One of the most important stories of the day continues to be almost universally ignored, both by the corporate media and most 'progressive' bloggers, eternally absorbed with the shallow and pointless factional foolery amongst the cliques at the imperial court. But Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com has continued to shine a high, harsh light on this sinister development, which is adding a vast storehouse of anguish, hatred and violence that will be the Peace Laureate's chief legacy to future generations.
We refer of course to the Obama Administration's escalation of air strikes in Afghanistan. As Ditz has been noting for some time, the coming of the media-sainted General David Petraeus to take direct command in the contentious satrapy has seen a spike in civilian deaths, as the vaunted "counterinsurgency" expert has "loosened the reins" that had temporarily curtailed the constant dropping of heavy ordnance on civilian residential areas.
Ditz has been doing an expert job of lacing together the few scattered mentions of the Obama-Petraeus Luftkrieg in the American press, along with the considerably more copious coverage in foreign papers. The picture emerging from this pointillist approach is grim: not only are American forces dropping more bombs and killing more civilians, they are increasingly dismissing all reports of collateral carnage as "Taliban trickery." As Ditz notes in his most recent report (see the original for links):
... the Obama Administration is said to be further escalating its air war in Afghanistan, and officials are confirming a “loosening of the reins” of the restrictions on air strikes. Officials warned that the McChrystal rules, aimed at reducing civilian deaths, meant “some officers were exerting excessive caution, fearing career damage if civilians were mistakenly killed.” With Petraeus now in charge, concerns about killing civilians have faded.
Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that a heartwarming indication of the deep humanitarianism that lies at the heart of America's ever-reluctant war machine (whose blood-greased gears are inscribed with the noble motto: "More in Sorrow Than in Anger")? It was the possibility of "career damage" that made American officers act with "excessive caution" with respect to civilian casualties -- not the horrific thought of taking an innocent human life, not an apprehension of the destructive, unbearable sorrow of the survivors, not even the savvy realpolitik notion that killing civilians only multiplies your enemies and makes them fight harder. No, it was terrifying idea that they might miss out on some of the lifelong perks and privileges of higher rank in our militarist state, if they overstepped the very minimal "restraints" put in place by Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- a former commander of death squads and torture centers in Iraq -- before his sacking.
Meanwhile, the lies about the level of civilian killing keep coming. As Ditz notes, even as Obama officials mouth drivel about the civilian death toll dropping, the Pentagon's own official statistics show that the Americans "are actually killing considerably more civilians than in 2009" -- 11 percent more, to be exact.
This is precisely the same kind of crude and blatant perversion of the truth that incenses our good progressives when it is churned out by the genuinely loathsome corporate toady, Glenn Beck. But it raises few hackles when it is employed by Obama and his minions -- who, unlike Beck, are not only regurgitating vicious nonsense but are also killing actual innocent human beings, right here and now, and not in some future "Republic of Gilead" under Mullah Beck and Prophetess Palin, or any other of the rightwing dystopias so feared (and promoted) by progressive fundraisers.
But lying about the death count is only part of the pernicious story. Even those Pentagon stats which belie Obama's Beckian propaganda only count the deaths that the American humanitarians are willing to admit to publicly. The earlier Wikileaks dump about Afghanistan detailed a number of cases of civilian killings that American forces catalogued -- and kept quiet. And of course, the Afghan survivors of bombing runs and night raids come forth in a steady stream to testify about the death and mutilation of their loved ones and the destruction of their homes.
But, as Ditz reported last week, many American officials are now systematically dismissing any testimony of Afghan civilians deaths that come from ... actual Afghan civilians. Indeed, the Marine commander of the violent Helmand district of Sangin says that "every single instance" of civilian deaths in his district is caused by the Taliban -- despite a flood of complaints from locals about American berserkery since taking over control of the district from the British.
The US denies the allegation of the killings, but admitted that they don’t both the investigate the vast majority of the complaints because they assume them to be “Taliban propaganda.” The commander of the Marines is the district says that the Taliban are to blame for “every single instance” of a civilian casualty in the district.
The US took over the district in September from British forces, who had been holding it for years and expressed concerns that any good will they built up with the locals would quickly be lost when the more aggressive US troops took over and started launching operations. It seems this fear is panning out.
Indeed, tribal elders regularly complain to the Marines about the killings. Officials said no investigations would be taken on the basis of the elders complaints, and said the fact that the elders haven’t been killed by the Taliban was “proof” that they were in league with the Taliban and the complaints were a trick.
So there you have it, the essence of humanitarian war as waged by Nobel Peace Laureates in the 21st century: The fact that you're not dead yet proves you are an enemy.
Is it any wonder that civilian casualties are soaring under the aegis of such an enlightened philosophy?
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 5, 2010.