’s home next door, and at some point was shot but not killed. The three fled to the middle room of three in an area of the home of Haji Mohammad Naim (next to the room of Naim and his wife) where Naim’s son Sadiqullah and daughter Parmina were present, and Rafiullah lit the lantern and warned them that “an American guy is here.” At least two family members of Haji Nazar Mohammad (two young daughters, neither of whom testified, or have ever been interviewed) apparently also ran to that room from their home (on the east side of the Naim residence) during the 30-minute attack, before a soldier entered and started shooting. The seven in that room at Haji Naim’s when the shooting began, according to Rafiullah, were Zulheja and her sister “Rubbinah”/”Robina” (both young daughters of Haji Nazar Mohammad, from a home that shared the east wall – with a connecting door – of Haji Naim’s); Rafiullah, Zardana, and Nikmarghah (from a detached home on the west side of Haji Naim’s); and Haji Naim’s son Sadiqullah and daughter Parmina. The soldier shot Rafiullah in both legs with a pistol (a single bullet hit him in the left thigh – possibly after he’d jumped under a bed – ricocheted off the wall, and then hit him in the right thigh), causing Rafiullah to lose consciousness, and his 7-year-old sister Zardana was shot in the head and critically wounded. Rafiullah stated that, of the seven people present in that room when a soldier started shooting, Zulheja was the only one who was not injured – and yet her name (but not those of her sisters) appears on Al Jazeera’s unsourced March, 2012 list of Panjwai wounded. Rafiullah repeatedly stated during the October interview that on his way from Haji Sayed Jan’s home to Haji Mohammad Naim’s home with a soldier behind him (that is, while running between the high walls of the neighboring “compounds”), he “saw many lights in the garden” at different levels, and “heard footsteps,” indicating the presence of other soldiers. (The first media interview of Zardana, by the Associated Press in April, 2013, appears to corroborate this account by her brother.) Rafiullah’s parents (his father Samiullah and mother, whose name is unknown to me) were then (as Rafiullah is now) residing in Kandahar city with his older brother and younger sister Zardana – who was on a brief visit to the home of her grandparents in Alkozai on the night of the attack. Rafiullah’s grandfather Haji Sayed Jan was away from home that night because he was delivering firewood to heat Rafiullah’s father’s Kandahar city home. (See also 2470media’s important, English/German-subtitled October, 2012 video interview of Rafiullah.)

The reports of November, 2012 testimony given – under oath – by Afghan witnesses and survivors of the attack – as recorded by members of the media in attendance during the Bales Article 32 hearing (who struggled to hear the translated testimony, conveyed via late-night video link from Afghanistan to a military courtroom) – are collected and enclosed in gray boxes below. Normal background is used for other, non-Article 32 reporting. [Underlining/emphasis is mine.]

RAFIULLAH – grandson of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah, who raised him; son of Samiullah and wife

Rafiullah, Zardana’s brother, said the two of them were staying with their grandmother and younger sibling [the second younger sibling is new information to me -pow wow] when the gunman entered, a blazing light on his gun, and pointed his pistol at his sister.

His grandmother, Na’ikmarga, “tackled” the gunman as Zardana and Rafiullah bolted next door, he said. Na’ikmarga eventually caught up with the two youngsters, but the gunman followed and shot all three of them, killing Na’ikmarga and several other people who were at the adjoining compound [according to the Army Charge Sheet victim list, no one but Na’ikmarga was killed at the Haji Naim home -pow wow]. Rafiullah was hit in the leg. – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD – Holding back tears, 15-year-old Rafiullah described how his grandmother wrestled with a uniformed gunman who put a pistol in his sister’s mouth.

In the end, he added, the man shot all three of them, one by one.

[…]

Rafiullah, who spoke in Pashtun [Pashto -pw] and donned traditional garb, said he was sleeping next to his grandmother, Na’ikmarga, and his sister, Zardana, when there was a knock on the door.

After his grandmother got up to see what was going on, the man “came into the room and asked me to come outside and we started shouting … he was wearing a uniform,” Rafiullah said, sniffing as he recounted the night’s events.

Asked if the uniform worn by the man resembled those of US soldiers, he said “yes.”

“He had rifle and a pistol,” Rafiullah said of the man. “He put a pistol in my sister’s mouth and then my grandmother started to wrestle with him. At that time I ran out of the door … My sister and I were running. As soon as he left the room, my grandmother ran too.”

