The death of innocent civilians is nothing new in Afghanistan, but these 16 victims, nine of whom were children, were allegedly murdered by a rogue soldier, rather than the usual killers – drone attacks, air strikes and stray bullets. This incident has elicited rage among Afghans and westerners alike. But why are westerners not equally outraged when drone attacks kill entire families?US army soldiers in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, where American troops have been fighing since 2001. (Photograph: Baz Ratner/REUTERS)
Drone attacks that kill civilians usually fall into our category of "collateral damage", because the dead civilians weren't specifically targeted, and we treat this category as an unfortunate consequence of war, not murder. Afghans see little difference – rightly so, in my opinion, because their loved ones are dead because of the conscious actions of Nato forces.
This distinction between collateral damage and murder seems to come down to the question of intent. Thomas Aquinas was one of the first to hone in on this distinction with his doctrine of double effect, which is still used today to justify collateral damage. It is believed in the west that some innocent death is excusable in war, as long as the deaths are not intended, and even if those deaths are foreseeable. But if civilian deaths are foreseeable in a course of action, and we take that action anyway, did we not intend them? I doubt Afghans would feel much consolation knowing that their family members were not directly targeted; rather, we just expected that our actions would kill a few people and it happened to be their family members – an unfortunate side-effect of war.
Yet, western audiences feel reassured knowing that most of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan were not intended; and they only become outraged when marines and soldiers clearly target civilians and kill women and children, urinate on their bodies, and plunder their body parts as trophies. From Abu Ghraib, to Fallujah, to Haditha, and now to Panjwai, US forces have committed massacres against civilians. These incidents stand out in the western mind, but to Afghans and Iraqis, they are no different from the daily slaughter of civilians by drones, air strikes, depleted uranium and stray bullets.
The Army is keeping mum on whether the Army sergeant who went on a rampage in Afghanistan has ever been evaluated or asked for evaluation for PTSD, but it is well known that in recent years the culture of the military has been to sweep such problems under the rug, in order to redeploy as many soldiers as possible. The Army has acknowledge that the soldier had been diagnosed with a "traumatic brain injury" after a vehicle rollover in Iraq. The soldier was on his fourth combat tour.
Moreover, the base from which he deployed, Ft. Lewis-McChord, has been plagued with soldier suicides and stateside violence, and is under investigation for allegedly dismissing large numbers of legitimate claims of PTSD.
11 March 2012 - Reporting on its website tonight, The New York Times stated: “Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan [in Kandahar Province] early on Sunday [March 11, 2012].”
After murdering these innocents one by one, this U.S. soldier - many Afghan witnesses, including one whose father was killed, saw several U.S. soldiers involved in the attack - then covered his/their victims with a blanket and set them afire.
“This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.
World Can't Wait and others are responding to the killings yesterday in Afghanistan that at least one US Army staff sergeant is alleged to have carried out. 16 Afghan civilians including children were killed inside homes, in 2 villages, in completely unprovoked aggression, according to witnesses.
Here, villagers protest outside the U.S. base in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2012) – Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich today released the following statement after an American soldier killed at least 16 Afghan civilians, including children:
“Yesterday’s shooting in Afghanistan which left at least 16 civilians dead is a tipping point. This shooting follows days of deadly rioting after it was revealed that U.S. troops had incinerated copies of the Koran. Despite more than a decade at war and nearly $600 billion of U.S. tax-payer dollars, it is obvious that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has created instability in that country, not stability.”
“According to a recent Washington Post poll, more than half of the American public wants the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan before it can complete its stated mission of training Afghan troops. Increasing anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan has placed U.S. troops at great risk. There is no amount of troops, training or money that will result in a stable Afghanistan. It is time to bring the troops home now.”
Iraq had its Haditha. Now, Afghanistan has its Panjwai.
Burning babies – yes, it has come to this.
Following routine bombings of wedding parties, hundreds killed in unchecked “night raids” by U.S. Special Forces, the murders by the scandalous “kill team” in 2010, and, this year, the digitally recorded urination onto dead Afghans by Americans in uniform – not to mention the Koran burnings last month – it’s clear that there’s no hope of success for the “mission.” Whatever that is.
