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Another "Massacre" In Afghanistan

#1
I post this from our friends at World Socialists to show how the choices of just a few key words (my bold) can completely change the perceived tenor of a military operation for the otherwise uninformed reader. Such propaganda is a critical part of the insurgent and counterinsurgent doctrine. The use of noncombatant casualties for political purposes demonstrates how difficult, if not intractable, this war is.

Another Massacre In Afghanistan

By Bill Van Auken

23 February, 2010
WSWS.org

A US air strike killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan’s central Uruzgan Province Sunday, while to the south a US ground offensive in the Helmand Province town of Marjah ground through its second week, producing growing casualties and the threat of a humanitarian disaster.

The massacre took place near the border between Uruzgan and Daykundi provinces. According to the Wall Street Journal, special operations troops called in an air strike on three minibuses, which they reportedly believed were carrying armed insurgents.

Initial reports cited 33 people dead and at least 12 others wounded. Later, Afghan officials revised the death toll to 27. Among the dead were four women and a child. It appears to be the worst attack on Afghanistan’s civilian population since September 4, when a German commander ordered an airstrike on a fuel tanker truck surrounded by local people, killing 142 of them.

The Afghanistan council of ministers criticized the air strike: “The repeated killings of civilians by NATO forces is unjustifiable,” the council said in a muted statement.

Those whose family members were slaughtered in the attack had a different reaction. They demanded that the foreign troops get out of their country. “They came here to bring security but they kill our children, they kill our brothers and they kill our people,” said Haji Ghullam Rasoul, whose cousins died in the attack. “We’ve had enough.”

The US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has stressed that civilian casualties undermine American efforts to pacify the country by inflaming popular opposition. He reportedly has changed the rules of engagement in Afghanistan to reduce such casualties, yet they continue.

A large share of these killings is the work of the Special Operation Forces, which McChrystal formerly commanded. These units are being used in an ongoing assassination program aimed at wiping out leading elements of the Taliban and other forces resisting the occupation. Last December, they were blamed [not yet proven however--if proven then prosecutions should follow] for the execution-style killing of eight students, some as young as 11, in Kunar province.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a tacit defense of Sunday’s mass killing, stressing that such atrocities had to be accepted as part of war.

“The thing to remember is that we’re at war,” Gates said at a Pentagon press conference. “General McChrystal is doing everything humanly possible to avoid civilian casualties.”

He continued, “I’m not defending it at all. I’m just saying that these kinds of things, in many respects, are inherent in a war. It’s what makes war so ugly.”

Appearing with Gates, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, sounded the same note. “War is bloody and uneven,” Mullen said “It’s messy and ugly and incredibly wasteful, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the cost.”

Gates also fell back on the increasingly widespread justification that those resisting the US-led occupation were using “civilians for cover.” Such claims have been employed in every colonial-style war—in which foreign troops fight against members of an indigenous population—to justify the killing of unarmed men, women and children.

Significantly, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal published articles Monday on the same basic theme, with the Times headline referring to “Afghans in the Crossfire” and the Journal to “Civilians in the Crosshairs.”

The deadly air strike in Uruzgan largely overshadowed the Pentagon’s continuous claims of progress and success in “Operation Moshtarak,” the largest offensive launched by US-led occupation troops since the country was invaded more than eight years ago.

Afghan officials have reported 19 civilians killed in the operation, 12 of them slain in a rocket attack on a home that wiped out all of its occupants except one eight-year-old girl. Residents, however, have put the death toll significantly higher.

Aziz Ahmad Tassal and Mohammad Elyas Dayee, writing for International War and Peace Reporting, interviewed relatives of some of those killed in the wake of the rocket attack earlier this month.

One of them, Harun, was at a hospital in the provincial capital, where he had brought his two wounded brothers. One brother’s wife had been killed by fire from a tank.

“My wounded brother Fazel Omar got married six months ago. When he was wounded, his wife came out of the house and ran towards her husband, but [they] shot at her from their tank and [killed] her,” he said.

He continued, “That moment was very difficult for me because I could not go out of the house. I could not take my wounded brothers to the hospital and could not bring my dead sister-in-law’s body home.”

Also interviewed was Gula Jan, who had brought the bodies of his two young sisters to the Bost Hospital in Lashkar Gah. Their house had also been fired upon by the US-led forces. “My two little sisters were martyred by the foreigners’ rocket,” he said, “and I will not reconcile with the infidels until I can avenge my sisters.”

