Saturday, May 16, 2009

Drone attacks, civilian deaths, and business as usual

Remember when Obama said that not only did we have to end the war in Iraq but the mindset that leads to war? Well, last Thursday, after targeting the Taliban in those 'carefully targeted' air strikes (shades of Bush's intelligent weapons), 120 civilians died... dozens of women and children, in what is reported as a 'misdirected' attack. We are also using unmanned 'drones' to kill. It saves paying for psychotherapy for the flyers, when they return home.

Please notice the apologies and the 'pledges' to investigate in the story below...
From here, it looks very much like business as usual. And so it continues...

'120 die' as US bombs village
Afghan outrage after strike targeting Taliban fighters hits women and children
By Patrick Cockburn in Kabul
Thursday, 7 May 2009

Afghan villagers sift through the rubble of destroyed houses after the coalition air strikes in the Bala Baluk district of Farah province, Afghanistan

A misdirected US air strike has killed as many as 120 Afghans, including dozens of women and children. The attack is the deadliest such bombing involving civilian casualties so far in the eight years since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Families in two villages in Farah province in western Afghanistan were digging for bodies in the ruins of their mudbrick houses yesterday. "There were women and children who were killed," said Jessica Barry, a Red Cross spokeswoman. "It seemed they were trying to shelter in houses when they were hit." Survivors said the number of dead would almost certainly to rise as the search for bodies continued.

The killing of so many Afghan civilians by US aircraft is likely to infuriate Afghans and lead to an increase in support for the Taliban in the bombed area. President Hamid Karzai, who was meeting President Barack Obama in Washington yesterday, sent a joint US-Afghan delegation to investigate the incident. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing next to Mr Karzai, voiced her "deep regret".

US Marine Special Forces supporting the Afghan army apparently called in the air strike on Tuesday on two villages in Bala Baluk district after heavy fighting with the Taliban. Accounts by Afghans of high civilian casualties are often denied or dismissed by US officials. But a team from the Red Cross visited the scene of this attack. "There were bodies, graves, there were people burying bodies when we were there," said Ms Barry. She said a first aid worker for Afghanistan's Red Crescent died with 13 members of his family. "Dozens of dead bodies were seen in the two locations we went to." Rohul Amin, the provincial governor of Farah, told The Independent that "the dead numbered over 100". Villagers brought 30 bodies, including women and children, in a truck to Mr Amin in Farah City to prove it had happened.

The Afghan government has made increasingly angry denunciations of the US Air Force for using its massive firepower without regard for ordinary Afghans. Wedding parties have been a frequent target of US bombers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably because they are mistaken for gatherings of militants.

The US air strike on Bala Baluk appears to have been deadlier for civilians than any similar event since the first US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001. The government has asked villagers not to bury the dead until investigators arrive today.

Previously the worst such incident was a US strike on Azizabad in August 2008 when the US originally claimed that no civilians were killed. Afghan and UN investigators concluded that 90 Afghans had been killed. A high-level American inquiry later admitted that 33 civilians had been killed. Opinion polls in Afghanistan show that backing for the Taliban soars in provinces affected after bombing or shelling kills innocent people.

The air strikes were preceded by two days of fighting between Afghan government forces supported by the US and dozens of Taliban fighters. Farah is a poor province whose people are mostly farmers and where the Taliban has been very active. The provincial police chief, Abdul Gaffar, said three police officers and 25 Taliban were killed in fighting near the village of Ganjabad in Bala Baluk district.

Local residents later told Afghan officials that they put their children, women and elderly men in walled compounds in the village of Gerani, which is three miles from the scene of the fighting and where they thought they would be safe. It was these compounds which were then attacked from the air and most of the people sheltering inside were killed.

Despite US denials or claims that a high death toll among civilians is Taliban propaganda, the US military should have very immediate access to eyewitnesses to air strikes. This is because the most severely injured are often taken to American medical facilities at US military bases. It is not known if this happened at Bala Baluk.

After the Azizabad killings last year, the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan were meant to have introduced more stringent rules to safeguard civilians from their strikes. The top US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, issued a directive ordering commanders to consider not pursuing Taliban fighters into populated areas. The US also pledged to investigate bombing incidents alongside Afghan investigators.

Afghan air strikes: The toll mounts

552 Civilians killed in air strikes in 2008.

17 per cent Proportion of US drone attacks to hit targets since January 2006.

701 Killed in drone attacks in three years.

14 Al-Qa'ida leaders in that number.

4.5 million dollars The estimated cost of a single Predator drone.


Herbert Barry Woodrose said...

it was recently reported that overwhelmingly thevictims in the last attack were children- jeremy scahill reported it I believe. Ninety little kids-among them an 8day old. Far fewer adults died,he reports. He had a horrifying pic of a small child bandaged and burned. I think the article was called "who are the real psychopaths ... ". We are killing civilians faster than the Taliban could.

The only groups I've read from,in all the madness, whoakes sense, real rational honest to goodness sense, are the women's groups. If I coils make it so, I would dump the whole situation on them to do.

Incredibly, with all the "warlordism" and the attacks on them by their own husbands and brothers and fathers, with burnings and acid attacks, they ask for own thing: the removal of the US from the region. They ask to be left to create the change they seek, not as some moral or symbolic gesture, but because as they say "when the Americans leave then we will only be fighting one enemy ( this was I believe on RAWA).

United Statesians still say we should have some presence there to help, completely dismissive of others' experiences, completely certain we should invade anywhere we feel like invading "cuz we can", completely buying into the myth that top United Statesian talent, such as the SEALS, are deployed ever, anywhere, for "humanitarian" reasons, instead of pure profit and hegemony motives.

It has to be questioned, openly, how long humanity can wait on United Statesians to "get it". Yes, their considerable tax fund is being used against them in a war against independent thought. There are, however, some issues that are of a certain moral character no matter the spin. Even Shep Smith, the voice of Fox Corp., was moved to the point of spontaneous cursing live on-air when it came out that the Obama was blanket pardoning the torturers.

America is not a country said...

The whole 'father knows best' thing is now 'the empire knows best...' And my question, of course, is who are the real terrorists... with the emphasis on the 'who.'