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  • Justice Served?

    Soldier Gets Life In Civilian Slaying, Rape

    POSTED: 5:21 pm EST November 16, 2006
    UPDATED: 5:50 pm EST November 16, 2006

    A soldier was sentenced Thursday to 90 years in prison with the possibility of parole for conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her family.

    Spc. James P. Barker, one of four Fort Campbell soldiers accused in the March 12 rape and killings, pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others to avoid the death penalty.

    "This court sentences you to be confined for the length of your natural life, with the eligibility of parole," said Lt. Col. Richard Anderson, the military judge presiding over the court-martial.

    Under the plea agreement, Barker got a life sentence but will not serve more than 90 years in prison, Anderson said. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

    Barker, 23, showed no reaction when the sentence was read. Afterward, he smoked a cigarette outside as a military bailiff watched over him. He grinned but made no remarks as reporters passed by.

    Earlier Thursday, Barker wept during his closing statement, accepted responsibility for the rape and killings and said violence he encountered left him "angry and mean" when it came to Iraqis.

    "I want the people of Iraq to know that I did not go there to do the terrible things that I did," Barker said, his voice quivering as he began to weep. "I do not ask anyone to forgive me today."

    After Barker's sentencing, military prosecutors declined to comment because three other soldiers have yet to be tried in the case. Defense attorneys planned a news conference.

    Barker confessed Wednesday to the crimes as part of a plea agreement to avoid a possible death penalty that requires him to testify against the others.

    In his closing statement, Barker said Iraq made him angry and violent.

    "To live there, to survive there, I became angry and mean. The mean part of me made me strong on patrols. It made me brave in fire fights," Barker said. "I loved my friends, my fellow soldiers and my leaders, but I began to hate everyone else in Iraq."

    During testimony intended to show the judge that Barker could be rehabilitated, Barker's fellow soldiers described weeks with little support and sleep while manning distant checkpoints.

    Capt. William Fischbach, the lead prosecutor, told the court that such conditions were no excuse for Barker, who led the group to the family's house, and that no one deserved such unspeakable horrors.

    "This burned-out corpse that used to be a 14-year-old girl never fired bullets or lobbed mortars," Fischbach said as he held pictures of the crime scene. "Society should not have to bear the risk of the accused among them ever again."

    The killings in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.

    The defendants are accused of burning the girl's body to conceal the crime.

    Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, 22, members of the 101st Airborne Division along with Barker, have also been charged. Cortez has deferred entering a plea, and Spielman will be arraigned in December. Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, 19, also deferred entering a plea at his arraignment in October.

    Private Steven Green, 21, pleaded not guilty last week to civilian charges including murder and sexual assault. He was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say whether they will pursue the death penalty against him.

    In earlier testimony, Barker described in detail how he raped Abeer Qassim al-Janabi with Cortez and Green before Green killed the girl, her younger sister and parents.

    "Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up," he said. "Around that time I heard shots coming from a room next door."

    Howard, Cortez and Spielman could face the death penalty if convicted. Cortez and Spielman are both being held in confinement, and Howard is restricted to post.

    Barker did not name Spielman and Howard as participants in the rape and murders but said Spielman was at the house when the assault took place and had come knowing what the others intended to do. Prosecutors on Thursday said Howard had been left behind at a checkpoint.

    Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.

    These are neither my friends nor countrymen, but they are Family in the sense of being members of (any country's) the Army. I do not in any way condone what was done and am happy that justice is and will be done. That all said, I think there is room for further investigation, not into the events themselves, that is being done well enough. I am thinking about the events that lead these men to make this kind of action. There is a comment about limited support and sleep. As a soldier, I understand those concepts, maybe better than most, but there would seem to be a leadership breakdown somewhere in this chain too.

    The frustration levels that build in a person who is doing a nasty job in a nasty place for what appears to be little or no gain or significant impact is often beyond words. Ok. This isn't making any sense, even to me.... Maybe Doug or Da Sharkie will have better words to use.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

  • #2

    " War Is Hell". I don't think that the average person really understands this term, said by whomever and frequently quoted over the years, except those who have served in combat and all of the wars ever fought over the centuries. I would agree that there is nor real excuse for losing one's ethics and morality but the true reality is that it happens. Not everyone who is in the military or has served is of the same mindset. During actual combat, for presumably the right reasons, there is precious little time to think about anything other than doing what must be done to win and hopefully come out alive. It is during those periods of time when the individual can reflect about things that the mind can become warped, filled with hatred and roam into areas of the brain capable of conceiving all kinds of evil thought.

    The enemy soon becomes anyone who is in the area of the war that is not one of your own. With the death of your friends, fellow soldiers and the possibility that the war is now more of a police action than a war and the rules of engagement have changed.

    These sort of things became more prevelant with WWII, Korea and then Vietnam really brought out the fact that American soldiers were doing things not civilized. Then again what is so civilized about war anyway. I really don't see the UN upset about the atrocities going on in the Sudan and other parts of the world.

    There is no such thing, at least in my mind, about going from a fight for your life mode for a tour or more, and then just automatically becoming an everyday citizen the next minute. Even those who seem to be back to normality can snap when triggered by an incident or happening that brings back memories.

    If all of those who did something during war time that was not considered to be honest, civil, ethical or moral were put on trial the courts would have been swamped. It is the most drastic of things that are accounted for. Civilains or non-combatants are never supposed to be involved in the killing or atrocities but they usually are and yet not everyone responsible has been punished for such things.

    War is not sanitary, discriminatory in who it involves, considerate of the aftermath of human toll nor ever a clean and swift action. "War Is Hell".


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