Ahmad’s father was shot dead by occupation troops when he left his home to get food. “The body of my father was left inside our home for two days because the foreigners did not let us out to bury the body in the cemetery,” he said. “We were scared of being killed. They are cruel and the infidels have no sympathy for us.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported growing anger among the population of Marjah over troops kicking in the doors of their homes, damaging the local market and killing their livestock.

There are growing concerns of a humanitarian disaster resulting from the operation, which US commanders say could continue for a month. Many residents who stayed behind have become imprisoned in their own homes by the fighting, running out of food and water and unable to seek medical care.

Many thousands more who fled are now homeless, with little assistance from either the occupation forces or the government of Hamid Karzai.

Reports from Marjah describe a hellish environment of constant firefights as the US and other foreign forces continue to meet resistance. Overhead, helicopter gunships, pilotless drones and fighter planes continuously circle the area, waiting for orders to attack.

At least 13 US and other foreign troops have been killed. Military officials claim that 120 “insurgents” have died in the fighting, but the count appears to be only an estimate and may well include civilians.

While the US military and the media have touted the operation—the first offensive since the “surge” ordered by President Barack Obama—as some kind of a turning point in the long war, it is increasingly obvious that it is nothing of the kind.

Some 11,000 troops backed by airpower have been poured into Marjah, a remote and largely rural district with barely 75,000 people. While the ability of the US-led forces to prevail over a few hundred Taliban fighters was largely taken for granted, their control over the area is far from secure as they continue to face frequent attacks.

The offensive was largely a demonstration of US power, with little strategic significance. But the strengths that it was supposed to showcase have proven illusory at best.

The claim that US forces will be able to be drawn down as the Afghan National Army takes over the fighting has been refuted by the conduct of the Afghan troops, only one of whom has been reported killed. US Marines have been compelled to take the lead in every operation, with the Afghan forces showing little or no ability to act on their own.

Moreover, most of these troops are Tajiks, an ethnic group that formed the base of the Northern Alliance, with which the Taliban, with its base among the local Pashtuns, fought a protracted civil war. They are widely seen, like the American troops, as a hostile occupying force.

The US-led operation is also supposed to install a new district regime loyal to the US puppet government of Karzai and subservient to the foreign occupation. Chosen to carry out this job is one Haji Zahir, an Afghan émigré who returned to the country only recently after 15 years in Germany. He reportedly has few ties to the area.

Zahir was flown into Marjah for the first time Monday “aboard a Marine MV-22B Osprey helicopter with a contingent of Marine officers,” the Washington Post reported, adding, “He was on the ground for about two hours, not venturing more than 100 yards from where his aircraft landed.”

Also vying for leadership is the district’s former police chief, Abdul Rahman Jan. According to the Post, the police he led “were so corrupt and ruthless—their trademark was summary executions—that many residents welcomed the Taliban as a more humane alternative.”

The Post reported that Jan—who was sacked in 2005 at the demand of British officials—enjoys the backing of Karzai despite, or perhaps because of, his close ties to narcotics traffickers.

McChrystal said that the operation in Marjah was a “model for the future.” He suggested that the more important target would be Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, with a population of nearly one million. Fighting for control there will prove far more costly in terms of casualties, both among civilians and US troops.

In an interview Sunday on the television news program “Meet the Press,” Gen. David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, warned that casualties in coming months would be heavy and prove “tough” to bear.

Petraeus stressed that the offensive in Marjah was just “the initial operation of what will be a 12 to 18-month campaign.”

The general’s comment gives the lie to Obama’s claim that his escalation, with the deployment of 30,000 more US troops, would be reversed by July 2011, with the drawdown of US forces. His administration is waging a protracted, expanding and bloody war, with no end in sight.

http://www.countercurrents.org/auken230210.htm
 
#2
Yeah, pretty shoddy yellow journalism on their part...but I honestly wouldn't expect anything less from an organization called "World Socialists." Nothing to get worked up about...
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
There is a lot I would disagree with in that article, but I'd say that 'slaughter' and 'massacre' are not inappropriate descriptors, given what happened.
 
#5
Fcukin slimeballs are what reality bending socialists are,poll after poll shows that Afghans even the Pashtuns want to be governed by the central government and not by the newest allies of the far left.

The US backed Contras in the Nicuagran civil war burned down schools and hospitals,the left is outraged.
The US backed Afghan govenment builds schools and hospitals and are burned downed by the Taliban,the far left are now falling over each other saying that they're "freedom fighters".
Anyone else see the theme here?
 