When asked what happened next, Rafiullah responded: “He shot my grandmother and then my sister, and then me. He shot me on my legs. Zardana was shot on her head.”
Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

One of the villagers, a 15-year-old boy who was wounded in the rampage in Alkozai but survived by hiding, testified to the hearing at a U.S. Army base in Washington state that the shooter wore a U.S. military uniform.

“He put his pistol in my sister’s mouth and then my grandmother started wrestling with him,” the boy, introduced to the court by the single name of Rafiullah, said via video link from Kandahar Air Field. “He shot me in my legs.”
– Bill Rigby, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2012

Defense attorney John Henry Browne reminded Rafiullah that he has told another one of Bales’ defense attorneys that multiple soldiers were in the fields around his home. […]

The boy said he was scared that more Americans were in the fields around his village of Alkozai.

“I might have told (the defense attorney) that, but I don’t remember,” he said.
– Adam Ashton, The News Tribune blog, Nov. 10, 2012

A 15-year-old boy named Rafiullah, speaking through an interpreter, described being shot in the legs on the morning of March 11 in Kandahar Province. […]

Did he remember telling an interviewer from the defense team just last month that he had seen “many soldiers”? Sergeant Bales’s lead defense lawyer, John Henry Browne, asked.

“There might have been some soldiers,” the boy answered. “We were scared.”

[…]

“How many Americans did you see?” Maj. John Riesenberg, one of the prosecutors, asked during the Saturday night session.

“I just saw one,” the boy answered. But then he quickly added, “There might have been more — I just saw one.”– Kirk Johnson, The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2012

Rafiullah’s first interview in the English-language media, by Jon Stephenson of McClatchy, was published May 16, 2012 (with an important accompanying graphic; Stephenson’s graphic, however, is evidently inaccurate in certain key respects, based on both the lengthy Rafiullah interview summarized above, and the quoted Article 32 testimony – as is his article’s opening description of how Rafiullah awoke that night):

Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By Jon Stephenson | McClatchy Newspapers

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It was early in the morning, perhaps 2 a.m., when gunfire awoke 14-year-old Rafiullah.

He looked outside the house he’d been sleeping in with his grandmother, an aunt, two cousins and his sister, and he saw a man with a weapon walk to a shed that housed the family cow and open fire, shooting the animal dead.

“I told the women inside our room: ‘Let’s run! Let’s get out of here,'” recalled Rafiullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. In the next compound, a short distance from the house where Rafiullah had been sleeping, Haji Mohammad Naim awoke to the sound of dogs barking wildly in the street.

[…]

How valuable Naim’s and Rafiullah’s testimony would be in a U.S. military court is unclear. Both said they didn’t see the shooter’s face clearly enough to identify him, and both are uncertain about the exact time, noting that no one in the houses had a watch. Officials haven’t divulged which village they think was attacked first.

[…] Before the shooting ended in Alkozai, Rafiullah’s grandmother [Nikmarghah -pw] was dead, his sister [Zardana -pw] was critically wounded, three other people had been killed and five others were wounded in three adjacent houses. Most of the victims were related by blood or marriage.

[…]

Terror unfolded in the crowded space [at the Haji Naim home -pw], the frightened faces of women and children illuminated only by a light that Rafiullah said appeared to be affixed to an assault rifle. The shooter drove everyone before him, herding and hunting his victims like animals.

Spotting Rafiullah, he seized one of the boy’s arms. Rafiullah said his grandmother seized his other arm, to try to stop the soldier from dragging him away. The soldier turned on her.

“He shot my grandmother, he wounded my sister Zardana and wounded me,” Rafiullah said. “He opened fire on Naim’s son, Sadiqullah, and also opened fire on Naim’s daughter. Then the soldier left.”

Help for the wounded eventually arrived, although Rafiullah – like Naim – had fallen unconscious, and was unable later to say how long it took to get there. The survivors were rushed, by a relative who’d borrowed a car, to a nearby U.S.-Afghan base [FOB Zangabad -pw], then flown by helicopter to a U.S. military hospital at Kandahar airfield.

Rafiullah, who had a gunshot wound to each leg, found himself in a bed next to Naim’s son, Sadiqullah, who’d received a bullet wound to his right earlobe.

Rafiullah told McClatchy that Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, phoned him in the aftermath of the attack and U.S. authorities later interviewed him while he was in the hospital. “Two times they talked to me,” he said.

A day or two after the massacre, he also spoke to the man Karzai had appointed as his chief investigator into the killings, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan army chief .

“To all of them I said the same thing,” Rafiullah said. “I saw only one shooter.”

