Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Massacre in Afghanistan: Pentagon Scrambles to Elude Blame

Massacre in Afghanistan: Pentagon scrambles to elude blame

By Gene Clancy
Published Mar 20, 2012 2:27 AM

On the morning of March 11, Abdul Samad returned to his home after visiting a nearby village in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to find a horrific scene. Sixteen villagers, most of them women and children, had been murdered by U.S./NATO personnel. The Pentagon says one U.S. soldier went berserk. However, Afghan authorities say as many as 20 soldiers could have been involved.

Samad lost four daughters between the ages of two and six and four sons between the ages of eight and 12. The victims had been shot, stabbed and partially burned. The perpetrator(s) had presumably walked about a mile from a nearby U.S. military base and methodically gone door to door in two separate villages, killing as he/they went. Of the 16 dead, nine were children and three were women. Five more people were seriously injured.

This is not the first time these villagers were attacked by NATO forces. New York Times reporter Graham Bowley reported from the scene shortly after the massacre:

"During the surge in 2009, the coalition forces swept through this area and destroyed many of the villages. ... [Displaced residents] didn’t want to come back, but they were drawn back under the urging of the Afghan government. ... Abdul Samad and other people came back to this town. ... It was only just over a mile from the camp where the American soldier was stationed. And he thought it was going to be safe." (Democracy Now transcript, March 14)

"Our government told us to come back to the village," said Samad, "and then they let the Americans kill us."

On March 17, U.S. officials released the name of the person they claim was the sole shooter, Sgt. Robert Bales — but only after they had spirited him out of Afghanistan and deposited him in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. His wife and family in the United States were also seized and taken to a military base "for their own safety."

There has been a great deal of discussion about Bales and his possible motives. Depending on the source, he has been portrayed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, having personal financial problems, suffering from two injuries sustained in his three tours of duty in Iraq, as an upstanding decorated "patriot," a fine family man and/or a depraved killer.

The attention paid to Bales seems to all add up to the same thing: an attempt to hermetically seal off the U.S. government and the Pentagon from absolutely any responsibility for the massacre. At the same time, the U.S. occupiers of Afghanistan are refusing to allow any hint of Afghan sovereignty over the case, even from the puppet government there.

When President Hamid Karzai suggested that because of the incident the pullout of U.S. troops should be accelerated to next year, he quickly received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed the 2014 target date for withdrawal. (New York Times, March 17)

Some parts of the Afghan government are disputing the U.S. theory of “a lone, crazed killer.” An Afghan parliamentary probe team said on March 15 that up to 20 U.S. troops were involved in the massacre.

The team spent two days in the province, interviewing the bereaved families, tribal elders and survivors and collecting evidence at the site in Panjwai district.

Team member Hamizai Lali said, “We closely examined the site of the incident, talked to the families who lost their beloved ones, the injured people and tribal elders.” (Pajwok Afghan News, March 15) He added that the attack lasted one hour in the middle of the night and involved two groups of U.S. soldiers.

“The villages are one and a half kilometers from the American military base. We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time, and the 16 civilians, most of them children and women, have been killed by the two groups.”

Most Afghans, including the puppet government, have called for Bales to be tried in Afghanistan. The U.S., of course, does not even consider this as a possibility. Ever since the middle of the 19th century, legal immunity for the nationals of an occupying force, known as extraterritoriality, has been a hallmark of colonialism and imperialism.

It also exposes the lie that the U.S. is in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.

Ever since the massacre, U.S. officials have been working overtime to control the damage to their war policy, with the usual complicity of the corporate media. Indeed, the main concern of the media has been not for the victims but rather about the effect that the incident may have on the U.S. image.

They may have reason to worry. Sixty-one percent of people in the U.S. surveyed in a March 12-13 online poll by Reuters/Ipsos said the U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be brought home immediately. Forty percent said the killings in Afghanistan had weakened their support for the war. (Reuters, March 14) Across the U.S. there have been numerous demonstrations calling for an end to the war.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta attempted to pass off the gruesome event as just part of the "horrors of war."

"War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place, they've taken place in any war. They're terrible events. And this is not the first of those events, and it probably won't be the last," said Panetta. "I do not believe that there is any reason at this point to make any changes with regards to our strategy and for the process of drawing down." (Reuters, March 13)

Contrast this with the treatment by the Pentagon of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of, among other things, releasing documents and videos showing U.S. war crimes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was kept in solitary confinement for a year, stripped naked and chained to his bunk. Still behind bars, he faces a sentence of life imprisonment.

Demonstrators in Afghanistan were not buying the secretary's ominous pronouncement.

Dadullah Khan, a student, made it very clear: "We don’t want any strategic partnership with the foreign troops. Afghans are independent people. We want to live independently, and we don’t want to live under any country’s colonization. So, once again, we condemn the Kandahar incident with the strongest words and urge the authorities to put the criminal to trial." (Democracy Now transcript, March 14)
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