Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Invisible Dead and "The Last Word":
Lawrence O'Donnell 'Rewrites' the Occupation of Afghanistan



"It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

- Albert Einstein

On Saturday August 6, 2011, a U.S. military Chinook transport helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 30 American soldiers, including 17 elite Navy SEALs, and eight Afghans. The mainstream news media was awash with somber reports about this being the "deadliest day" for U.S. forces in the ten years since the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan began.

Notably, many news outlets such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and The Washington Post claimed the helicopter crash and its 30 American casualties marked the "deadliest day of the war", without adding the vital qualification, "for United States military personnel." Even the progressive website Truthout provided its daily email blast that day with the headline: "Deadliest Day in Decade-Long Afghanistan War: 31 Troops Killed in Shootdown."

The obvious implication of these reports was that on no single day since October 7, 2001, when the U.S.-led invasion and bombing campaign began, had as many people been killed in Afghanistan as on August 6, 2011.

Perhaps most brazen and sanctimonious regarding this claim was MSNBC's primetime anchor Lawrence O'Donnell. Introducing the "Rewrite" segment of his Monday August 8 broadcast of "The Last Word", O'Donnell looked directly into the camera and, in his measured and most heartfelt serious voice, told his viewers:
"This weekend saw the worst single loss of life in the ten years of the Afghan War."
He was lying. Unless, of course, like so many Americans, O'Donnell doesn't count Afghan civilians as human beings worthy of being allowed to stay alive. In fact, the invisibility of the native population of Afghanistan is so ubiquitous in the American media, O'Donnell and his writers probably didn't even think they needed to acknowledge civilian death tolls at the hands of foreign armies. As General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, told reporters at Bagram Air Base in March 2002 when asked about how many people the U.S. military has killed, "You know we don't do body counts."

After showing a video clip of CIA Directer-cum-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement that the helicopter crash served as "a reminder to the American people that we remain a nation still at war," O'Donnell took seven minutes of airtime to lecture his viewers about a country that has forgotten the hardships of warfare, due to the absence of a draft or rationing or war taxation. Clearly passionate and frustrated, he rhetorically wondered, "What kind of nation would need to be reminded that it is still at war?" He continued,
"There will be other nights for us to discuss the way forward or the way out of Afghanistan. Tonight is not that night. Tonight is for reminding this nation that it is indeed at war. And tonight is for reminding the nation of the price of war. The ultimate sacrifice."
At this point, O'Donnell displayed photographs of some of the soldiers killed in the crash while delivering brief biographies, a sort of "Last Word" eulogy for the dead.

In his effort to tug at his viewers heartstrings, O'Donnell told us of one young soldier who had only "been in Afghanistan for less than two weeks." Another was described by his mother as "a gentle giant." A SEAL Team 6 member also killed in the crash, we were told, had a wife, a two-year-old son and a two-month old baby girl while another solider was survived by his pregnant wife and three children. O'Donnell eulogized one of the deceased servicemen by telling us of his personal history as a high school wrestler and his lifelong dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.

O'Donnell concluded the segment with the assurance that none of the family members of those soldiers who had died - as opposed to the million of Americans whose lives are totally unaffected by the ongoing occupation - needed any "reminding" that "we are a nation at war."

Never once during this paean to the military did O'Donnell make even a passing reference to the thousands upon thousands of Afghan men, women, and children killed by U.S. and NATO forces in their own homeland, their own country, their own towns, their own communities, their own homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools, and at their own weddings.

The Afghan village of Karam was completely destroyed on October 12, 2001 when American forces dropped a one-ton bomb on it and killed over 100 people. On October 21, 2001, "At least twenty-three civilians, the majority of them young children, were killed when U.S. bombs hit a remote Afghan village," according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Not a solitary syllable was uttered to honor the seven children blown apart "as they ate breakfast with their father" when "a US bomb flattened a flimsy mud-brick home in Kabul" on Sunday October 29, 2001. The Times of India, citing a Reuters report, revealed that "the blast shattered a neighbour's house killing another two children."

A few weeks later, on November 17, 2001, U.S. bombs fired at the village of Chorikori murdered "two entire families, one of 16 members and the other of 14, who lived, and perished, together in the same house," reported The Los Angeles Times. Shortly thereafter, heavy American bombing in Khanabad near Kunduz was said to have killed 100 people. The same day, a religious school in Khost was bombed, killing 62 people.

Around the same time, James S. Robbins, a professor of International Relations at the National Defense University, published an article in The National Review entitled, "Humanity of the Air War: Look how far we've come." The piece began this way: "Think airpower can't bring victory in Afghanistan? Think again."

Robbins continued his claim that "the air campaign over Afghanistan has been effective by most reports" and that "critics of the air campaign at home and abroad make as much of civilian casualties as suits their purposes, but arguments over whether a few, a dozen, or hundreds of people have died only show how civilized warfare has become." He averred that "[a]ny civilian deaths caused by allied bombs are unintended deaths" (emphasis in original), declared that the U.S. was using the "tools and means of the humane" to bomb Afghan civilians to death on a regular basis, and concluded, "The allied air campaign is demonstrating how moral a war can be."

On December 31, 2001, U.S. ground forces confirmed an enemy target in the village of Qalaye Niazi and "three bombers, a B-52 and two B-1Bs, did the rest, zapping Taliban and al-Qaida leaders in their sleep as well as an ammunition dump." A military spokesman, Matthew Klee, proudly told reporters that the strike was an unmitigated success, saying, "Follow-on reporting indicates that there was no collateral damage." However, The Guardian reported:
Some of the things his follow-on reporters missed: bloodied children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair, butter toffees in red wrappers, wedding decorations.

The charred meat sticking to rubble in black lumps could have been Osama bin Laden's henchmen but survivors said it was the remains of farmers, their wives and children, and wedding guests.

They said more than 100 civilians died at this village in eastern Afghanistan.
In the first three months of the Afghanistan assault, Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives found that upwards of 4,200-4,500 Afghan civilians had been killed as a result of the U.S.-led bombing campaign and the "starvation, exposure, associated illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from war zones" that followed the invasion and airstrikes. In May 2002, Jonathan Steele of The Guardian reported that, up to that point, "As many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention."