[…]

Rafiullah has largely recovered from the physical wounds.

Rafiullah’s second English-language media interview was published on the eve of the Article 32 hearing in November by the Los Angeles Times, and, like the summary above, was also based on a lengthy early October interview of Rafiullah in Kabul:

November 04, 2012|By Kim Murphy and Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times

“I saw the man in the door and my grandmother crying and screaming,” said a teenager named Rafiullah, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. Rafiullah said he, his sister and grandmother ran next door and joined several others at the home of Haji Naim.

“The room was a mess, everyone was screaming…. Haji Naim stood up and demanded what is going on. And the American shot him,” he said. “We were seven people in the room when we were shot. My grandmother, my sister, me, two of Haji Naim’s kids [Parmina and Sadiqullah -pw] and two of Haji Nizar’s kids [evidently Haji Nazar’s young daughters Rubbinah and Zulheja -pw].”

The youth swept his hand in front of him as if raking a room with gunfire. “He used a pistol,” he said. Four people, including Rafiullah’s grandmother, died in Alkozai. Six people, among them Rafiullah and his sister, were injured.

[…]

Both youths [Rafiullah, from north of COP Belamby, and Mohammad Dawood’s son Hekmatullah, from south of COP Belamby -pw] described seeing bright lights outside the houses during the attacks.

[…]

Only one family is left in the area of Alkozai where Rafiullah lived; he and his grandfather moved to another village [and/or to the Kandahar city home of Rafiullah’s father Samiullah -pw]. Najiban is a ghost town; residents fled, fearing the Americans and the Taliban. Wazir has moved 2 1/2 hours away to live with his brother in Spin Buldak. He and the others are still haunted by the killings.

Rafiullah said: “I see his face in my dreams, and sometimes I hear my sister waking up at the same time, screaming. I am praying every night, please God don’t make this happen again.”

Then there’s a brief CBS News television interview of Rafiullah, aired the night before Afghan testimony began at the Article 32 hearing, which includes footage of one of Rafiullah’s leg wounds:

November 8, 2012 7:34 PM

Afghans recall massacre horror ahead of soldier’s trial

By Kelly Cobiella

At night, a survivor of the massacre named Rafiullah told CBS News, the nightmares return.

“I see everything clearly,” he said in [Pashto -pw], “Over and over.”

The 15-year-old is one of the few [male… -pw] eyewitnesses to survive the massacre.

Rafiullah said he was at home asleep on March 11th when a man broke down the door.

“He pushed me against the wall, and put the pistol to my sister’s head,” he said. “We all started shouting: ‘Don’t kill her.'”

When the shooting started, Rafiullah ran to another room.

“We heard gunshots,” he said. “My uncle [presumably meaning his great-uncle Nazar Mohammad (brother of Rafiullah’s grandfather Sayed Jan) -pw], my little cousin [Nazar Mohammad’s two-year-old daughter Toraki/Gulalai/Khatima -pw] and my grandmother [Khalida/Nikmarghah -pw] were killed. I was told to put my hands on the wall, and then he shot my sister [pre-teen Zardana -pw] in the head.

Rafiullah was wounded in both thighs. He told us the shooting lasted half an hour. When we asked how many gunmen he had seen that night, Rafiullah answered “One.”

“He wore an American uniform,” he said. “He had a gun but no helmet. He shot us with a pistol.”

Rafiullah’s next English-language media interview was conducted five months after the Article 32 hearing, by Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press, and published May 16, 2013:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP)

From another home that was attacked that night, 16-year-old Rafiullah remembers the American soldier smashing through the door waving his pistol. Awakened in a small room with his grandmother and his sister Zardana, he said he didn’t know what to do. “We just ran and he ran after us.”

[…]

Gesturing with his hand as if spraying the room with gunfire, Rafiullah said the soldier “just went bang, bang, bang.”

Rafiullah was wounded in both his legs, his grandmother was killed and Zardana was shot in the head.

ZARDANA – granddaughter of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah; daughter of Samiullah and wife

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Looking gravely across a courtroom in Afghanistan, 7-year-old Zardana raised her hand Saturday and swore to testify truthfully about the night a man who prosecutors say was a U.S. soldier shot her in the head, shot her brother in the leg and killed her grandmother.

[…]

“Yes I do, and I’m not going to lie,” said Zardana, wearing a lavender headscarf and fiddling with a juice box as her image was beamed by video to another courtroom in Washington state, where U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with 16 counts of murder.

