Posts Tagged ‘Herat’

You have got to be kidding me:

But a gruesome video has now surfaced clearly documenting the huge number of civilians that were killed. A very thorough, independent, on-the-scene investigation by the New York Times‘ Carlotta Gall — who Floyd, a former colleague of Gall at The Moscow Times, rightly hailed as a truly intrepid war reporter — resulted in the discovery of mountains of new documentary evidence and highly credible and pro-U.S. witnesses confirming not only that at least 90 civilians were killed, but also casting serious doubt on the U.S.’s claim that there were even any Taliban in the village at all.

There are numerous vital issues raised by this episode relating both to the bombing and particularly how the U.S. Government so frequently issues false claims, but in light of all the recent uproar over what is and is not “appropriate journalism,” I want to focus for the moment on Fox News’ role in this. When the U.S. military originally was denying the villagers’ claim, the Pentagon claimed it had had conducted an investigation and that an unnamed “independent journalist” who happened to be with them confirmed their account that large numbers of Taliban were among the dead and only very few unarmed civilians were. But then this was revealed:

“The US military said that its findings were corroborated by an independent journalist embedded with the US force. He was named as the Fox News correspondent Oliver North, who came to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, when he was a[ Marine] colonel.”

Please read Greenwald’s full piece at Salon – it’s breathtaking and sickening. Again, I repeat:

[Whether you are a believer in just war tradition or, like me, a firm believer in the] nonviolence of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian fighting in Afghanistan, you should lay down your arms and refuse to kill for the U.S. government.

It looks like initial reports of very high casualties in Herat, Afghanistan, were valid, despite howling protests from the U.S. military:

The Afghan government, human rights and intelligence officials, independent witnesses and a United Nations investigation back up their account, pointing to dozens of freshly dug graves, lists of the dead, and cellphone videos and other images showing bodies of women and children laid out in the village mosque.

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 airstrikes, villagers dug up the last victim from the rubble, a baby just a few months old. Their shock and grief is still palpable.

For two weeks, the United States military has insisted that only 5 to 7 civilians, and 30 to 35 militants, were killed in what it says was a successful operation against the Taliban: a Special Operations ground mission backed up by American air support. But on Sunday, Gen. David D. McKiernan, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, requested that a general be sent from Central Command to review the American military investigation in light of “emerging evidence.”

I will repeat what I said earlier:

Joe Blow on the street might be able to claim blithely that we are “justified” in our war in Afghanistan because “they attacked us,” but the Christian appropriation of just war tradition is much, much more stringent than that. It requires more than a just cause…it also requires just means, which, among other things, must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants (which, by the way, puts it totally at odds with Jesus’ admonitions to love your enemies, but I digress). Out of expediency, the U.S. is intentionally using means that recent events – despite the hype – show do not discriminate. In other words, from [a more permissive] of the Christian ethical perspectives on war, our war in Afghanistan is not a just war and has not been a just war for some time, if ever.

Accordingly, [whether you are a believer in just war tradition or, like me, a firm believer in the] nonviolence of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian fighting in Afghanistan, you should lay down your arms and refuse to kill for the U.S. government.

UPDATE: News reports indicate that the ’emerging evidence’ is a video obtained by the Times (UK):

The grainy video eight-minute footage, seen exclusively by The Times, is the most compelling evidence to emerge of what may be the biggest loss of civilian life during the Afghanistan war.

In the video scores of bodies are seen laid out in a building that villagers say is used as a mosque; the people were killed apparently during a combined operation by US special forces and Afghan army commandos in western Afghanistan. The film was shot on a mobile phone by an Afghan doctor who arrived the next morning.

Local people say that US forces bombed preparations for a memorial ceremony for a tribal leader. Residential compounds were levelled by US attack helicopters, armed drones and a cannon-armed C130 Spectre gunship.

Here’s the kind of math that doesn’t help [emphasis mine]:

A U.S. military review of an airstrike last week in western Afghanistan maintains that only five civilians were killed, Pentagon officials said yesterday, a finding that starkly contradicts reports by the United Nations and Afghan officials that the civilian death toll from the bombing was at least 90.

Ninety dead non-combatants versus five dead non-combatants. Twenty-five militants were killed intentionally. “Militants” is just another word for enemies. Obviously we Christians in America should have no problem with dropping bombs that might kill civilians so long as they also kill our enemies, right?

Right?

Link Roundup

Posted: August 28, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,
  • Halden posted a great quote today.
  • Michael wrote about a topic on my mind: how to reconcile a detachment from the kingdoms of the world with citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
  • Thom disputes the notion that prayer is a form of insanity.
  • The U.S. still will not admit wrongdoing in Herat, even after everyone else confirms that one of the U.S. airstrikes killed more than 50 children. “One American military official, who has seen photographs taken at the scene as troops went house to house assessing damage and casualties, said there was no evidence to support the higher civilian death toll. Nor was there any evidence of a large number of recently dug graves or large number of injuries reported in local hospitals, the official said.” Here’s you’re problem, Pentagon – claims of civilian casualties fit an ongoing pattern: ” In the first week of July, 69 Afghan civilians were killed in two separate operations in eastern Afghanistan, including 47 people killed in Nangarhar province while they were walking to a wedding party, Afghan officials say.”
  • KBR is being sued for human trafficking. Wow.

Two things come together at the United Nations:

UNITED NATIONS: Russia, at odds with the United States over Georgia, tried unsuccessfully to push the UN Security Council on Tuesday to condemn US-led air strikes in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians.