#6
Andy_S said:
There is a lot I would disagree with in that article, but I'd say that 'slaughter' and 'massacre' are not inappropriate descriptors, given what happened.
I think you are premature in your judgment. Until all facts are known as to what actually occurred, it is irresponsible, and in this case, quite purposeful, to use such emotionally charged terms to describe the event. I do not believe it is appropriate in a military context to use such terms without proof of criminal intent. This is even more true in the context of the current ROE in place.
 
A

ALVIN

Guest
#7
Seriously, all i can smell in this hell hole is death and destruction.
If the West think that they can change 3,000 years of ideology and culture in a 10 minute occupation, then more fool them.
(obviously 10 minutes of occupation meaning in ratio terms of 3,000 years of culture, or in real terms one generation or 20 years)
 
#8
The term slaughtered to me personally has connotations of being deliberate, the civilian deaths were blatantly not meant thus I have problems with that term being used. Tradgedy? Yes! Slaughter? No!
 
#11
ex_colonial said:
BiscuitsAB said:
Aww stuff it, pull out and give it some instant sunshine the whole damm country.


include substantial parts of Pakistan & Iran, JOB DONE!! :twisted:
Job Jobbed.

caveat, I think Iran is likely to sort itself out sooner rather than later. Their different to the Arabs and from the few Iranians I heard from they are getting fed up to the back teeth with their Islamic Republic and would be quite happy with a straight forward Republic.
 
#12
"BiscuitsAB"
"caveat, I think Iran is likely to sort itself out sooner rather than later. Their different to the Arabs and from the few Iranians I heard from they are getting fed up to the back teeth with their Islamic Republic and would be quite happy with a straight forward Republic."

I agree to a certain extent on the westernised urban Iranians, but unfortunately the bulk of the population is NOT! They still are totally brainwashed by the ayatollahs! I cant see much change in Iran for the foreseeable future! Hence "amadinnerjacket" constantly having a go at the west, trying to develop nukes, interfering in Iraq & now in Syria & indirectly Lebanon, stirring it up against Israel!!
 
#13
JJ,

Luckily only the informed reader is likely to read anything written by Mnr. Van Auken or the World Socialists and 50% will likely suffer the blinding headache which is the immediate reaction to mind bending fact mangling.

The Taliban already have an excellent propaganda machine and if they have heard of the World Socialists, their opinion of them may not differ markedly from that of other readers of this site.

We know that ISAF strategy is to minimise untargeted civilian casualties whilst the Taliban et al seek to maximise targeted civilian casualties.

Just keep repeating the message.

B
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
JJ:

I have seen/read of some one-sided battles being described as 'slaughters' or 'massacres;' criminal intent does not necessarily come into play, it refers to a mass killing in which those killed had little or no chance/capability to defend themselves. Moreover, it seems pretty clear that special forces (as well as predator drones) are involved in 'assasinations' of the enemy. Again, I see nothing wrong with the use of this noun.

Finally, while I commend your wide choice of reading material, I don't really think this particular rag reaches or preaches to anyone but the already converted.

Now, where can I get a subscription?
 
#15
Andy_S said:
JJ:

I have seen/read of some one-sided battles being described as 'slaughters' or 'massacres;' criminal intent does not necessarily come into play, it refers to a mass killing in which those killed had little or no chance/capability to defend themselves. Moreover, it seems pretty clear that special forces (as well as predator drones) are involved in 'assasinations' of the enemy. Again, I see nothing wrong with the use of this noun.

Finally, while I commend your wide choice of reading material, I don't really think this particular rag reaches or preaches to anyone but the already converted.

Now, where can I get a subscription?
Nevertheless I think in even those situations you posit, there was an intentional element lacking in the air strike in this case (unless later facts prove otherwise).


As I indicated in my caveat when I originally posted this thread, we would do well to at least be aware of the larger information war that is integrally involved with the kinetic and the "hearts and minds" ones. I am not as sanguine as you and some other posters that this kind of "journalism" is only read by "true believers."

As a journalist yourself, I am sure you are aware of the incredible speed with which information (even such propaganda like this) is picked up and retransmitted, with or without attribution, to other outlets, blogs etc. to the point it gains its own surficial legitimacy. The reality is that the vast majority of those who read these later iterations, even if not already "true believers," do not go further to verify or test the information such that it then becomes their "truth."
 