For O'Donnell, it appears the "price of war" doesn't include the 48 civilians killed and 117 wounded, many of them women and children, when U.S. jets bombed a wedding party in Oruzgan in July 2002, the 17 civilians, mostly women and children, killed by coalition bombs in Helmand in February 2003, the eight civilians killed by a U.S. gunship and bomber in Bagram Valley the same month, the eleven civilians killed, including seven women, by a U.S. laser-guided bomb that hit a house outside the village of Shkin in April 2003, the six family members killed by U.S. bombs that hit the village of Aranj in October 2003, or the nine children (seven boys and two girls aged 9 to 12) murdered by two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II planes which attacked the village of Hutala while the children were playing ball.

The human cost of the Afghan occupation, so far as O'Donnell is concerned, doesn't include the eleven people, four of them children, killed by an American helicopter which fired on the village of Saghatho in January 2004, the scores of civilians bombed to death by NATO airstrikes in October 2006, eight civilians shot by American soldiers in Kandahar in 2007, the more than 100 civilians killed in numerous U.S. and NATO bombings in May 2007, the seven children killed by a U.S.-led airstrike in June 2007, the group of bus passengers gunned down by US troops on December 12, 2008, the seven civilians killed by American troops in a rural village near Nad-E'ali in 2009, the 26 civilians, including 16 children, killed by British forces, the scores of dead civilians in Kunduz and Helmand who were killed by 500-pound bombs dropped by U.S. jets in September 2009, the 27 civilians killed by a NATO strike in the Afghan province of Uruzgan and the five civilians, including two pregnant women and a teenage girl killed in Khataba in February 2010, the 45 civilians (most of whom were women and children) murdered by a NATO rocket in Afghanistan in July 2010, the 30 or more civilians killed in two NATO air strikes on two villages in the Nangarhar province in August 2010, or the numerous civilian men, women, children, dogs, donkeys, and chickens slaughtered by Task Force 373, a clandestine black ops unit which NATO uses as an assassination squad.

On March 23, 2011, U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the willful murder and mutilation of three Afghan civilians - a fifteen-year-old boy, a mentally-retarded man, and a religious leader. Other members of Morlock's platoon, the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, have been "charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones," The Washington Post previously reported. At the beginning of the court-martial proceedings, Morlock admitted to the military judge presiding over the case that the murders he and four fellow soldiers were charged with committing had been deliberate and intentional. "The plan was to kill people, sir," he said.

Broadcasting live across the country that evening, Lawrence O'Donnell didn't cover the story. Instead, he spent a considerable amount of airtime justifying Barack Obama's decision to begin bombing Libya, interviewing Anthony Weiner about healthcare, and poking fun at potential GOP presidential candidates. He ended the program that night, however, with a touching and earnest memorial for someone who had recently died: Elizabeth Taylor.

For O'Donnell, the "ultimate sacrifice" he spoke of this week naturally didn't include the Afghan man, four women, and baby murdered at a wedding party by a Polish mortar strike on the village of Wazi Khwa on August 16, 2007, which also injured three other women, one of whom was nine months pregnant. Nor does it include the "nineteen unarmed civilians killed and 50 wounded" when, during "a frenzied escape" on March 4, 2007, U.S. Marines "open[ed] fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road." The April 2009 U.S. raid on Khost, which killed four civilians, including a woman and two children, didn't receive a sad obituary on primetime cable television either. The American soldiers on that raid "also shot a pregnant woman and killed her unborn baby, which had almost come to term."

To O'Donnell, the "worst single loss of life" in Afghanistan during the last decade wasn't the more than 140 civilians reportedly killed when "U.S. aircraft bombed villages in the Bala Boluk district of Afghanistan's western Farah province" on May 3, 2009 in what is now known as the the Granai airstrike. Reuters revealed that "93 of those killed were children -- the youngest eight days old," and that "[a]ccording to villagers, families were cowering in houses when the U.S. aircraft bombed them." The death toll of this one airstrike is nearly five times larger than the U.S. helicopter crash, which took the life of not a single civilian, let alone child.

255 civilians were killed in military operations in June 2008. In early July 2008, near the village of Kacu, "a U.S. air strike killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, as they were travelling to a wedding in Afghanistan...The bride was among the dead."

The following month, 90 civilians, including 60 children and 15 women, were killed during military operations in Herat province alone.

Sixty-five civilians, including 40 children, were killed in a NATO assault on Kunar in February 2011. A few weeks later, NATO helicopter gunners shot nine boys - aged 9 to 15 - to death as they gathered firewood. In mid-March 2011, two children who were digging an irrigation ditch on their land in Afghanistan's Kunar province were killed in "a coalition air strike."

Nelofar, a 12-year-old girl, along with her 25-year-old uncle Shukrullah, a policeman, were killed on May 12, 2011 when NATO troops threw a grenade into their family's courtyard as they slept outside. Their house was raided because, according to The New York Times, Shukrullah "was incorrectly believed to be a local Taliban leader. NATO apologized for its error." In a report issued after the killings, NATO acknowledged that only after Nelofar was "mistakenly identified" as carrying a weapon and murdered, "the force discovered the individual was an unarmed Afghan female adolescent."

During a late-night mounted patrol on May 14, 2011, American soldiers "mistakenly" killed a 15-year-old boy who was sleeping either in his family's field or in his own bed, but who press reports initially claimed was "attempting to pull a gun on Afghan and U.S. troops." When villagers carrying the dead boy's body were confronted by Afghan security forces, another boy was shot dead. He was fourteen.  On May 16, 2011, a ten-year-old girl gathering firewood with her friends was killed when the U.S. shelled a "suspected insurgent position" with heavy artillery.

Two days later, on May 18, 2011, two men and two women were killed during another night raid in Takhar province, eliciting as massive protest outside a nearby NATO military base.  When German soldiers and Afghan National Army opened fire on the crowd, another dozen civilians were shot to death and at least 85 were wounded. On May 28, 2011, NATO bombs killed two women and 12 children in Helmand. In the month leading up to the Chinook crash last week, dozens of Afghan civilians were killed in NATO airstrikes and raids.