Alternately grave and smiling while sitting at the long witness table next to an interpreter, Zardana was asked to testify only about the color of the T-shirt her attacker was wearing during the predawn attack March 11 in the village of Alkozai.

“He was wearing pants like this color,” Zardana said, pointing to the interpreter’s khaki shirt, “and also a T-shirt like you’re wearing,” nodding toward defense lawyer John Henry Browne’s black T-shirt.

Even that brief testimony was an accomplishment: Doctors at a remote U.S. Army post near Kandahar, seeing pieces of brain in her hair after the shootings, had given her up as hopeless. They turned to other, less injured patients. Then when they were finished, they discovered that the little girl was, against all odds, still breathing. – Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

Zardana, who was seven when she was allegedly shot by Bales and received treatment at a US military hospital, also testified.
Wearing a purple head scarf and sipping from a juice box, she confirmed that her shooter was wearing a khaki-colored T-shirt. Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

Another 7-year-old testified she was wounded during the rampage, shot in the head by a man who she described as wearing tan pants and a black t-shirt.

Survivors who took the stand on Saturday [Haji Mohammad Naim and his son Quadratullah – pow wow] described the shooter as an American wearing camouflage pants and a tan t-shirt. – Chuck Conder, CNN, Nov. 11, 2012

Robina’s friend, Zardana, now 8, also testified, but only briefly to describe what the shooter was wearing.

Zardana suffered a gunshot wound to the top of her head, and when she arrived at a nearby military base, the doctors focused on treating the other injured victims first. They figured Zardana had no chance of surviving.

After two months at a military hospital in Afghanistan and three more at a Navy hospital in San Diego, she can walk and talk again.

Before she testified, Zardana sat at the witness table sipping from a pink juice box through a pink straw. A loose head covering and a barrette held her dark brown hair out of her face. – Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 11, 2012

The other 7-year-old girl had more trouble walking. Zardana was shot in the head and nearly died on the night of the killings. The military sent her to a Navy hospital in San Diego for advanced care.

She and her father, Samiullah, spent three months there. They even went sight-seeing, Samiullah testified tonight.

Zardana wore a shiny purple dress and she wrapped her hair with a purple scarf. She smiled at a screen showing the Lewis-McChord courtroom at the NATO base in Kandahar in which she testified [the Kandahar base was Camp Nathan Smith, according to Adam’s account here -pow wow].

“I’m not going to lie,” she said when she was sworn in.

Both girls were wounded in the village of Alkozai, the first community Bales allegedly attacked on March 11.– Adam Ashton, The News Tribune blog, Nov. 10, 2012

On May 16, 2012, Jon Stephenson of McClatchy reported:

Zardana, Rafiullah’s sister, is the victim most in need of specialized care. Shot in the head, she remains partially paralyzed in the U.S. base hospital. Her uncle, Juma Khan, said U.S. officials had yet to follow through on a pledge to get her more sophisticated care in the United States.

“If the Americans can’t organize these simple things, they should return Zardana to us so the world can see her condition,” he said. “If America can’t help us, we will ask the international community for help.”

Zardana’s first, and so far only, English-language media interview was in April, 2013 with Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press, for a May 16, 2013 story (a year to the day after Stephenson’s valuable, singular report about Zardana’s condition):

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP)

Zardana, 11, said a cousin [Khudaydad, killed at the home of Haji Sayed Jan -pw] dashed over to help. He was shot and killed, she said. “We couldn’t stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors.” Their neighbor, Naim, came out of his house to see what the noise was all about and was shot and wounded. His daughter then ran to him but was killed [injured, if that daughter is Parmina -pw] by the American soldier, Zardana said, struggling to remember and fiddling with her green scarf decorated with tiny sequins.

Zardana, who said she saw soldiers in a nearby field as she ran from one house to the next, remembers trying to hide behind her grandmother at the neighbor’s house. But the soldier found them.

[…]

She removed her scarf to show where the wound had healed; the effects will last a lifetime. She suffered nerve damage on her left side and has to walk with a cane. Her hand is too weak to hold anything heavy.

Zardana spent about two months recovering at the Kandahar Air Base hospital and three more at a naval hospital in San Diego receiving rehabilitation therapy, accompanied by her father, Samiullah.

[…]

“They showed me so much love,” she said with a tiny smile. “They asked me about what happened and when I told them how my grandmother died and how afraid I was and how I was shot, they cried and cried.”