The massacre of sixteen Afghans by a U.S. soldier on Sunday, including many children, is certain to inflame anti-occupation feeling in Afghanistan, send recruits into the Taliban, and harden the opposition to a long-term treaty with the United States among politicians. It is also the death knell for President Obama’s plan to organize a dignified, orderly exit from the war. Forget an organized transfer to Afghan security forces in 2014 – yes, that would be the selfsame Afghan security forces whose personnel are, more and more, assassinating U.S. officers and enlisted men. If Obama has any sense whatsoever, he’ll accelerate the American pullout from Afghanistan this year, after the drawdown of 30,000 surge forces is complete in September.
Getting out of Afghanistan quickly, which could be announced before the election in November, is a guaranteed winner for Obama.
Even Newt Gingrich has gotten the message. Said Newt:
I think it’s very likely that we have lost — tragically lost the lives and suffered injuries to a considerable number of young Americans on a mission that we’re going to discover is not doable. Look at the things that are going on around the region and then ask yourself, ‘Is this, in fact, a harder, deeper problem that is not going to be susceptible to military force, at least not military forces in the scale we are prepared to do?’
Although only one soldier, a staff sergeant, is in custody, Afghan eyewitnesses say that several troops were involved in the massacre, and that they were “drunk and laughing.”
Reports the National Journal, a centrist, establishment publication:
Recent events in Afghanistan, including Sunday’s horrific shooting of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, are not just going to alter U.S. strategy there. They are very likely to upend it. Even before the latest tragedy, President Obama was trying to expedite his way out of that quagmire, which is already the longest war in American history, as he faced a tough fight at home for re-election. Now Obama is likely to only speed things up further.
The Journal concludes:
All of which illustrates a tragic truth: even after ten years into this war, one that has cost nearly 1,800 U.S. dead, 15,000 wounded, and some $400 billion, forward progress is barely discernible and relations with America’s two chief allies, the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments, are worse than they have ever been. And that is why both administration officials and members of Congress are saying it’s time to go.
John McCain, taking a break from demanding that the United States bomb Syria and Iran, says that Obama shouldn’t give up in Afghanistan:
I understand the frustration, and I understand the anger and the sorrow. I also understand and we should not forget that the attacks on the United States of America on 9/11 originated in Afghanistan.
But of course the United States has killed more people in Afghanistan than died on 9/11 dozens of times over.
The Washington Postreports that even Republicans have turned against the war, finally, and in a new poll it concludes that a large majority of Americans want out:
Overall, 60 percent of Americans believe the war has not been worth the loss in life and expense, according to the Post-ABC News poll, which was conducted Wednesday through Saturday, before Sunday’s attack in Kandahar province. There has been consistent majority opposition to the war for nearly two years.
A war that never should have started in 2001 now must come to a rapid end.
STOP THE WAR COALITION
Urgent Stop the War Bulletin
Vigil 6-7 pm, Monday 12 March,
Called by Afghans for Peace, supported by Stop the War.
The cold blooded killing of fifteen Afghan civilians, including young
children, by a US soldier in Kandahar Province earlier today is an outrage
that encapsulates the brutality of the occupation of Afghanistan. It comes
at a time of widespread anger against NATO forces, and growing calls for
the occupation to end.
The Stop the War Coalition is supporting a vigil called tomorrow night,
Monday 12th, by Afghans for Peace in Trafalgar Square at 6pm.
We are urging anyone who can to attend the event to protest at today's
atrocity and to demand all NATO troops are withdrawn from the country
U.S. servicemember allegedly opens fire on Afghans; 16 dead
By Jim Michaels, Oren Dorell and David Jackson, USA TODAY
A U.S. servicemember left his base in southern Afghanistan on Sunday and allegedly went on a shooting spree that killed 16 civilians, plunging U.S-Afghan relations into a fresh crisis.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the act an "assassination" and demanded an explanation from the United States. U.S. officials, who have not confirmed details of the incident, issued immediate apologies.
The alleged shooting in Kandahar province follows a recent incident in which copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, were inadvertently burned at a U.S. base. The incident touched off days of rioting by Afghans outraged at the desecration.
Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement pledging a "rapid and thorough investigation" into the shooting spree, and said the soldier will remain in U.S. custody.
Allen offered his regret and "deepest condolences" to the Afghan people for the Sunday shootings, and vowed that he will make sure that "anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable."
President Obama said he is "deeply saddened" by "tragic and shocking" about the incident. "I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering," Obama said in a written statement today. "This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."
