JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington – An Afghan farmer shot during a massacre in Kandahar Province last year took the witness stand Tuesday against the U.S. soldier who attacked his village, cursing him before breaking down and pleading with the prosecutor not to ask him any more questions.
Haji Mohammad Naim appeared Tuesday in the courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, where a sentencing hearing began for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in the slayings of 16 civilians killed during pre-dawn raids on two villages on March 11, 2012.
The hearing afforded some victims and relatives their first chance to confront Bales face-to-face.
Haji Mohammad Naim testified in his native Pashto through an interpreter, speaking loudly and quickly and frequently waving a finger in the air. He pointed to where he was shot in the cheek and neck.
This bastard stood right in front of me! he said. I wanted to ask him, What did I do? What have I done to you?’ ... And he shot me!
Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty. Now the six jurors must decide whether he is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole or without it.
Naim became emotional, often speaking over the interpreter, as prosecutor Lt. Col. Jay Morse asked what it was like to have someone come into his home uninvited. He eventually stood up and said he’d had enough: Don’t ask me any more questions!
The prosecutor asked him for one more favor: to sit down and see whether the defense attorneys had any questions for him. He complied, but Bales’ lawyers didn’t have any questions.
Naim’s two sons, Sadiquallah, who is about 13, and the older Faizullah, also testified. Sadiquallah spoke quietly, responding with a simple yes when asked if he cried about being shot.
Earlier, Morse told the jury that Bales felt inadequate as a soldier and as a man when he left his remote post in Afghanistan in the middle of the night and attacked two mud-walled villages.
He opened the government’s case by reading a 32-page stipulation of facts – an unbearably gruesome recitation of Bales’ actions that night, describing how he executed a young girl who was screaming for him to stop beating her father, how he fired indiscriminately into rooms full of children and how he slaughtered 11 members of a single family, many of them still asleep on their blankets.
Bales, a 39-year-old Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left the outpost at Camp Belambay in the pre-dawn darkness. He first attacked one village, returning to Belambay only when he realized he was low on ammunition, Morse said.
He then woke a fellow soldier, described his actions and said he was headed out to kill more.
The other soldier didn’t believe him and went back to sleep. Bales left again.