Tuesday, June 19, 2007


By Thomas Riggins

Its getting harder and harder to believe U.S. government spokespersons when they imply that the killing of Afghan children is something we try to avoid. The more you read the news reports the more it looks like our policy is one of just not giving a hoot about children and other civilians. It seems like we just don’t care if we kill them or not.

Tuesday’s New York Times (6-19-07) has a story by Barry Bearak and Taimoor Shah (“7 Children Killed in Coalition Airstrike on Religious Compound in Afghanistan”) that shows what I mean.

The Times reports that the children were killed in an airstrike against a compound “thought” [therefore not known] to be a Qaeda sanctuary. Its nice to know we bomb the Hell out of people on a suspicion they might be enemies.

The paper also reports that up to 50 civilians may have been killed in combat between the U.S. led forces and the Taliban in Uruzgan province. The head of the provincial council said,”I have seen with my own eyes that women and children were badly hit by bombing. The fighting is inside the villages, so that’s why the civilians are suffering casualties. I have met some families who have lost almost everyone.”

Since when is it ok to bomb and kill everyone in sight just because some enemy troops hide out in a village. A rural village can be surrounded and starved out. It may take longer but its better than mass murder of women and children just to save some time. There are other non lethal ways to deal with this type of situation as well. US forces should not be engaging in mass murder.

The Times says that the compound with the children in it ( which was only “thought” to be an enemy compound) was a “targeted strike.” Keep that in mind when reading the totally insincere and hypocritical explanations of the US army spokesman trying to justify child murder.

“We are truly sorry,” army Major Chris Belcher said, “for the innocent lives lost in this attack. We had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building.” Well, without X-Ray vision it would be pretty hard to see inside the building. This just means the US did not know who or what was in the target. It could have been anybody. It is criminal to blow up such a target. It is, in fact, a war crime and should be treated as such. Even the Afghan president Hamid Karzai has complained about the high (and unnecessary) number of civilian deaths.

Not content with his original statement, Maj. Belcher decided to blame the Afghans for the death of the children. It was due to the “cowardice” of Al Qaeda. “Witness statements taken early this morning clearly put the blame on the suspected [still only suspects?] terrorists, saying that if the children attempted to go outside they were beaten and pushed away from the door” according to a press release from the US led forces.

This is definitely a crock. This was a “targeted bombing” the whole point of which is catch the “enemy” with his pants down. So the “terrorists," not expecting a bomb, would have no motive to keep the children inside the compound. What for? To be safe? They would know from experience that mere children wouldn’t stop us from blowing them up. If they thought we were going to bomb they would have been long gone. So this press release doesn’t make sense.

Who could the witnesses have been? If they lived to tell about what they saw they must have been coming and going in and out of the compound. If the compound was under “surveillance” then either they were seen to be unarmed civilians so the strike was misdirected and should have been called off, or they were carrying weapons and were thus the enemy ( and so we need not use expressions such as “suspected” and “thought to be”).

In other words, the whole story and the press release have the mark of the usual cover up when trigger happy officers order their subordinates to shoot up a village regardless of what will happen to the civilian population. But there were seven dead “militants” found in the rubble. What about that proof? I can only remark that in every killing spree the US and Nato forces conduct all the bodies of men (and sometimes women) are chalked up to being “militants.”

The Times reported that it was impossible to get any independent confirmation of what happened. I, for one, won’t take the US govenment’s word for anything after all the lies that have been spread about what goes on in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Remember how Pat Tillman died fighting the Taliban?]

Khalid Farouqi, an MP, said, “Nobody can accept the killing of women and children. It is not acceptable in either Islam or international law.” The US ambassador, William B. Wood, basing himself on the utterly ridiculous aforementioned press release, said: “Unfortunately, when the Taliban [before it was al Qaeda] are using civilians in this tactical way, instances of casualties just like instances from friendly fire, cannot be completely avoided.” Especially since, as with “friendly fire”, we don’t know what we are shooting at and bombing but we do it any way.

Finally, a quote from a medical doctor from the region where the children were killed. “The aircraft is targeting the civilians inside and outside of their houses. There are many villagers under the rubble.”

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net

1 comment:

FSJL said...

Well, you know, it's not as if they were white middle-class Christian American children. Besides which, god loves the innocent so they are surely in heaven (unless, of course, they were really terrorist children, in which case they deserved to die and are in hell).