Obama later called Karzai to "express his shock and sadness" at the shooting, the White House announced.
The latest incident will further strain relations between the two countries as the United States shifts its focus from combat operations to training and assisting Afghan security forces. The strategy depends on strong ties between Afghan and U.S. forces.
Some analysts said the two countries should be able to weather the crisis. "You don't change a strategy because of this sort of thing," said Michael O'Hanlon, director of research at the Brookings Institution.
Still, he acknowledged the strategy will be severely tested, as Afghans react sharply to the allegations. "You have a harder time sticking to it," he said of the strategy.
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the coalition command has not focused enough on the tensions caused by the foreign military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has taken advantage of the incidents to turn public opinion against the coalition.
Five people were wounded in the attack, including a 15-year-old boy named Rafiullah who was shot in the leg and spoke to Karzai over the telephone, the Associated Press said. He described how the American soldier entered his house in the middle of the night, woke up his family and began shooting them, according to Karzai's statement.
The shooting started about 3 a.m., said Asadullah Khalid, the government representative for southern Afghanistan and a member of the delegation that went to investigate the incident.
A resident of the village of Alkozai, Abdul Baqi, told the AP that, based on accounts of his neighbors, the American gunman went into three different houses and opened fire.
"When it was happening in the middle of the night, we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again," Baqi told AP.
Karzai said 16 civilians were killed in the shooting. The coalition command has not released details but said a servicemember remains in custody.
1. When you're setting a record for the longest modern war, cutting it short just increases the chances of somebody breaking your record some day.
2. When Newt Gingrich, Cal Thomas, and Lindsey Graham turn against a war, keeping it going will really confuse Republicans.
3. If we pull U.S. troops out after they have shot children from helicopters, kicked in doors at night, waved Nazi flags, urinated on corpses, and burned Korans it will look like we're sorry they did those things.
4. U.S. tax dollars have been funding our troops, and through payments for safe passage on roads have also been the top source of income for the Taliban. Unilaterally withdrawing that funding from both sides of a war at the same time would be unprecedented and could devastate the booming Afghan economy.
5. The government we've installed in Afghanistan is making progress on its torture program and drug running and now supports wife beating. But it has not yet mandated invasive ultrasounds. We cannot leave with a job half-finished, not on International Women's Day.
6. We have an enormous prison full of prisoners in Afghanistan, and closing it down would distract us from our essential concentration on pretending to close Guantanamo.
7. Unless we keep "winning" in Afghanistan it will be very hard to generate enthusiasm for our wars in Syria and Iran. And with suicide the top killer of our troops, we cannot allow our men and women to be killing themselves in vain.
8. If we ended the war that created the 2001 authorization to use military force, how would we justify our special forces operations in over 100 other countries, the elimination of habeas corpus, or the legalization of murdering U.S. citizens? Besides, if we stay a few more years we might find an al Qaeda member.
9. A few hundred billion dollars a year is a small price to pay for weapons bases, a gas pipeline, huge profits for generous campaign funders, and a perfect testing ground for weapons that will be absolutely essential in our next pointless war.
If Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai doesn't change his tune fast on two key U.S. demands, the U.S. military should just pack up and go home and leave Afghanistan for good, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said today.
Graham, who has been one of the strongest congressional supporters for continuing the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014, said today that unless Karzai relents on his demands that the United States immediately hand over control of Afghan prisoners and end night raids against insurgents, there is no way the U.S. can achieve its objectives in Afghanistan and therefore should just end its involvement there.
"If the president of the country can't understand how irrational it is to expect us to turn over prisoners and if he doesn't understand that the night raids have been the biggest blow to the Taliban ... then there is no hope of winning. None," Graham said in the hallways of the Capitol Building just before entering the GOP caucus lunch.
"So if he insists that all the prisoners have to be turned over by March 9 and that we have to stop night raids, that means we will fail in Afghanistan and that means Lindsey Graham pulls the plug. It means that I no longer believe we can win and we might as well get out of there sooner rather than later."
Graham acknowledged that those two issues were crucial in ongoing negotiations over a U.S.-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement, which would provide the legal basis for the ongoing presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, the deadline President Barack Obama has set for transferring full control of the country back to the Afghans.