O'Donnell didn't feel the need to show pictures of any of these victims or quote what their loved ones had to say about them.

The "deadliest day", in O'Donnell's estimation, could not possibly have been when, in July 2007, "U.S. special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a 'high-value individual' was hiding, after 'ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area'. A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died."

Lawrence O'Donnell didn't tell his viewers of the hopes and dreams of the hundreds of Afghan children liberated forever from this world by noble American troops and their stalwart allies. He didn't mention how some of the young boys murdered by U.S. missiles loved to play soccer and couldn't wait to learn how to drive. He didn't solemnly note that many of the young girls shot to death by soldiers who love what they do wanted to become doctors and lawyers and human rights activists and teachers and wives and mothers. He didn't devote a segment of his show to the murder of Mohammed Yonus, "a 36-year-old imam and a respected religious authority", killed in Kabul in early 2010 while commuting to a madrasa where he taught 150 students." The New York Times reported, "A passing military convoy raked his car with bullets, ripping open his chest as his two sons sat in the car."

O'Donnell didn't tearfully point out that the bullets and bombs that have killed so many men and women have left countless orphans and widows and taken countless children away from countless parents all sacrificed on the altar of the so-called "War on Terror" and American security and exceptionalism.

None of these innocents - people obliterated in their own houses, in their own fields, and in their own cars on their own roads - was accorded a second of screen time or a moment of acknowledgment during O'Donnell's "Rewrite."

It is unsurprising that, in March 2010, General Stanley A. McChrystal told U.S. troops during a video-conference about civilian deaths at checkpoints in Afghanistan, "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Nevertheless, upon McChrystal's dishonorable retirement only a few months later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered the following tribute: "Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal."

Lawrence O'Donnell, while chastising the American public for not paying enough attention to our myriad military invasions, occupations and war crimes, said that only "a nation whose news media is more troubled by the loss of credit-ratings than the loss of life" could act in such a way. He didn't mean, of course, the loss of Afghan lives, only of American soldiers. The U.S. government operates the same way; it still doesn't compile death tolls for its murderous operations. Earlier this year, the ACLU revealed [PDF]:
The Department of Defense has confirmed that it does not compile statistics about the total number of civilians that have been killed by its unmanned drone aircraft.

[...]

According to the DOD, the military’s estimates of civilian casualties do not distinguish between deaths caused by remote-controlled drones and those caused by other aircraft. While each drone strike appears to be subject to an individual assessment after the fact, there is no total number of casualties compiled. Moreover, information contained in the individual assessments is classified – making it impossible for the public to learn how many civilians have been killed overall.
In a New York Times op-ed published on May 16, 2009, David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus, and Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who is now an analyst at the D.C.-based think tank, lent credence to claims that American drone strikes result in the murder of "50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent."

On July 5, 2005, journalist Peter Symonds wrote:
In what can only be regarded as a bloody act of revenge, the US military last Sunday killed as many as 17 civilians in an air raid on the remote village of Chechal in the northeast Afghan province of Kunar.

The attack took place just five kilometres from where a US Chinook helicopter was shot down, four days before, resulting in the deaths of 16 US special forces personnel — the largest single loss of American troops since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
While it remains to be seen what kind of lethal punishment Afghan civilians will bear in retaliation for the most recent Chinook crash with its record-breaking American death toll, one thing is certain: Lawrence O'Donnell will offer no words of sorrow or condolence, no melancholy homage to the dead, no decorous harangue of the American public for not caring enough, for not knowing the names, faces, and stories of those killed by our own soldiers whose salaries we pay and bombs we build.

To mourn only fallen soldiers of one's own country and not even notice the civilians they are trained to kill in their own country is to rewrite the history of war and violence and further entrenches the vile ideology of "us vs. them", inverts aggressor and victim, and praises invasion and empire. Lawrence O'Donnell, by deliberately ignoring the thousands of Afghan dead during his encomium for the dead American soldiers, has proven that, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, justice will never have the last word.

*****

UPDATE:

August 17, 2011 - It should pointed out that Lawrence O'Donnell's willful omission of the hundreds of thousands of people killed by U.S. military operations when discussing those very operations and their tragic, lethal consequences, is nothing new.

After Osama bin Laden was reported killed by Navy SEALs this past May, O'Donnell took to the airwaves in his “Rewrite” segment to condemn the Bush/Cheney approach to fighting terrorism across the globe. He spoke of how John Kerry got it right when he suggested terrorism must be dealt with as a law enforcement issue, rather than a military one. As usual, O'Donnell was confident in his commentary and he made a number of very strong, trenchant points regarding the incompetent rush to war and its subsequent handling.

But check out how he described the blood and treasure spent in Afghanistan and Iraq and its connection to the killing of bin Laden:
"Sunday night, after a decade of non-stop war that has left us over 49,000 dead and wounded U.S. soldiers, costing – in real economic terms – something in the order of four trillion dollars and the deployment of our most sophisticated 21st Century weaponry, Osama bin Laden was caught using the basic tools of police work: interrogation, detective work, following up clues, piecing evidence and hunches together, eavesdropping, surveillance…" (emphasis added)
O'Donnell continued, "The last decade did not have to be a decade of war," and stated that, with a more experienced and intelligent man in the White House, the United States "could have been spared thousands of casualties and years of wasted time" in the Middle East (emphasis added).

Nowhere in his comments did O'Donnell mention that one of the tragedies of what he called America's "overreaction" to 9/11 were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed as a consequence of our actions. One may want to believe that O'Donnell was implying as much or that these deaths were included in O'Donnell's mentioned totals, but it is more than clear this is not the case and was not his intention. Only American lives have been wasted and careless risked and destroyed, not anyone else's, according to what O'Donnell chose to say that night.

He could have even dumbed it down in order not to offend to sensibilities of tender-eared viewers and said that a decade of endless and unnecessary war has cost thousands of American, Afghan, and Iraqi lives. But he didn't.

In O'Donnell's analysis, the unhappy consequences of U.S. military actions are wasted time, money, machinery, and American soldiers. Nothing else.

*****

Incidentally, Lawrence O'Donnell's 93-year-old mother Frances died on Sunday August 14, 2011. My sincere condolences to Lawrence and his family.