The Russian delegation had drafted a statement that would say the council’s 15 member states are “seriously concerned” about the US-led coalition attacks on August 22, which the UN mission in Afghanistan says it believes killed 90 civilians, most of them children. The draft statement, which several diplomats said had no chance of getting the unanimous backing it would need for approval, also says council members “deplore” the fact that this has happened before in Afghanistan.

Note to the U.S. government – if you are going to complain *at all* about civilian deaths in other conflicts, you have to stop blowing people up. Otherwise, this sort of embarrassing thing will happen all the time. The Russians know this document will never be adopted at the U.N., but introducing it serves its purpose: undermining the moral authority of the United States. Or, more correctly, highlighting how the U.S. government has undermined its own moral authority.

David Axe points out the cause of incidents like Herat:

The alleged incident comes at a time of increased air activity by U.S. and NATO forces: in June and July as many bombs were dropped as in all of 2006. This “air surge” is intended to partially compensate for chronic shortages of U.S. and NATO ground troops.

This bit of information is important for any U.S. Christian still clinging to the idea that the war in Afghanistan is a “just” war. Joe Blow on the street might be able to claim blithely that we are “justified” in our war in Afghanistan because “they attacked us,” but the Christian appropriation of just war tradition is much, much more stringent than that. It requires more than a just cause…it also requires just means, which, among other things, must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants (which, by the way, puts it totally at odds with Jesus’ admonitions to love your enemies, but I digress). Out of expediency, the U.S. is intentionally using means that recent events – despite the hype – show do not discriminate. In other words, from the most permissive of the Christian ethical perspectives on war, our war in Afghanistan is not a just war and has not been a just war for some time, if ever.

Accordingly, no matter what your perspective on the nonviolence of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian fighting in Afghanistan, you should lay down your arms and refuse to kill for the U.S. government.  You’ll be in good company:

“Maximillianus, a young Numidian Christian, just over 21, was brought before Dion the proconsul of Aficia at Teveste (Numidia) as fir for military service.  This was in 295 A.D. during the reign of Maximillianus.”           

“Maximillianus answered, ‘But why do you want to know my name?  I dare not fight, since I am a Christian.’  ‘Measure him,’ said Dion the proconsul; but on being measured, Maximillianus answered, ‘I cannot fight, I cannot do evil;  I am a Christian.’  Said the proconsul, ‘Let him be measured.’  And after he had been measured, the attendant read out ‘He is five feet ten.’  Then said Dion to the attendant, ‘Enroll him.’  And Maximillianus cried out, ‘No, no, I cannot be a soldier.  I am a soldier of m God.  I refuse the badge.  Already I have Christ’s badge…If you mark me, I shall annul it as invalid…I cannot wear ought laden on my neck after the saving mark of my Lord.’  To the proconsul’s question as to what crime soldiers practiced, Maximillianus replied, ‘You know quite well what they do.’”  Maximillianus was beheaded.            

Unknown to most Roman Catholics, Maximillianus has been honored as one of the canonized saints of the church, though he died as a conscientious objector!

AFP:

CRAWFORD, Texas (AFP) – The United States expressed regret Sunday for any civilian deaths from US-led military operations in Afghanistan, without confirming reports of nearly 90 killed in one incident this week.

“We regret the loss of life among the innocent Afghanis who we are committed to protect,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said as US President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.

He spoke after Afghan President Hamid Karzai fired two top Afghan army commanders after coalition air strikes he said killed more than 89 civilians in one of the deadliest such incidents since 2001.

“These reports are being investigated in Afghanistan and we’ll look for the results of that investigation,” Fratto said.

“Coalition forces take precautions to prevent the loss of civilians, unlike the Taliban and militants who target civilians and place civilians in harm’s way,” the spokesman said.

This kind of “I know you are but what am I?” response from the White House is absolutely unacceptable. “We’re not as bad as the Taliban” is not acceptable. We just killed about 50 childrenChildren.  In one attack.

If the moral argument is not enough for you, then consider your own self-interest: these kinds of attacks manufacture terrorists.

The strikes have drawn angry reactions from locals, who demonstrated on Saturday, torching a police vehicle and brandishing banners reading “Death to America.”

A council of religious leaders for western Afghanistan demanded on Sunday the trial of those involved in the deaths and said it would call a demonstration in Herat on Tuesday.

“Once again the enemies of Islam have stained their hands with the blood of innocent people … we, the Muslim nation, will not accept their apologies this time,” it said in a statement.

The United States seems to be doing its best to implement al-Qaida’s vision for the world.

UPDATE: The Pentagon flat-out refuses to admit any wrongdoing:

“We continue at this point to believe that this was a legitimate strike against the Taliban,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

This whitewash lacks any credibility. The Afghan government confirmed the massive civilian deaths, and now they’ve been backed up by the United Nations:

KABUL, Aug 26 (Reuters) – The United Nations said on Tuesday it had found convincing evidence that 90 Afghan civilians, most of them children, were killed in air strikes by U.S.-led coalition forces in western Afghanistan last week.

Look, I have a tip for the U.S. government. At this point, it is apparent that civilian casualties are not a determinant factor in the battle plan. You would have a lot more credibility if you’d just admit that you’re committed to killing anyone, anywhere, who remotely resembles a member of the Taliban or AQ. That way, you wouldn’t have to keep putting out bald-faced lies to cover up easily verifiable facts.