"I am going to pull the plug on Afghanistan from a personal point of view if we don't get this strategic partnership signed," Graham said. "Karzai's insistence that all detainees we have in our custody be turned over by Friday to an Afghan system that will let guys walk right out the door and start killing Americans again is a non-starter."
Graham, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations' State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, visited Kabul and met with Karzai late last month. Today he said he supports a U.S.-Afghanistan agreement for a post-2014 presence of about 20,000 U.S. troops, with three or four U.S. airbases and coordination in the military, political, and economic spheres.
"But I'm not going to support signing that agreement if Karzai insists that we end night raids, which are the biggest blow available to our forces against the enemy," he said. "If he requires that we end night raids, we'll have no hope of being successful."
Regarding the prisoners, Graham said that any follow-on U.S. force would be put at risk if U.S.-held prisoners, currently numbering over 3,000, were placed under Afghan control.
"I cannot go back home to South Carolina and tell a mother, ‘I'm sorry your son or daughter was killed today by a guy we had in custody but let go for no good reason.' We want Afghan sovereignty over prisoners but they're not there yet," he said. "That's not good governance. That hurts the Afghan villagers that have been preyed on by these people and it sure as hell puts our people at risk. I want an agreement but not at all costs."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (or AIPAC) is having its three-day annual meeting in Washington DC beginning Sunday March 4th. AIPAC is arriving in an atmosphere of beating war drums and rattling sabers against Iran.
Israel preemptively starting a war with Iran would be bad enough, but the assumption that the United States will be part of that war should be very disturbing to Americans -- who are just getting over one misguided, costly war in Iraq and are still involved in another in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon has sought to sell wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to often-hostile populations there, it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns that military leaders like to call “information operations,” the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.
From 2005 to 2009, such spending rose from $9 million to $580 million a year mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon and congressional records show. Last year, spending dropped to $202 million as the Iraq War wrapped up. A USA Today investigation, based on dozens of interviews and a series of internal military reports, shows that Pentagon officials have little proof the programs work and they won’t make public where the money goes. In Iraq alone, more than $173 million was paid to what were identified only as “miscellaneous foreign contractors.”
By Kathy Kelly with research by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.
That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.
As the US continues to strenuously ignore and underfund the only development program in the country which works cheaply and effectively, the Afghan National Solidarity Program (NSP,) which is at arm's length from the Karzai government and which gets management help from the World Bank, and as it has instead wasted around $15 billion since 2001 on showcase projects that Afghans never asked for, using Washington-connected American contractors who take 40% or more in profit before the work ever begins, child malnutrition has edged up in the country from 54% in 2005 according to the World Bank to 60% according to Save the Children in a recent NBC News report. The grim statistic follows the recent freezing deaths of dozens of children under age five from the bitter cold in the squalid refugee camps in and around Kabul, the most secure area in the country.
I just received an object lesson into how easily we Americans are able to compartmentalize our principles and our sense of basic human decency.
My father, David Lindorff Sr., who is 89 (and an occasional contributor to ThisCantBeHappening!), recently took a bad fall, hitting the back of his head on the bedpost and suffering a concussion that has temporarily left him with some periods of confusion. In the rehab facility where he was recovering, he would sometimes, when he was tired and half-asleep, get confused about his location, and would try to climb out of the hospital bed he was in, putting him at risk of another serious fall.
"And, candidly, if Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn't feel like apologizing then we should say good bye and good luck, we don't need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn't care."
Now, this was preceded by the declaration that one must not apologize for burning Korans. And Newt's point is not that the military should be cut or the bombs stop falling on foreign nations.
But he does have a point, and it is the right one: Nothing is being accomplished on the terms of the warmakers themselves by staying in Afghanistan another minute. Nothing ever was. Nothing ever will be. Karzai cannot support night raids, bombs, helicopters shooting children, Nazi flags, urination on corpses, or burning Korans. He cannot and he will not and he should not.
If you're going to get out, and you're just wasting more blood and treasure first, then get the hell out. Even if Newt Gingrich agrees with you.
Everyone knows a bit about the failed U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to win the hearts and minds of the people and to install a stable government, but in historian/journalist Doug Wissing's upcoming book, “Funding the Enemy: How U.S, Taxpayers Fund the Taliban” the stark details are laid bare. Wissing spent months in country with U.S. soldiers, conducted hundreds of interviews, and his conclusions are revelatory and scandalous.
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
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