*****

UPDATE II:

August 29, 2011 - Tonight, Lawrence O'Donnell returned to The Last Word and during his "Rewrite" segment again addressed casualties of the United States' military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His focus, this time around, was the recent death of al Qaeda's newest second-in-command. Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who ascended to his post after the death of Osama bin Laden, was reportedly killed by a CIA drone strike in Waziristan a week ago. After detailing the fates of past al Qaeda #2's (a job which ranks particularly low in life security), O'Donnell said this:
"Now, there's a lot of issues around these Predator drone strikes: how many innocents they kill, how many times they target one of these people and then get a completely innocent target. There's a lot of stuff to wonder about. The legality of these killings is very, very dubious, to say the least. Are they assassinations prohibited by American law, or is this an acceptable method of war against a terrorist group that has attacked the United States? Plenty to wonder about there."
No, O'Donnell did not elaborate on the hundreds (if not thousands) of civilians killed by U.S. drones nor did he go into any detail about the legal issues regarding these drone attacks. Nevertheless, his brief comments deserve recognition.

In fact, it almost appeared as if O'Donnell went off-script to mention "innocents", "assassinations", and "the legality of these killings", as his voice became less assured and his usual confidence waned just a bit as he said these words. And while he noted that there is "a lot of stuff to wonder about", he showed no indication that would pursue these topics in later broadcasts or even that he had any personal feelings about what the answers might be. Still, the mere mention of the "dubious" legality of drone strikes and its civilian death toll in the mainstream media is a clear departure from the norm. That such a departure came from O'Donnell, who has avoided or ignored these issues in the past, is particularly commendable.

While I have no illusions that O'Donnell has read anything I myself have written or been made aware of any articles on Wide Asleep in America, I do hope that he continues to include vital context - however cursory or speculative - regarding the true consequences of our military actions across the globe whenever he chooses to report on such topics. If he does, he would surely begin to set himself apart from the rest of the, shall I say, drones.

O'Donnell's remarks (quoted above) can be seen here:

(and my apologies for the ExxonMobile advertisement that automatically plays in advance of the clip)

*****

UPDATE III:

September 1, 2011 - Tonight on The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell again mentioned the civilian victims of the American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Kudos. This is no small thing for someone in the public eye, broadcasting nightly on a cable television news channel. Introducing a segment on the upcoming MSNBC special about the decade since 9/11/2001, O'Donnell began this way:
"9/11, ten years later. We are now fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at a cost of 1.2 trillion dollars and at least 6,222 American lives, in addition to a truly uncountable number of Iraqi and Afghani casualties."
Leaving aside the fact that the term for the people of Afghanistan is Afghans and not Afghanis, O'Donnell deserves credit once again for referencing the innocent lives destroyed by the past decade of U.S. military actions and associated violence in the Middle East.

*****

UPDATE IV:

November 3, 2011 - In an absolutely harrowing report for IPS, investigative journalist Gareth Porter reveals that "U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) killed well over 1,500 civilians in night raids in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011," according to "analysis of official statistics on the raids released by the U.S.-NATO command."

This staggering death toll "would make U.S. night raids by far the largest cause of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan." Porter notes that, considering 6,282 night raids reportedly took place in the past two years and U.S and NATO officials have repeatedly insisted "that shots were fired by SOF units in only 20 percent of night raids," that would mean "2,844 [people] were killed in 1,256 raids." 

*****

UPDATE V:

November 24, 2011 - The murder of Afghan civilians, including so many children, continues unabated. 

Today in the village of Siacha, in the Zhare district of Kandahar, The New York Times reports, "Six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Thursday."

According to "Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children who were killed," the children - ages 4 to 12 - "were working in fields near their village when they were attacked without warning by an aircraft."

*****

UPDATE VI: January 18, 2012 - The Associated Press reports today:
Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar province, which includes the district, said the raid occurred Monday night. He said coalition helicopters fired into a compound, killing two militants and five civilians, including a woman and two children. Coalition troops and Afghan special forces have been carrying out regular nighttime kill-and-capture raids against suspected insurgents across Afghanistan. But the operations and allegations of civilian deaths have provoked anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan...
Imagine that! Anger. What savages.

*****

UPDATE VII: February 5, 2012 - From Moon of Alabama:
UN: "More Afghans Got Killed" - ISAF: "Good News!" UN: Afghan Civilian Deaths Up for 5th Straight Year (VOA, Feb 4)
A United Nations report says more than 3,000 civilians died in Afghanistan's conflict last year, the worst annual toll in the decade-long war. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Saturday that 3,021 civilians were killed in 2011, an 8 percent increase over the previous year, and the fifth year in a row that the death toll has risen.
News: ISAF commander encouraged by UNAMA report findings (DVIDS, Feb 6)
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gen. John R. Allen, commander, International Security Assistance Force, welcomes the latest report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan that shows a reduction in coalition-related civilian casualties. “Every citizen of Afghanistan must know ISAF will continue to do all we can to reduce casualties that affect the Afghan civilian population. This data is promising but there is more work to be done,” said Allen.
*****

UPDATE VIII:

March 11, 2012 - The massacre of Afghan civilians continues unabated.  For my take on the most recent atrocity, go here.

*****

UPDATE IX:

May 8, 2012 - On Monday May 7, 2012, two separate NATO airstrikes in the southern Helmand and northwestern Badghis provinces of Afghanistan murdered 20 civilians, including a mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys. American officials have confirmed reports of the killing of those six family members.

Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Helmand, told the press, "We expressed regret over the incident, and we’re investigating to determine how this happened."

Here's a tip to the investigators: It happened because you purposely dropped bombs on their home and bombs kill people.

Upton added, "We are deeply saddened by any civilian death and particularly regret an incident where civilians are killed."

Considering U.S. and NATO forces have spent over a decade killing thousands of Afghan civilians - men, women, and children who were living, breathing human beings in their own country before missiles were fired at them or bullets shot into them by American and NATO soldiers on orders from American and NATO commanders - one must assume the U.S. military and its leadership has spent the last ten years in a state of perpetual melancholia and unending regret.