#16
bakerlite said:
JJ,

Luckily only the informed reader is likely to read anything written by Mnr. Van Auken or the World Socialists and 50% will likely suffer the blinding headache which is the immediate reaction to mind bending fact mangling.

The Taliban already have an excellent propaganda machine and if they have heard of the World Socialists, their opinion of them may not differ markedly from that of other readers of this site.

We know that ISAF strategy is to minimise untargeted civilian casualties whilst the Taliban et al seek to maximise targeted civilian casualties.

Just keep repeating the message.

B
It's Bakelite.
 
#17
Firstly; wibble.

Secondly, can anyone point out the difference to an “assassination” and a “strike op”?

Having had a few squints at gun/bomb/drone footage over the last two years I can’t.

Assassination is more emotive perhaps?

Wibble.
 
#18
I would quibble with massacre here, this wasn't My Lai. Neither was the intent to create a free fire zone, indeed avoiding civilian casualties was a clear tactical necessity within Stan's plan.

The Haqqani networks very deliberate targeting of Indian civilians in Kabul recently and mass casualty attacks like Mumbai could properly be called massacres without indulging in propaganda.

Of course deploying lots of firepower in proximity to civilians is not without its moral troubles. It is liable to get some of them killed even if that is not our goal. Those described as "human shields" are too often nothing of the sort. They are just unfortunately in the way or mistakenly targeted. The intent matters little once your family has been dismembered by shrapnel. Regret, ashamed apologies and reparations is an appropriate response. At least after nearly a decade of war in Dar al-Islam we seem to be getting better at that.
 
#20
fishfingers said:
jumpinjarhead said:
Andy_S said:
Until all facts are known
Who's responsible for investigating and providing the facts?
Believe it or not, there are (as is usually the case with thorough-going western military bureaucracies)specific procedures required for investigation and , where warranted, prosecution of cases). As an example here is my service's order just for reporting incidents Linky Of course, as with any system involving humans, there is always the risk of abuse or attempts to circumvent. (cover-ups" etc.).

While I suppose it depends on each individual's perspective and biases as to how great this risk is or how often it actually occurs, from my personal perspective of 33 years' active service and a number of years afterward studying and teaching the specific subject, if I was a betting man, I would put my money on the "system," the wheels of which usually grind very fine, albeit sometimes too slowly or out of the media to suit many who can't wait for the official result and too often equate (again usually due to their own personal biases) the "delay" and/or "secrecy" with cover-up.

As history demonstrates, cover-ups invariably fail (have you ever known a secret that is forever kept by 2 or more squaddies?). Just look at the My Lai atrocities in Vietnam or other lesser cases that have occurred since then that are found out and prosecuted.

This "delay" and "secrecy" is in fact built in to the process, at least in the US and the UK, in an effort to provide a "fair" process for both the "system" (trying to be accountable to its own citizens and those in theater who deserve to know that incidents of "collateral damage" are not dismissed out of hand) and, as importantly, to the individual military members involved. The latter notion should not be unfamiliar to ARRSERs as it is evident in the rule about not posting items involving alleged wrong-doing of military members until the matter is finally disposed of in accordance with applicable procedures.

The irony and hypocrisy so often evident in the US at least when there are allegations of "war crimes" against US forces is illustrative. Too often, there are emotional accusations of cover-up, white-washing etc. from individuals and groups who have previously criticized the war effort from one side of their "mouths" while at the same time out of the other side ostensibly aligning themselves with the view that individuals' civil rights must be protected.

I suppose their anti-war views trump their concerns about individual rights since their charges usually assume the guilt of the military members involved before the investigation is even complete. Indeed, they are unwilling even for the investigation (much less any subsequent court martial) to be completed since they equate the time required for it as a cover-up.

Not content with this, however, if they do not "get" the result they have already concluded in a particular case, they are fully willing to completely ignore the due process rights and procedures built into the military justice system. Just study the so-called Haditha/Hamdaniya cases where the US military justice system worked as designed (zealous representation of accused Marines by their appointed and retained defense counsel overcame in large part a very rigorous effort to prosecute them, aided by even public accusations of their guilt by our own elected national leaders). Again, depending on ones' biases, this is seen as a perversion of "justice" where murderers are set free or, that the system (again imperfect by definition given its human origin) functioned as it should and the government failed to meet its high burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Either way, it can hardly be said that the "system" did not aggressively respond to the situation.
 

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