March 17 / 18, 2007
Mounting Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq
By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
"On a trip to the market, Haji Lawania says he drove into a hail of US gunfire that shattered his windshield and killed his father, nephew and a village elder. In three separate incidents Sunday and Monday, Afghan witnesses and officials said US military action may have killed up to 20 civilians."
- AP Afghanistan, March 7, 2007
"US forces opened fire on an unarmed Iraqi family's car and killed a father and his two young daughters, the man's wife told AFP on Saturday . . . 'They just opened fire randomly on us,' said Akhlas Abduljabbar, a Sunni housewife . . . 'They killed my husband and two daughters and my three-year-old boy was wounded in the head'."
- AFP Iraq, March 10, 2007
"I don't think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people's lives."
- George W Bush, March 9, 2007
Bush has lost his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world condemns the gulags operated by his secret agencies that are accountable to the laws of neither man nor God. The peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan dread and detest the foreign troops who occupy their country. The lives of few on earth have been improved by America, and those are mainly the already obscenely rich (the "haves and the have-mores", in the words of the vulgar Bush). And the United States, that wonderful country, is now regarded round the world as an aggressive barbaric empire whose soldiers and pilots kill at will.
Give credit where it's due.
Not so many years ago infantry soldiers lived by the principle that their duty was to "close with and kill the enemy in any weather, in any terrain, by day or by night" (or words to that effect). Nowadays it seems that soldiers live by the principle that they can kill anyone who might get in their way, either by random blazing away at civilian cars carrying kids or by calling in airmen daremen who just love slamming 2000 pound bombs onto the planet.
These pilots, these video-game warriors, are experiencing what Tom Wolfe called "fighter jock heaven". They love this ultra-modern warfare against ragheads (just like the old days of gooks, dinks, slopes and so forth), because they have war joy without the danger. These bombing and rocketing pilots face no enemy threat. There is not a chance of them facing an enemy aircraft that could meet them on equal terms. They never see blood unless they cut themselves shaving. They take off, like in the simulator, and zoom along to blast and shatter whatever the army wants to target and it doesn't matter a damn if there are kids down there.
There has not been a US strike aircraft shot down or had its paint job scratched in this century, except by friendly fire. And after the Air Force or Navy jet jocks kill kids with 2000 pound bombs they can go back and relax over a beer, because they never see (so cannot think about), the deaths so far below them. They mean nothing to them, because they are the Lords of the skies. Their job is to kill and question not. They are the nearest thing, so far, to living robots. These poor, soulless, happy savages are androids, and in a way we should pity them.
The spokesman for North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, the Alice-in-Wonderland Colonel Tom Collins, told the world why two thousand pound bombs thunder down on Afghan houses. He explained that "It would seem to me that the enemy benefits when forces take what we consider appropriate action against threatening behavior . . . Nonetheless, the enemy is able to gain from that because there is this perception that we're shooting people, civilians."
Of course your troops are "shooting people, civilians" you booby. And your pilots and their bombs and rockets are killing civilians like there's no tomorrow, thereby creating ever more hatred of Americans.
In the bombing Collins referred to it was said that two men ran into a house after an incident in which it was alleged that they had fired at US soldiers. Well, let's accept that this is fact. So what should the US soldiers have done? It was what Colonel Collins describes as "threatening behavior". So why were the men not pursued by the soldiers they shot at?
Nobody knew, nobody could have known, who else was in the house into which the men fled. But the immediate action was to obliterate it with a two thousand pound bomb which killed lots of people. This was "appropriate action" according to Collins who said that "We didn't know who was in that building, but we saw fighters move into that area who were legitimate targets. The building was struck and, as we all know, unfortunately civilians were killed."
The officer ultimately responsible for calling in the airstrike, LtCol Brian Mennes, commanding officer of the paratroop battalion that was shot at, went to the graves of three of the children killed by the bomb and gave some cash to the families, which isn't as crass as it might appear because this is what is expected in Afghanistan in such circumstances. What was insensitive was the statement by Mennes that "I doubt many countries in the world, particularly that have been fighting here, go to these lengths to show the people we're sorry when bad things happen, even in very complex situations when you have the enemy fighting among the people". This is an inane set of observations, not least because he was denigrating US allies in Afghanistan such as the UK and Canada. (He meant the former Soviet Union, apparently.) And of course he wasn't going to any extraordinary "lengths" : he was doing the least that should be done in Afghanistan by people who kill kids with 2000 pound bombs or any other weapon.
Do people like Collins, Menes and the jet jockey bombers manage to sleep at night? Probably they do, with smiles on their lips. Because they are not normal human beings. To them it is "unfortunate" that civilians are killed. Three little boys in their graves are an example of "bad things happening". Do they have children, these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kid-killers and apologists for kid-killing? Perhaps they do. No doubt if one of their kids was killed they would consider it an unfortunate bad thing. Or something. And probably they imagine, like their commander-in-chief, that they are "improving people's lives".
In shattering people's lives around the world, the Bush Administration is hurtling downwards to even murkier depths. Week by week there are more revelations of hideous incidents in which blameless citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed during military operations, drive-by shootings, or in acts of willful murder. No-one knows how many rapes, killings and beatings have taken place because it is only when the most horrible of them bobs, scum-like, to the surface that the media can take notice. The fetid bubbles that burst explosively on the public are disgusting. But they are only part of the evidence of deep-lying putrefaction.
Last month President Putin summed up America's position by saying that "Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations ; force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts . . . We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."
Washington's actions, said President Putin, "have caused new human tragedies and created new centers of tension. Judge for yourselves : wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. And even more are dying than before. Many more."
Brian Cloughley is a former army officer who writes on political and military affairs. His website is www.briancloughley.com