That must have been really hard on them.  They deserve a hug. As usual, Glenn Greenwald nails it:
At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can't just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It's woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative.
The mainstream news networks in this "deeply saddened" nation of ours have not reported on our latest execution of innocent, unarmed living human beings, our annihilation of five children and their mother. Exceptional, aren't we?

***** 

UPDATE X:

February 7, 2013 - "UN group says US attacks, air strikes kill hundreds of Afghan children in recent years," reads a headline from the Associated Press today in a grim reminder of the war crimes our military has and continues to relentlessly commit. The report begins:
Attacks by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, including air strikes, have reportedly killed hundreds of children over the last four years, according to the U.N. body monitoring the rights of children.
The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child said the casualties were “due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.” It was reviewing a range of U.S. policies affecting children for the first time since 2008 — the last year of the Bush administration and the year Barack Obama was first elected president.
In August 2012, the Committee reported that, in just the first six months of that year, there were "83 civilian deaths and 46 injured as a result of aerial attacks by international military forces," including "the death of 18 civilians, most of whom were women and children" during a June 6 air operation in Logar. 

These operations were the cause of "more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactic used by Pro-Government Forces since UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties."

The Committee also documented 20 civilians killed (and 12 injured) during night raid operations between January and June 2012.

 *****

UPDATE XI:

February 19, 2013 - A week ago, on February 12, 2013, a NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan murdered 10 civilians, including five women and four children.

Now that MSNBC has brought Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and campaigner manager David Axelrod aboard, it's probably just a matter of time before Lawrence O'Donnell gets around to asking them about the murderous policies of their beloved Commander-in-Chief.

*****

33 comments:

e2c593a6-c56b-11e0-addd-000f20980440 said...

Well done, my sister.
But what can we expect from a media that is no more than a mouthpiece for a government that has been co-opted and sold to Zionists and related corporate interests?
I'm sure O'Donnell also failed to report about how in the middle of another economic meltdown, a large percentage of our elected officials turned a blind eye to all their Americans constituents suffering at home and chose instead to travel to Israel to be indoctrinated into pouring MORE of our tax dollars into the very country that is robbing the U.S. of its life-blood, wealth and technology.
Those bloodsucking parasites have infected our politician and economic systems and have our politicians trained to JUMP when they tell them.
Just look at the video of Netanyahu speaking to the U.S. Congress recently.
He can't even get that kind of trained Pavlovian response in his own Knesset!
The facts is that the U.S. will keep killing innocents all over the world until we rid ourselves of the Zionist monkey on our backs that has its fangs sunk deep into the heads of our politicians and it hands in all or our pockets.
Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

The 30 soldiers who died, knew and accepted the risks when they signed up.
What kind of heroes would put the federal government or the military before their own families by enlisting in the Army or Navy?
What kind of hero would abandon their family--young children, pregnant wives---in order to go off to war and be willing to kill foreigners in their own land?
These people are no heroes.

Mimi said...

Hey, let's face it: If Afgans were as important as Americans, they'd be in Palm Beach, not in that Godforsaken sand dune so far away.
Okay, I can't sustain the sarcasm. Every word you wrote is true. First we demonize (Muslims are evil), then we marginalize (no Afghan causualties listed), then we can forget they ever existed.

Paul Revere said...

Well.. hey: That's called American Exceptionalism.

That means all the human beings we annihilate with our Industrial Murder And Mayhem Machinery are no more significant than bugs that get stepped on.

U-S-A..U-S-A..U-S-A !!!

CurmudgeonVT said...

Thank you for pointing out the American tendency to be myopic. I wonder if Mr. O'Donnell might be open to the possibility of doing a complete 1 hour show on the subject of your blog. If he is as antiwar as he claims he could spend his entire hour enumerating the points you've made so clearly that the American view is wrong. Since the fawning corporate media does not air America's dirty laundry imagine what kind of awakening O'Donnell in his pulpit could provide to the American viewers. Perhaps if the Americans, especially O'Donnell's viewers (who tend to be progressive), are confronted with the truth about the totality of war - and that it isn't just about the Americans - perhaps it just might stir them to demand an end to what is being done, an end to the occupation and killing. Perhaps not - might interfere with Dancing With the Stars...

Thorfinnsson said...

Are you unable to grasp ingroup/outgroup distinctions?

http://www.george-orwell.org/Marrakech/0.html

Joe Mowrey said...

Wonderful assessment. This is the culture we have become. It is nearly a genetic modification. We lack the ability to feel empathy for "the other."

By the way, referring to TruthOut as a Progressive site is a stretch. These guys have been shills for Obama and the Democrats for years now. Also, don't bother to look for many references to Palestine at TO. They have a strict "don't ask, don't tell" policy on that issue. Now that they are teamed up with Buzzflash (Thom Hartmann's mouthpiece) it's even more insidious.

Thanks for your great article. I'll send it around.

Joe Mowrey
Santa Fe, NM

AVANCE said...

O'Donnell was paying the price that is demanded of Cable News Dissidents: a few minutes of hand-wringing, flag-waving, brow-furrowing, lest-we-forgetting. It marks the limits of dissent beyond which Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell may not stray. Those who do stray - Cenk Uygur back to Don Hollenbeck - quickly learn whose hand holds the leash.

Thorfinnsson said...

Don't be ridiculous, AVANCE. Cenk Uygur is a Moslem born in Turkey, and while he moved to America at age eight he was still raised by his Moslem Turkish parents. Therefore he has more of a link to the Moslems harmed by America's wars than a white American.

Do you really think anything has changed? Have you not studied history? People identify with their perceived social group(s), and tragedies that occur outside of their social boundaries are not registered at such.

You don't need to resort to conspiracy theories to understand this phenomenon. You only need to understand people as they are. Unsurprisingly, the author of this blog is an Iranian and expects us to be outraged over the acts that are perpetuated against Moslems. Those of us who are not of a "progressive" persuasion nor connected to the people in question simply do not care.

Chris Dowd said...

My eyebrow is no longer raised by the 1984-ish paeans to the "troops" when things like this happen or the total abscene of any concern or empathy for the civilian victims of the US military in their own countries.