SAMIULLAH – of Kandahar city; son of Haji Sayed Jan & Nikmarghah; father of Rafiullah & Zardana

Samiullah, Rafiullah and Zardana’s father who was in Kandahar City at the time of the attack, recalled the horror of coming home to carnage.
Upon arrival, he saw the bodies of four Afghans on the ground – including those of a father and his daughter [Haji Nazar Mohammad and his two-year-old daughter Tora/Toraki, from the home east of Haji Naim’s -pow wow]. “She was laying by her father’s side,” he said of the girl. “She was shot on her head and her head was all bloody.” Agence France-Presse, Nov. 12, 2012

[Rafiullah’s] father, Samiullah, was away when the shootings occurred, and testified that by the time he returned the next morning, his two wounded children had been driven to a base for treatment. He found his mother among the four corpses at the compound.

“I just saw her, I cried, and I could not look on her face,” he said. – Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 11, 2012

On Saturday, a man who was away from his village when the massacre took place returned home to find his mother’s body [Nikmarghah, grandmother of Rafiullah and Zardana, from the home west of Haji Naim’s].

“I just saw her, I cried and I could not look on her face,” said Samiullah.

Samiullah said his 7-year-old daughter Zardana was shot in the head in the attack and was later treated at a Navy hospital in San Diego. He said she can now walk and talk again.
– Gene Johnson, The Associated Press, Nov. 10-11, 2012

Zardana spent three months in a U.S. Navy hospital in San Diego over the summer. “The first time I saw her, I wasn’t sure she was going to live,” her father, Samiullah, testified Saturday. “The only thing she was doing was opening her eyes.”

But in the U.S., he said, she underwent successful medical treatment. “They tried their best and they helped a lot…. She’s better now.”– Kim Murphy, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 2012

In addition to a passing reference to a comment of his in April, 2013, during the first English-language media interview of his injured daughter Zardana (with whom Samiullah spent 2-3 months at a Navy hospital in San Diego in 2012), comments from Samiullah (a Kandahar city resident) have appeared in English-language media accounts about the massacre in March, 2012, March, 2013 (including for the first time on video) and June, 2013, as follows:

First, by Afghan reporter Sayed Salahuddin for the Washington Post, March 23, 2012:

Samisami-Ullah, a 30-year-old farmer, identified those [Alkozai -pw] victims as his mother, uncle and two cousins. Three others in his family were wounded, he said, along with three from his neighbors’ families. Five of the six wounded were transported to a U.S. military hospital, where three victims remain.

One girl, superficially wounded, was treated at a local hospital, villagers said.

[…]

To date [March 23rd, 2012, the date that Bales was charged with 17 murders -pw], the U.S. military has not contacted any witnesses or those who lost relatives, said [Mohammad -pw] Wazir, provincial officials and others who have talked to the massacre victims’ families. “None of them have come to investigate, or to talk to us, or seen the village,” Wazir said angrily. “We want justice.”

[…]

Samisami-Ullah said that wounded relatives told him, “There were 10 soldiers in our neighborhood alone.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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The consequential truth about Senate rules and practice that neither political Party will publicly explain and our Free Press ignores

I sincerely hope that there are enough American citizens, enough members of our national media, and, most importantly today, enough United States Senators remaining – long-time incumbents and newly-elected alike – who appreciate, and care enough to fight to preserve, the irreplaceable role in our self-governing Republic of a public, deliberative legislative body that democratically creates the laws under which we live. I further hope that enough Americans take heed of these rarely-reported, but unavoidable and pivotal truths about our federal Senate, before the egalitarian Senate, like the House before it, devolves into a barren, backroom-run Party dictatorship that effectively closes the Senate Chamber even to its elected members. [If anyone thinks that’s an exaggeration, please tune in to the House Chamber, and the Speaker-run House Rules Committee, more often. As a direct result of past Party-driven House rule changes, when the House Chamber’s seats are soon filled for the President’s State of the Union address, it will be one of only a handful of days a year when that mostly-empty and sparsely-lit legislative Chamber now ever sees its membership, or even a significant minority thereof, seated together there for any purpose whatsoever, never mind for public legislating.]

The Senate is the last federal legislative body whose longstanding, time-tested default rules – as distinct from its current, corrupt Party practices – still provide for a deliberative, democratic legislative forum at the federal level, despite the destructive and secretive way in which the Senate is now operated by the political Parties. Dishonest partisan claims about the Senate rules are rampant, particularly when it comes to distinguishing between the default simple-majority Senate rules (and accompanying live floor) feared by the Parties, and the 1917-created optional supermajority cloture rule that both Parties now favor – by their actions, if not by their words – in lieu of non-cloture order.

