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Expecting Gen. McChrystal to Reduce Afghan Civilian Casualties is Like Asking Ted Bundy to Cut Sex Harassment in the Workplace
Originally published in This Can't Be Happening yesterday, 16 March 2010
Statistics show that the US has, in both Iraq and now Afghanistan, routinely killed more civilians than actual enemy fighters. That tells us all we need to know about what is really going on.
Three months after it initially lied about the execution-style murder by US forces of eight high school students and a 12-year-old shepherd boy in Afghanistan, and a month after it lied about the slaughter by US forces of an Afghan police commander, a government prosecutor, two of their pregnant wives and a teenage daughter, the US military has been forced to admit (thanks in no small part to the excellent investigative reporting of Jerome Starkey of the London Times), that these and other atrocities were the work of American Special Forces, working in conjunction with “specially trained” (by the US) units of the Afghan Army.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the US war effort in Afghanistan, is reported as saying he is taking over “direct charge” of Special Forces operations because of “concern” that they were not following his orders to make limiting civilian casualties a “paramount” objective. McChrystal is quoted as saying the US military “carries the burden of the guilt” for the “mistakes” made by those Special Forces.
This has to be a sick joke. These incidents were not mistakes; they were planned actions (and the US carries the guilt of having committed war crimes). It’s all the sicker because we know that the US is busy training the Afghan Army to take over this kind of dirty work. And besides, even if McChrystal does assume direct command over Special Forces, that would leave unaccounted for the tens of thousands of private mercenary units hired by the US who are working completely in the shadows for the CIA or other organizations. (One such group hired buy the Defense Department, which posed as an intelligence-gathering operation, was recently exposed as actually being a privately run death squad.)
McChrystal, recall, was in charge of a huge and brutal death squad operation in Iraq before he was given his new assignment in Afghanistan, and at the time he was put in charge of the Afghanistan War, it was reported that he was planning to put in place a similar operation in Afghanistan, designed to take out the Taliban leadership in the country.
What we have been seeing in Afghanistan--and this goes way back to before the appointment of McChrystal, or even the election of President Barack Obama, and his subsequent escalation of the war--has been a vicious campaign of terror against the Afghan people.
It should be no surprise that this is so. It is the way the US has always done counterinsurgency. In a war in which the insurgents (or patriots, if you will--the people fighting against foreign occupiers, or in out case, the US) are a part of the people, and American forces are the invaders, the goal is to drive a wedge between those fighters and the rest of the population.
In Pentagon propaganda parlance, this is referred to as “winning the hearts and minds” of the people, but in reality, the US military doesn’t give a damn about hearts and minds. It simply wants the people to become unwilling to hide or support the enemy fighters it is facing. If it can accomplish that by making people afraid, then that is what it will do, and making people afraid is much easier than “winning hearts and minds.”
How do you make people afraid of supporting or hiding and protecting enemy fighters like the Taliban? You terrorize them. You bomb their homes. You conduct night raids on their homes. You bomb their weddings and their excursions to neighboring towns or markets. You shoot them when they get too close to your vehicles.
Statistics show that the US has, in both Iraq and now Afghanistan, routinely killed more civilians than actual enemy fighters. That tells us all we need to know about what is really going on. America is fighting a war of terror against the people of Afghanistan.
No amount of feigned public hand-wringing by the blood-stained Gen. McChrystal, or of assertions that he is going to assume direct control (from whom? are we to assume that they were operating without direction before?) of the Special Operations troops in the country, will alter that fact. Civilians--including especially women and children--in Afghanistan will continue to die in prodigious numbers because that is how the US fights its wars these days.
The people of Afghanistan know this. That’s why the majority of them want the US out of their country.
It’s Americans who don’t know the truth, and it’s Americans who are really the target of statements from the Pentagon and from Gen. McChrystal claiming that the US is taking steps, nine years into this war, to “reduce civilian casualties” in Afghanistan. It doesn’t help that news organizations like the New York Times propagate that propaganda, as the paper did today in a lead headline that said: “US is Reining in Special Forces in Afghanistan. General Takes Control. McChrystal has Raised Civilian Casualties as a Concern.” It simply wouldn’t do to tell Americans that their country is conducting a war of terror. We are supposed to be the good guys who are bringing peace and democracy to a benighted land.
So let’s just face the facts squarely. The US is not the good guy in Afghanistan. It is, like the Taliban, just another agent of death and destruction. Just check out the town of Marjah, largely destroyed over the last few months in order to “save” it from a handful of Taliban fighters. Over 30 civilians died in that American show of force, and the message of those deaths was clear: allow the Taliban to operate in your town, and we’ll kill you--not just your men, but your wives and your children, too.
About the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on March 17, 2010.