The only thing that did raise my eyebrow- that was different this time- was the reference to these killed armed combat troops in Afghanistan as "victims" in large swath of our media. That crosses over from the garden variety criminal sociopath rhetoric of our media into psycho land. That was new. Armed combat troops in foreign countries on the other side of the globe- flying into battle- getting killed- are now "victims" in our media. That is just absolutely whacko.

It is going to get really really darkly comic in the coming years.

Chris Dowd said...

Hey Thor,

Empathy isn't an "ism". Minimal levels of it are somewhat expected of humans.

Hidden Author said...

YOU are the one who inverts the distinction between aggressor and victim! What if someone threatened to kill your loved ones unless you endorsed the War on Terror? Well then, the American government was equally coerced into fighting in Afghanistan by the barbaric attack on 9-11! Just as the families of murder victims are COMPELLED BY LOVE AND/OR DUTY to seek justice for their loved ones, the same is true of the American government after 9-11!

P.S. It is extremely rare for the U.S. to kill civilians unless the civilians in question were human shields for terrorists and other evil people. And to back off just because the terrorists use human shields would be similar to renouncing justice for one's loved ones!

Bill the Butcher said...

I have shared this article on Fakebook, and I'd like to record my personal appreciation for writing this. I would be honoured to read your other material.

Ah Wai said...

murderers recruited by a misnamed "defense" department are no heroes.

Rose-Marie Larsson said...

Thank you for this moving critique of American war propaganda and for honouring the men, women and children killed by the US and allies in Afghanistan. We must never forget them. I have shared your well documented piece and will keep it for reference.

Mark said...

Nima Shirazi… you deserve a medal for this article. It is award-winning journalism, which – in reality – will NEVER be recognised by the Establishment Media.

How sad…

What a terrible world the tyrants are creating for us; a curse on them, and their lackeys.

Spanner48 said...

for Hidden Author: for those who still support the US invasion of Afghanistan, here are four questions:

1: Of the 17 hijackers on 9-11, how many were Afghans?

2: When, a year later, the FBI published its ''25 Most Wanted'' list of those reponsible for the 9-11 attacks, how many on that list were Afghans?

3: When the American government demanded that the Afghan Government [the Taliban] extradite Osama bin Laden to the US, was there an Extradtition Treaty in force between Afghanistan and the US?

4: Did the Afghan Government refuse to extradite ObL to another country, with which Afghanistan DID have an Extradition Treaty?

For those who care, you may like to do your own research. For those who don't, the answers are:

1: None

2: None

3: No

4: No

Anonymous said...

A great article and some very fine comments. However...

Thorfinnsson said:

"Those of us who are not of a "progressive" persuasion nor connected to the people in question simply do not care."

This is standard "progressive" nonsense: that only progressives care. They care for whoever is unsuccessful and despise whoever is successful. They hate the rich so they can justify "redistribution" (stealing). Their solution to every problem is coercion (violence) and class war.

The true humanitarians are the Libertarians and the Austrian Economists. Study the foreign policy arguments of Ron Paul, for instance. The libertarians are the ones who understand that the murdered civilians are victims and the "troops" are the murderers. They are the ones who have been arguing - for years - that America has no business occupying and ruling over other countries and that these actions are the real cause of "blowback" such as the 911 attack. That is why they are ridiculed and marginalized by the mainstream.

The progressives have been happy to ignore this whole war issue as long as their man is in the white house wrecking the economy in the name of redistributing other people's wealth. They hated war when it was Bush's war. They ignore it now because government goodies are their only real passion.

Meanwhile, even the military murderers understand what the sadistic pervert O'Donnell fails to understand: that they should not be doing what they are doing. When the presidential campaign contributions from the military are tallied up, they overwhelmingly go to Ron Paul - more than twice the amount contributed to all other Republican candidates combined and far more than to Obama. This is even more remarkable given the facts that African Americans are traditionally liberal/democrat in their voting patterns and are disproportionately represented in the military. (The following link has links to sources.)

http://caivn.org/article/2011/07/19/ron-paul-receives-most-military-donations-again

It is the individualist Libertarian / Austrian movement, not the collectivist progressives that are making humanitarian sense to a rapidly growing crowd in and out of the military.

Ron Paul is a libertarian and an Austrian Economist. Please read what he has written rather than merely what is written about him. He is the true anti-war candidate.

-John Howard

redroksaz said...

Maybe you could take the time in your next article to enumerate the atrocities visited upon the Afghan people by their own people(known as the Taliban).

Hidden Author said...

for spanner:

1: Of the 17 hijackers on 9-11, how many were Afghans?

There were 19 hijackers not 17. Obviously you only pay attention to whatever suites you.

The real question is: How can America allow its enemies to coordinate attacks and shelter operatives using other countries in light of 9-11?

2: When, a year later, the FBI published its ''25 Most Wanted'' list of those reponsible for the 9-11 attacks, how many on that list were Afghans?

If you help terrorists, you ARE a terrorist! Period.

3: When the American government demanded that the Afghan Government [the Taliban] extradite Osama bin Laden to the US, was there an Extradtition Treaty in force between Afghanistan and the US?

I notice that whenever America, Britain or Israel are hurt, people like you and Nima insist that the victim be regulated by the strictest interpretation of the law. But when Arabs continue to attack Western nations, their "resistance" must be appeased even though they do not abide by even the loosest interpretation of the law!

4: Did the Afghan Government refuse to extradite ObL to another country, with which Afghanistan DID have an Extradition Treaty?

America was violated by the 9-11 attack. Justice therefore required that no banana republic or even worse Sharia court be allowed jurisdiction over the matter.

In the final analysis, the problem is that too many people hand-wave away the need of Americans, Britons and Israelis for justice for their innocent dead while refusing to demand that the "resistance" abide by the same laws of war that are supposed to restrict Western nations.

A big clue as to who is right can be gleaned by the following example: If Israel surrendered to the Arabs tomorrow, all the Israeli Jews who did not flee quickly enough would be slaughtered--men, women and children--with perhaps an exception for token Neturei Karta or leftist Jewish comrades. But if the Palestinians surrendered tomorrow, no further harm would be inflicted on them especially if their fellow Arabs cooperated in the ensuing peace. This disparity in goals by each side is reflected albeit in to a less extreme degree in the conflicts between America, Britain and the rest of the West with Muslim extremists who demand the right to kill anyone who "offends" them!