I also hope that there are enough independent-thinking Americans left to ask why, if Senate “rule reform” proponents are acting in good faith and in the best interests of the Senate and nation, these basic facts about our national legislature have been, without challenge by the media, so egregiously omitted, misstated, repeatedly twisted into half-truths, or otherwise abused by them, to obvious Party advantage, at the expense of the nonpartisan Senate itself. In addition to prominent partisan members of the media and others, I’m referring to incumbent federal legislators – in particular, of late, Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Tom Harkin of Iowa – who claim to be proponents of fair Senate “reform” – yet somehow manage to assign no blame to their own majority Party for the current dysfunctional state of the Senate. These reformers and their promoters seem to take care never to define exactly what they mean by the word “filibuster,” for example, in terms precise enough to be compared to the actual rules of the Senate. (I’d like to at least credit one or two of these Senators for acting with good intentions, but their longstanding, unwavering Party-protecting refusal to tell the whole truth about the Senate’s present realities makes that difficult.)

The present, indisputable Senate dysfunction, I think any fair, honest diagnosis of the procedural cause(s) would find, is due to the ongoing two-Party abuse of Senate “quorum call” practice; the current majority Party’s record use of the supermajority cloture motion rule in the absence of debating filibusters (yes, the majority Democrats have voluntarily imposed that supermajority rule on themselves for fear of a live Senate floor, as further explained below, and at greater length elsewhere); the very destructive blocking of legislative floor deliberation by Majority Leader Reid’s abusive filling of the procedural amendment “tree,” or chart, with nonsense amendments (to avoid being “blindsided,” as Reid calls democratic floor amending); and to other Party practices that short-change or end-run regular parliamentary procedure – such as, to quote from December remarks by Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, the fact that “we have seen rule XIV used to bypass committee work nearly 70 times in the last 6 years.” (I assume that I don’t need to spell out why partisan Senators of a self-serving Party minority do not voluntarily speak up to point out to the public and media that the Senate’s default rules provide for simple-majority order, even as the majority Party continues to regularly displace those default rules with an optional supermajority cloture rule…)

The two national fundraising organizations known as Parties demand that our federal representatives ‘play for pay’ in the widely-despised but media-fed “team sport” of raw Party power grabs that now dominates our federal House and Senate. To their discredit, almost all of our federal representatives agree to “play” for their “teams,” when it matters most to Party leadership, in the name of job security or for fear of ‘rocking the boat.’ (“Independent” Bernie Sanders and veteran Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad most definitely included. It was now-retired Conrad who used the term “team sport” while lamenting on his way out of the Senate what Congress has become, and yet Conrad, at Party direction, for years obediently prevented his own committee from acting on a Senate budget as required by law – Party direction that apparently originated across the “separated-power” dividing line in the White House.) We, however – unlike, dangerously, most of our national media organizations via political campaign advertising – aren’t receiving Party perks or pay-offs, and can and should tell the truth about what’s being done, or not being done, in our names in Congress.

Lewis Lapham quoting an 1838 James Fenimore Cooper description of the forthright conduct that we should all insist our public servants demonstrate in such a debate:

“[T]he conviction of the necessity of speaking truth, when speaking at all; a contempt for all designing evasions of our real opinions. In all the general concerns, the public has a right to be treated with candor.

So, once more with feeling, these are some of the truths that Party loyalists don’t want to hear, and will not speak: Read the rest of this entry »

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For The Record: Senator Harry Reid “100% Supports” AG Holder’s March 5 Speech

On Monday, March 5, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to law students in Chicago. The speech tried to clothe in a veneer of lawfulness the unchecked Executive Branch killing of American citizens, particularly the long-premeditated killing reported here – this time making the case outside the narrow, credulous confines of the D.C. Circuit appellate court, where federal judges consistently refuse to enforce Constitutional limits on Executive Branch departments (like Holder’s DOJ) when only the pleas of the powerless are at stake.

Holder’s carefully crafted presentation was, of course, a speech that amounts to the police and military powers of the Executive Branch of the government saying to the nation:

Trust us, citizens. Sure we’ll comply with the requirements of the ‘law of war’ and the broader field of ‘international law,’ in our ‘wartime’ actions at home and abroad – particularly when nobody ever bothers to enforce those requirements….”

