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The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will face a general court-martial on 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges. If convicted, the maximum penalty is death. The decision follows a pretrial hearing last month.

An attorney for  Bales says she's "disappointed" by the Army's decision to seek the death penalty against the Washington-based soldier accused of massacring Afghan villagers in March.

US Army

Suicide is now the number one cause of death for US troops. Nationally, more than two-thirds of suicides of active duty troops involve firearms. Most are personal weapons.

Former vice chief of staff for the Army General Peter Chiarelli wants commanders to have the ability to talk to distressed troop members about their private weapons as part of an effort to reverse the trend.

RICHLAND, Wash. -- President Barack Obama has been publicly warning Syria’s leaders not to use chemical weapons against their own people. The news is unexpectedly relevant in southeast Washington. Researchers at at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are developing new scientific techniques to trace chemical agents back to their sources.

Tamim Ansary On Afghanistan's Interrupted History

Nov 26, 2012

The US military and its allies are drawing up plans to leave Afghanistan by 2014, but it will be some time before the nation is truly independent. Peace in Afghanistan has been interspersed with foreign invasion for centuries, from the Mongol Empire to today’s war. We talk with writer Tamim Ansary about his new book, “Game Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan,” and what Afghan independence might look like in the future.

(Photo/Center For A New American Security)

Does firing the top brass hold the key to success for America's military? Author, journalist and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security Thomas Ricks argues that the top military leadership of the United States has not lived with the same fear of being relieved of duty the way it once did. Ricks says lax treatment of underperforming generals since World War II has invited subpar performance and a lack of accountability. We talk with Thomas Ricks about his new book, “The Generals.”

Also this hour: Weekday green thumbs Marty Wingate, Willi Galloway and Greg Rabourn join us to answer your flower, vegetable and native plant questions. Need guidance for your garden? Call us at 206.543.5869 or email weekday@kuow.org.

Plus, Michael Fagin joins us to recommend a hike to match the week's weather forecast.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Army prosecutors say Staff Sgt. Robert Bales murdered 16 Afghan civilians in two villages this past March in an act of “sheer brutality.” That was the opening argument at a pretrial hearing Monday to determine if Bales will face a full court martial and possibly the death penalty.

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