Hidden Author said...

BTW, I actually think America should leave Afghanistan. If America goes through the farce of treating Osama bin Laden's Pakistani protectors as partners because America is too afraid to confront Pakistan, then America's unwillingness to see the war through makes the war itself futile. But in determining policies for immigration, foreign aid, etc., leaders in American government should remember that it was not just American soldiers that contributed to the tragedy but on the contrary, the Taliban and the MILLIONS OF CIVILIANS WHO SHELTERED THEM were also joint contributors!

Nima Shirazi said...

@Hidden Author -

I've refrained from jumping in until now, but your comments are so seriously demented and devoid of fact that I feel the need to interject.

Every sentence you write demonstrates your severe lack of comprehension of what "justice" and "law" actually are. You seem to think them synonymous with "vengeance" and "come-uppence." They are not.

First off, your claim that "[i]t is extremely rare for the U.S. to kill civilians unless the civilians in question were human shields for terrorists and other evil people" is so ridiculous and bigoted that it hardly warrants a response. Children eating breakfast, going to school, and playing ball are not human shields. Living in the same country as someone the United States is trying to kill does not make someone a human shield. Being a bride on her wedding day who also happens to be a resident of Afghanistan does not make her a human shield.

Your concept of "they're evil - we're good" is so disgusting that I'm doing my best to swallow the bile in my throat just to be able to get through the rest of your grotesque characterizations.

Moving on:

After refusing to answer reasonable questions, you ask how the U.S. can "allow its enemies to coordinate attacks and shelter operatives using other countries in light of 9-11." Just so we're clear: According to the official story, the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 hijackers, none of whom were from Afghanistan. 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one was Egyptian, and another Lebanese. None of them lived in Afghanistan. They lived in Hamburg, Germany. They didn't train in Afghanistan either, but rather in Sarasota, Florida. They didn't go to flight school in Afghanistan, but in Minnesota. The attacks were reportedly planned in many places, including Falls Church, Virginia and Paris, France, but not including Afghanistan.

By your standard, when do you suggest the U.S. begin drone striking Germany, France, Florida, and Minnesota?

You then state (using caps lock for emphasis) that "[i]f you help terrorists, you ARE a terrorist. Period."

Beyond the juvenile silliness of this reductionist assertion, at what point will the U.S. pay the penalty for funding groups like Jundallah, which have murdered countless Iranians? When will Howard Dean and Rudy Giuliani be brought to trial for being paid spokesmen for the MEK, which is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department?

Your comment about "Arabs continu[ing to] attack Western nations" (thereby justifying U.S. war crimes) is so full of racist innuendo, that no reply is necessary. I will just point out as an aside, since you seem not to know this, that - for the most part - Afghans are not Arabs.

Your understanding of international law leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, I don't think you know what a "banana republic" is.

Your hypothetical fantasy about Israel "surrendering" to "the Arabs" and vice versa is utterly appalling. Your choice of words alone condemn your rhetoric to racist irrelevancy.

It is also more than clear that you have no idea what a "civilian" is. I suggest you read up on the Geneva Conventions as well as the Nuremberg Principles, before posting here again.

Hidden Author said...

You mean the Nuremberg Principles that say that a war of aggression is the supreme war crime because it enables all others? Well al-Qaeda is the culprit there and the Taliban by agreeing to be co-belligerents are also guilty of "the supreme war crime". Why did you leave out that fact?

Or the Geneva Conventions that granted protections to uniformed combatants while allowing for the execution of fighters out of uniform? Funny it seems that the Conventions favor the Americans over the Taliban!

I know that Afghans aren't Arabs--they are more similar to Persians and Baluchis. But the Afghans in the Taliban became co-belligerents in the al-Qaeda war of aggression when they refused to hand over al-Qaeda.

And remember: Most Afghans have NOT been bombed by NATO. Usually when Afghans get bombed by NATO, it is either because: 1) NATO intelligence has reason to believe the family is hiding a son or a father enlisted in the Taliban. 2) The Afghan habit of shooting guns at weddings gives NATO fighters the impression that the wedding party is a squad of terrorists. All of this is of course brutal but it seems that the lion's share of the blame should go to al-Qaeda for starting the war in the first place and the Taliban for backing them up. And of course al-Qaeda and the Taliban obey the laws of war far less than NATO does--why don't you mention that?

Finally if you think America is so evil--and what else does "Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms - of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival." lifted out of its antebellum context mean?--then you are welcome to leave!

Nima Shirazi said...

@Hidden Author/Franklin/Linkin Park Superfan -

Yet again you conflate "the Taliban" and "al Qaeda" with Afghan civilians and then blame those civilians for their own deaths when the U.S. and NATO airplanes, drones, and soldiers murder them. Shameful.

According to your warped sensibility, Western militaries can do no wrong and simply make innocent mistakes when firing their laser-guided missiles at villages and therefore bare no responsibility for killing unarmed civilians in their own homes. The racism and cultural supremacy oozing from your comments is staggering.

After justifying war crimes against a civilian population, you then move on to the ridiculous "well, uh, the Taliban is worse than we are, so, uh, what about that?" argument, which doesn't mean anything.

The entire premise of your claim seems to be that all Afghans are collectively responsible for both the Taliban and al Qaeda and are implicated in the murder of Americans on 9/11/01. You also seem to believe that history began on that date.

Concluding your disgusting remarks with the cry of the perennially immature and unsophisticated - Uhmurica, love it er leave it! - perfectly demonstrates why your comments don't merit any more of my attention after this.

You inquire about the Frederick Douglass quote featured on the sidebar of this site. Do you believe Douglass should have kept his damn mouth shut about the injustice and crimes against humanity his government was responsible for perpetrating? By your rationale, if he didn't like what his government was doing, shouldn't he have simply left the U.S. for a country that didn't institutionalize slavery rather than speak up? (Oh, and the "hey, but bombing men, women, and children to death with hightech killing machines isn't as bad as slavery" argument currently forming in your mind isn't a strong one, so please don't bother. If your standards of apologia are that low, there's really no point.) I suppose you also think that those who opposed the murder of Vietnamese and Iraqi civilians by U.S. bullets and bombs should also pack their things and move elsewhere.

