Monday, January 4, 2010

Atrocity: U.S. Massacre of Afghan Children in Ghazi Khan

Blogger David Swanson has done yeoman's work in directing attention to news reports of the U.S. counterinsurgency executions of ten people in the dead of night last week -- eight of them schoolchildren as young as ten years old. Swanson's website,, has some excellent commentary on the story, including links to most of the major articles in the mainstream press.

According to the London Times, "Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed." David Lindorff at AfterDowningStreet comments on how the atrocity of the killings was buried in the New York Times article on the story:
Let’s be clear here. If the charges are correct, that American forces, or American-led forces, are handcuffing their victims and then executing them, then they are committing egregious war crimes. If they are killing children, they are committing equally egregious war crimes. If they are handcuffing and executing children, the atrocity is beyond horrific. This incident, if true, would actually be worse than the infamous war crime that occurred in My Lai during the Vietnam War. In that case, we had ordinary soldiers in the field, acting under the orders of several low-ranking officers in the heat of an operation, shooting and killing women, children and babies. But in this case we appear to have seasoned special forces troops actually directing the taking captives, cuffing them, herding them into a room, and spraying them with bullets, execution style.

Given the history of the commanding general in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who is known to have run a massive death squad operation in Iraq before being named to his current post by President Obama, and who is known to have called for the same kind of tactics in Afghanistan, it should not be surprising that the US would now be committing atrocities in Afghanistan. If this is how this war is going to be conducted, though, the US media should be making a major effort to uncover and expose the crime.
There have been protests by hundreds of university students in Jalalabad over a rise in civilian deaths in the Afghanistan war, and particularly over the shootings of the schoolchildren.
"The government must prevent such unilateral operations otherwise we will take guns instead of pens and fight against them (foreign forces)," students from the University of Nangahar's education faculty said in a statement.

Marching through the main street of Jalalabad, the students chanted "death to Obama" and "death to foreign forces", witnesses said.
Meanwhile, Lindorff directs us to a New Years Day story in the London Times, which reports that Afghanistan President Hamid Kharzai's security chiefs are demanding that the killers be turned over to the Afghan government, noting that the chief UN representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has corroborated the story of the murder of the students.
The call heightens a war of words between the Afghan Government and its powerful military backers. It is the first time that Mr Karzai has tried to hold foreign forces directly accountable for killing civilians, although he has issued impassioned responses to civilian casualties that threaten to undermine Nato’s mission in Afghanistan.

It also reflects the growing assertiveness of a Government that precariously held its position after fraudriddled elections in August and open criticism from Nato countries over corruption.
The Times article continues, quoting NATO sources (bold emphasis added):
Conventional US units told investigators that they had no knowledge of the operation, in Narang district in eastern Kunar province. Assadullah Wafa, who led the investigation, said that US troops flew to Kunar from Kabul late on Saturday. Nato sources said that the foreigners involved were non-military, suggesting that they were part of a secret paramilitary unit based in the capital.

Mr Wafa said that they landed helicopters outside the village and walked in at the dead of night before shooting the children at close range. “They were children, they were civilians, they were innocent,” he said. “I condemn this attack"....

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force said there was “no direct evidence to substantiate” the Government’s claims that unarmed civilians were harmed in the “joint coalition and Afghan security force” operation.
Spencer Ackerman, who early on was reporting on the murky initial reports surrounding the massacre, has posted General Stanley McChystal's call for a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into the killings. The Pentagon statement is notable for its starchy sang-froid, given that eight students under 18 were brutally murdered in the middle of the night, most of them from the same family. The joint U.S.-Afghan unit that supposedly did the killings was supposedly investigating an IED bomb-making factory.
An initial review by a Government of Afghanistan delegation asserted that the dead were unarmed civilians removed by international forces from their homes and shot. While there is no direct evidence to substantiate these claims, ISAF has requested and welcomes an immediate joint investigation to reach an impartial and accurate determination of the events that occurred.

ISAF is a committed partner with the government and people of Afghanistan, and as such we embrace the responsibility to conduct our operations with the strictest degree of constraint to avoid civilian casualties. If we fail to meet this highest standard to which we subject ourselves, we will always look within to improve our capacity to avert unintended consequences in the future.
"... we will always look within"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? It reads like a not-so-veiled threat to others to back off. Well, it's the U.S. government, and U.S. society as a whole, that should be looking within, deeply within. The news of a bloody, gangland-style execution of children by U.S. or U.S.-backed special operations unit, in a war led by a Special Operations general, should have members of Congress screaming hell, with hair on fire, to get that general back before a Congressional committee under oath, and find out what the hell is going on, and prosecute those responsible, up to and including those who ordered the mission.

Of course, the U.S. should not be in Afghanistan at all. The story that it is seeking out Osama bin Laden, or that it is fighting to end terrorism, has grown quite old over the last eight years. Instead, it is the U.S. government that has taken on the role of terrorist. The "war on terror" has exemplified Nietzsche's dire adage, that if one spends too long staring into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.

Also posted at The Seminal/FDL

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