To cite just the most glaring, decade-long example of this Holder-promoted Executive Branch ability to opt-out of “law” altogether, in practice, under cover of “the law of war” (as noted in the 3/1 update to my related launch post): Ifas claimed by the Executive Branch, whenever the “law of war” threatens to be enforced – “wartime” detainees aren’t detained (in Guantanamo, or Bagram, etc., etc.) pursuant to the 3rd Geneva Convention POW treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate (which mandates proper Article 5/Army Regulation 190-8 screening, and thus, if faithfully observed, adequate “non-judicial” due process) as part of an international armed conflict, then they’re detained pursuant to domestic law and its due process guarantees, and not pursuant to the international law of war.

But then, of course, we have the arguments that are hauled out by the DOJ when domestic law threatens to reassert itself (quoting from the 12/7/2010 Judge John Bates opinion that obligingly echoed government assertions of unchecked presidential power, and sealed Anwar Al-Awlaki’s fate): To hope to prevail against today’s national security state, Judge Bates decrees, a plaintiff (even one on a presidential hit list) must first overcome the “threshold” hurdles of standing, the [judiciary-concocted, so-called] political question doctrine, the Court’s exercise of its ‘equitable discretion,’ the absence of a cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute (‘ATS’), and the [judiciary-concocted, so-called] state secrets privilege.”

Meanwhile, our Congress continues to allow itself to be kept in the dark about even the self-serving Executive Branch Office of Legal Counsel’s – or any other – purported legal justification(s) for these armed-conflict-combat-zone-divorced killings.

On Thursday, March 8, 2012, during an unrelated press conference called by the Democratic leaders of the Senate to promote the unfinished Senate version of the reauthorized Surface Transportation Act, one reporter spoke up to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – the Democratic Boss of the in-the-dark, bystanding Senate – about the Attorney General’s speech, starting at 16:04 of this C-SPAN recording.

Senator Harry Reid expressing support for Attorney General Holder's 3/5/12 speech

Reporter questions Senator Reid 3/8/12, about 3/5 AG Holder speech, at 16:04

My transcription of the reporter’s superb question, and the answer of shameless presidential yes-man Harry Reid of Nevada:

Unidentified Male Reporter (@ 16:04): “Senator Reid?”

Senator Harry Reid: “Yes.”

Reporter: “A non-transportation question, if I might. What did you make of, or what was your reaction to the Attorney General’s speech earlier – to his, his statement that the Authorization for Use of Force that Congress passed [seven(? sic)] years ago justifies the targeting and killing of American citizens overseas who are deemed terrorists, and that due process is not necessarily judicial process?”

Senator Harry Reid (@ 16:32): “I have not studied the decision – the opinion – that he wrote, but in substance I support it 100%.”

________________________________________________________________

Update, 3/12/12:

  • Jeremy Scahill caught this follow-up performance by Senator Reid on Sunday, March 11th, during Reid’s interview with Candy Crowley on her CNN show “State of the Union” (the full interview tape is here, the full transcript here):Jeremy Scahill tweet about Harry Reid interview 3/11/2012 re 16-year-old Al-AwlakiAbdulrahman Al-Awlaki was the teenage son of New Mexico-born Anwar Al-Awlaki, who, with his family, returned to live in Sana’a, Yemen in 2002. The U.S. government killed Abdulrahman in Yemen (along with his teenage cousin, and six others) for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” – an anonymous “U.S. official” told TIME (or, in the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 3/11/12, for being a “terrorist” who “deserved to be killed”) – with an evening U.S. military-operated drone strike on October 14, 2011, two weeks after Abdulrahman’s father was killed (with three others) on September 30, 2011, also in Yemen, by American missiles that targeted and struck their vehicle(s). [The missiles that killed Anwar Al-Awlaki and three men near him (including Samir Khan, another American citizen) on September 30 were reportedly fired by a drone that was operated by the CIA, and by a U.S. military jet.]
    The 16-year-old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011, two weeks after his father

    16-year-old Denver-born Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, killed by the U.S. in Yemen on 10/14/2011, two weeks after U.S. missiles killed his father, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki

    The transcript of the Sunday exchange that Scahill witnessed:

    STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

    Interview With Harry Reid; Interview With Dick Gephardt, Steve Forbes

    Aired March 11, 2012 – 09:00 ET

    THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

    […]

    CROWLEY: Right. Let me ask you something about — something the attorney general said recently. He was giving a speech to Northwestern University Law School. And he was suggesting — he said, you know, people are arguing that for some reason the president needs to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a U.S. citizen overseas who’s an operational leader [says who, Candy?? – pow wow] in al Qaeda.

