Tuesday, September 09, 2008

more civilian deaths in Afghanistan

There's a consensus forming outside the U.S. that last month's airstrike by U.S. forces in Afghanistan did, in fact, kill a large number of civilians, many of whom were children.

To the villagers here, there is no doubt what happened in an American airstrike on Aug. 22: more than 90 civilians, the majority of them women and children, were killed.

The Afghan government, human rights and intelligence officials, independent witnesses and a United Nations investigation back up their account, pointing to dozens of freshly dug graves, lists of the dead, and cellphone videos and other images showing bodies of women and children laid out in the village mosque.

Cellphone images seen by this reporter show at least 11 dead children, some apparently with blast and concussion injuries, among some 30 to 40 bodies laid out in the village mosque. Ten days after the airstrikes, villagers dug up the last victim from the rubble, a baby just a few months old. Their shock and grief is still palpable.

For two weeks, the United States military has insisted that only 5 to 7 civilians, and 30 to 35 militants, were killed in what it says was a successful operation against the Taliban: a Special Operations ground mission backed up by American air support.

. . .

The Afghan government is demanding changes in the accords defining the United States military engagement in Afghanistan, in particular ending American military raids on villages and halting the detention of Afghan citizens.

“People are sick of hearing there is another case of civilian casualties,” one presidential aide said.
I think what he or she means is “Americans are sick of hearing there is another case of civilian casualties.” Afghans are probably sick of being blown up by American bombs.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting, that the U.S. government is still set on denying the reports that have been confirmed by substantial evidence, including now from U.S. citizen reporters, or that the U.S. public doesn’t appear to care much that it’s government is blowing children into small pieces in its name and on its dime.

The outlines of a cynical strategy emerge: deny, deny, deny for the first week or two until the story recedes from the front pages, then concede in bits and pieces until the story is broken up and defused over time and new distractions materialize. End result: some tiny fraction of the U.S. voting public will remember this story 6 months from now, and most of those who do will reassure themselves that there was some controversy about that strike, wasn’t there, and didn’t the military say it wasn’t true what the UN was alleging, and the Taliban—my god, when was David Hasselhoff replaced by an android?

So let’s take a moment now to internalize just exactly what it is that our military is doing right now in Afghanistan.
Accounts from survivors, including three people wounded in the bombing, described repeated strikes on houses where dozens of children were sleeping, grandparents and uncles and aunts huddled inside with them. Most of the village families were asleep when the shooting broke out, some sleeping out under mosquito nets in the yards of their houses, some inside the small domed rooms of their houses, lying close together on the floor, with up to 10 or 20 people in a room.

. . .

Yakhakhan, 51, one of several men in the village working for a private security firm, and who uses just one name, said he heard shooting and was just coming out of his house when he saw his neighbor’s sons running.

“They were killed right here; they were 10 and 7 years old,” he said. In the compound next to his, he said, four entire families, including those of his two brothers, were killed. “They bombard us, they hate us, they kill us,” he said of the Americans. “God will punish them.”
I’m waiting for Eric Martin to highlight this passage
“This is not fair to kill 90 people for one Mullah Sadiq,” said Mr. Umarzai, the district chief. “If they continue like this, they will lose the people’s confidence in the government and the coalition forces.”
and bemoan the further loss of prestige and influence abroad that this signals. I’m waiting for Matt Yglesias to explain why Iraq is a diversion from real counterterrorism efforts and we need to send more troops to Afghanistan.

[To clarify, I think Martin's and Yglesias's priorities are misplaced and, though they've criticized Bush foreign policy consistently and persuasively, that is not enough. The Democratic Party and the mainstream left has bought into the Afghanistan War, which is why significant discussions about leaving that country are not even taking place.]

I’m waiting for someone to explain why we are blowing up children.

IOZ observes that we had to

. . . destroy the village in order to save it. This shit happens all the time, and it's worth noting in passing just how dishonest is our whole Liberation theme here. You invade a country and depose its tyrannical government. The insane Buddha-blower-uppers go underground and mount an insurgency along with some various and sundry allies. From time to time, some of them enter a village or town in order to . . . what? Resupply? Grab some food and water? Kidnap a hostage or two. And what do you do? You call in air support and bomb the fuck out of the place, then deny that you killed any civilians. Dudes, you bombed a village. One begins to suspect that rather than going to the logistical trouble of constructing suicide bombs, these guys are just rolling into town, waving their hands, and waiting for the Americans to come and kill everyone for them.
Can someone remind me—why are we in Afghanistan as we now approach 2009?


Karla said...

I got why we went into Afghanistan--some nation had to pay for 9/11, the greatest empire in the history of the world had to punish some entity larger than a group of Saudi conspirators who were already dead anyway. Police and investigative work doesn't satisfy the need for vengeance as much as dropping bombs on villages. But it still made/makes me sick.

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