(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
On 8 September 2008 Human Rights Watch issued a 43 page report which shows that civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and NATO air-strikes had nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007, and that recent deadly air-strikes are “exacerbating the problem and fueling a public backlash” and that they have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan Government and for the presence of US and NATO troops.
Back on 22 August of this year the United States military claimed that 30 to 35 “militants” (note that they don’t refer to them as “terrorists”) were killed in what was called a successful operation against the Taliban. They also admitted that 5 to 7 civilians, might have been killed. This was a Special Operations ground mission backed up by American air support.
Villagers in Azizabad, Shindand District in Herat Province in western Afghanistan claimed that more than 90 civilians were killed in the bombing raid, the majority being women and children.
Carlotta Gall, writing in the New York Times and who actually visited the Azizabad area herself, reports:
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 air-strikes, villagers dug up the last victim from the rubble, a baby just a few months old. Their shock and grief is still palpable.
The smell of bodies lingered in one compound, causing villagers to start digging with spades. They found the body of a baby, caked in dust, in the corner of a bombed-out room.
Cellphone images that a villager said that he shot, and seen by this reporter, showed two lines of about 20 bodies each laid out in the mosque, with the sounds of loud sobbing and villagers’ cries in the background.
An Afghan doctor who runs a clinic in a nearby village said he counted 50 to 60 bodies of civilians, most of them women and children and some of them his own patients, laid out in the village mosque on the day of the strike. The doctor, who works for a reputable nongovernmental organization here, at first gave his name but then asked that it be withheld because he feared retribution from Afghans feeding intelligence to the Americans.
The US military claims that they had conducted a “sweep” of the area 4 days after the incident and reported back that there was “a far smaller number of graves than the villagers had reported. They also said they had done a thorough, building by building, sweep of the hamlet a few hours after the air-strike. The villagers say the sweep four days after the incident on 22 August never occurred.
Carlotta Gall continuing:
The United States military, in a series of statements about the operation, has accused the villagers of spreading Taliban propaganda. Speaking on condition that their names not be used, some military officials have suggested that the villagers fabricated such evidence as grave sites – and, by implication, that other investigators had been duped.
This brings to mind the initial reports from the military of incident at My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, Viet Nam in March of 1968 in which 504 civilians, once again the majority of the victims were women and children, were killed. The massacre was first reported in the New York Times.
American troops caught a North Vietnamese force in a pincer movement on the central coastal plain yesterday, killing 128 enemy soldiers in day-long fighting.” United Press International termed what happened there an “impressive victory,” and added a bit of patriotic color: “The Vietcong broke and ran for their hide-out tunnels. Six-and-a-half hours later, ‘Pink Village’ had become ‘Red, White and Blue Village.
A major difference in the report of this more recent atrocity exists in the person of Carlotta Gall. At least in part because of her on-site reporting Centcom has agreed to reinvestigation the incident at Azizabad.
Gall has eschewed the well-established routine of most “war correspondents” — regurgitating official statements from military brass — and gone straight to the scene to conduct her own investigation. The results have shredded the Pentagon’s story — with its obscene allegation that the victims themselves had fabricated the story of their loss and suffering — to pieces. And the continuing anger of the American-backed Afghan government has now forced the Americans to promise yet another investigation of the attack perhaps the Pentagon will come up with a more plausible work of fiction next time.
Empire Burlesque – Atrocity in Azizabad
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual as the war increasingly encroaches on Pakistani territory. AP reports by way of US News & World Report that a U.S. led ground assault last week in the South Waziristan region was said to have killed about 15 people. This prompted loud protests from Islamabad including threats of a military response to any repeat, but no public regrets from Washington. At least three other suspected U.S. missile attacks in the tribal belt have been reported in the last 10 days.