    He says that’s just not accurate. That due process and judicial process are not one and the same. Do you have — and this is creating quite a stir. Do you have any problem with that? Do you understand what that means exactly? [Two different questions, so it’s unclear which one Reid’s first response was answering… – pow wow]

    REID: No, I don’t. But I do know this. The non — the American citizens who have been killed overseas who are terrorists, and, frankly, if anyone in the world deserved to be killed, those three did deserve to be killed.

    CROWLEY: And these were the three [U.S. citizens – Al-Awlaki father and son, plus one of the men killed with Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/30/11 – pow wow] that were killed in Yemen. And I understand that. But just — are you slightly uncomfortable with the idea that the United States president, whoever it may be, can decide that this or that U.S. citizen living abroad is a threat to national security and kill them?

    REID: Well, I don’t know what the attorney general meant by saying that. I’d have to study it a little bit. I’ve never heard that term [? – pow wow] before. But I think the process is in play. I think it’s one that I think we can live with. And I think with the international war on terror that’s going on now, we’re going to have to make sure that we have the tools to get some of these people who are very bad [says who, Harry Reid?? – pow wow] and comply with American law.

    CROWLEY: And you think that the president should be able to make that decision in conjunction with the folks in the administration without going to a court, without going to you all, anything?

    REID: There is a war going on. There’s no question about that. He’s the commander-in-chief. And there has been guidelines set. And if he follows those [how will you know if he does, or if he doesn’t, “follow” those top-secret, internal “guidelines,” Harry Reid? – pow wow], I think he should be able to do it.

    CROWLEY: Senator Harry Reid, majority leader in the U.S. Senate, come back and see us again. Thank you so much.

    REID: You’re sure welcome, Candy.

 

(3/14) See also: U.S. Targeted Killings: Official Confusion

(4/21) And see the April 14 report “Drone death in Yemen of an American teenager” by Toronto Star National Security Reporter Michelle Shephard, which includes portions of an interview in Yemen with Nasser Al-Awlaki, the father of Anwar Al-Awlaki and grandfather of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki: Read the rest of this entry »

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For The Record: Senator Dan Coats Condemns Abusive Party Throttling of the Senate’s Floor Amendment Process

Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, speaking in the Senate Chamber on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, shortly after Majority-Party Leader Harry Reid once again “filled the tree” (to prevent the offering of – and votes on – floor amendments in the Senate Chamber) on an important, complex (multi-committee) piece of legislation just made pending before the Senate (the Surface Transportation Act reauthorization, or highway bill, S. 1813); so far Harry Reid has twice “filled the tree” on this bill, after the Senate agreed to the motion to proceed to the legislation on 2/9 in advance of another long Senate weekend – thus, on 2/15, the Senate was finally reconvened and ready to address the newly-pending legislation, when Reid first moved to block floor amendments, and Coats then made these remarks:

Mr. COATS. Madam President, I come to the floor today frustrated, as many of us are, that once again we are not able to address legislation in the way the Senate is designed to address it, which is to debate, to discuss, to offer amendments, and to vote. Once again the majority leader has decided he didn’t like some of the proposed amendments and, therefore, is trying to shut off all opportunity to provide amendments. We are allowed to come down and give our little speeches, but there is no debate, there is no back and forth, there is no record of where we stand on certain issues except for final passage. I think the American people want more than that. That is not why they sent us here.

This is my second time in the Senate, with a 12-year gap in between my terms, and a lot of people ask me what has changed since my first time here. I say one thing that has dramatically changed–and which didn’t happen my first time in the Senate–is that we used to be able to come to the floor and essentially offer any amendment at any time to any bill. That is the difference between Senate procedure and the rules in the House of Representatives. We don’t have a Rules Committee that dictates which amendments can be offered and which ones can’t. This is supposed to be a body where we have an open discussion, where any Member can offer any amendment to any bill at any time. So in my first 10 years, that is what we did. It made for long nights, it made for long days, but we were performing the function our Founding Fathers designed for this body to fulfill.

Somehow it worked out. We went on record. Our yea was yea, and our nay was nay, and it was all there for the public to see. The amendments that were offered, the debate that took place, and the vote that was conducted were all there. Then we went home and explained why we voted yes or why we voted no. But the public had full transparency.

Today, and in this period of time–and I have just been here a year and a month in my second stint in the Senate–it is very seldom we have that opportunity.

Once again, on the highway bill, which affects every American in every State, we have finally gotten to the real thing. Our side has put up some amendments, and the majority has looked at them and said: No, we don’t want our Members to have to vote on those, so we [that is, Majority Leader Reid, in collusion with his Caucus] will use a procedure called “filling the tree.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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