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Robert Bales Speaks: Confessions of America’s Most Notorious War Criminal

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No one knows why he snapped.

One night in 2012, Robert Bales—a soldier who joined the Army right after 9/11—gunned down 16 men, women, and children in their homes in rural Afghanistan. It was the most notorious American wartime atrocity in decades, a tragedy about which he has never spoken. Now, for the first time, Bales explains how he could do something so unimaginable—and how that one long night was actually ten violent years in the making.


Many have called Bales “evil,” an adjective that is so reductive it's meaningless. It may be that he carried the potential for evil inside him, but that doesn't explain why he snapped. Bales was a defeated man, a once proud man who was losing control of his finances, his career, his body, his mind. A man who felt marginalized and disdained by the elite soldiers whose respect he coveted. A man who, in the end, no longer felt like much of a man at all. And in those final fitful moments before he left the base for Alikozai, I don't believe he was motivated only by a desire to protect his men, as he claims, or a desire to murder random Afghan civilians, as the Army insists. I believe he wanted to prove his mettle as a soldier, one last time, even if it cost him his life.

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