By the way, I don't use words like "evil" to describe countries or people, policies or actions. You do.

Basically, if you don't like what I write or how I feel, you can post your future comments somewhere else. See what I did there?

Anonymous said...

Before you guys point fingers and bleed your hearts out, take a minute and think about all those innocent afghans that died at the hands of the taliban, insurgent forces.
Civilians are killed in every war. You live in a differant world if you dont think thousands of people wont be killed by the taliban if/when the US pulls out. Look at what happened in vietnam for goodness sakes. Loss of innocent life is a tragedy everytime, but keeping an accurate count is simply impossible, civilian casualty numbers are exadurated or minimized for propaganda purposes by both sides

Nima Shirazi said...

I love how some commenters here employ the, "hey, what about the Taliban?!" line to excuse U.S. war crimes.

If the Taliban's human rights record is the benchmark against which you judge your own military's actions, so be it. Personally, I tend to have a somewhat higher standard when atrocities are committed halfway around the world in my name by heavily-armed, well-funded and highly-trained uniformed representatives of my own country.

Also, did you really just try and say that the Afghan people are better off being bombed to death by Americans because you assume that, were the U.S. to withdraw its troops, the Taliban would massacre thousands? In essence, are you really trying to argue that the U.S. military is dropping humanitarian bombs on Afghan civilians in order to prevent them from being killed by someone else?

If "both sides" exaggerate civilian casualty numbers for "propaganda purposes", then should we reevaluate the official death toll for the 9/11 attacks since, in your estimation, they shouldn't be trusted anymore than Afghan claims about civilians killed by U.S. and NATO forces?

Anonymous said...

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2088979,00.html

So its ok for the taliban to kill civilian afghans because their not a technologically advanced nation?? Excuse me sir but a bomb planted in a marketplace is just as deadly as a bomb dropped from a plane. I make excuses for neither side, but i can tell the differance between dropping a bomb from 30,000ft and personally planting a bomb in a market place.

What would you have us do in afghanistan? I'd rather not be there but thats not reality. Would you surrender countless lives to die at the hands of the taliban for helping coalition forces? Prosecute every soldier for fighting a war against an unconventional enemy that hides amongst civilians like cowards? Walk away and watch the chaos ensue?
With the current troop level and rules of engagement the current administration has tied their hands. If you want less airstrikes we need more boots on the ground. Pick your poison.

A remote village in the afghan mountains with no records of peoples with which you can identify bodies is a little differant than wtc towers. You know like the ability to track down those who work in the said towers to find out if they died. Also you could make the argument that more people died on 9-11 than otherwise reported.

Both sides commit terrible atrocites, both are guilty. You simply focus your argument on coalition forces without even acknowledging that the insurgent forces are forcing the hand of coalition forces. You can argue that there are better ways to fight this war, but without aknowledging the guilt of both sides, your argument sounds bitter and angry.

Nima Shirazi said...

This is getting very silly and pathetic.

Anonymous, no one ever said it's "ok" for the Taliban to kill people. To state as such is to both misread what I and others have written and erect a strawman which you can then knock down as proof of your own humanity and compassion.

This won't work, because what you've written doesn't hold up to any scrutiny.

You say that you "make excuses for neither side," and then go one to do so, claiming to know "the differance [sic] between dropping a bomb from 30,000ft and personally planting a bomb in a market place." You're implying that raining death and destruction from above with robots and missiles is somehow better than planting a bomb in a marketplace. Seems like a strange debate to have: who kills innocent people better, us or the Taliban? As such, I'm sure you found the James Robbins piece quoted in the article quite compelling.

You then turn quickly to shameful equivocation and justification for invasion, occupation, and war crimes. You claim that the U.S. is somehow engaged in a humanitarian mission - we kill you for your own good type of stuff - and then declare that Afghans fighting against the occupation are cowardly. One wonders how you would describe Predator drone operators sitting in desk chairs in air conditioned offices in Nevada murdering civilians with a click of their mouse. Noble patriots, no doubt.

Naturally, you say, we can't trust civilian death tolls from such backwards savages who don't even have "records of peoples"...I mean, believing that people might know if their families have been obliterated or have witnessed the killings themselves is surely no match for Western lists and excel spreadsheets. After all, it's not like these are real people anyway. They're only Afghans.

Admirably, you save the best for last. You state that both sides are guilty (it seems you are now conflating "the Taliban" and possibly "al Qaeda" with Afghan civilians, so good for you) and charge me with only noting one of those sides.

It seems you have, unsurprisingly, missed the entire point of my article. If, as you say, "both side commit terrible atrocities", why doesn't Lawrence O'Donnell (for example, since he's the subject of my piece) ever mention them on the air? He said that last weekend "saw the worst single loss of life in the ten years of the Afghan War," and did not include "American life" or "of American soldiers" anywhere in his segment. He didn't even say "we saw." No, his statement was clear.

So, why does O'Donnell deliver eulogies for dead soldiers who died in combat and completely ignore the thousands and thousands of Afghans those and other soldiers have killed in the past decade? Why is "because we keep killing innocent people" not a good enough reason to withdraw our troops? The answer is simple: because they're not American, so who fucking cares? Let's call it "imperial myopia".

If you think I am bitter and angry, you're absolutely right. I am ashamed and appalled by the actions of my government and military and at the unconditional and blind support they receive from people like you. When bombs are dropped on and bullets shot at innocent people in my name, by soldiers from my country, I get angry. You should too.

When those deaths are consistently and deliberately ignored by the media in this country, I get bitter and frustrated. You should too.

Your apologia is nauseating.

[If you care to respond or continue posting comments here, feel free, but please don't post anonymously. It's confusing and annoying. Use a fake name or pick a moniker or something. Thanks.]

Anonymous said...

I could give a damn about what O'donnell thinks or says. Just so you know i was linked to your article by hallindsey.com just so you have a slight perspective of my view of life.

Did i call them backward savages?? They survive where most americans couldnt last a week. STOP PUTTING WORDS IN MY MOUTH! (Uh oh capitilized letters O.o i must be serious) my problem is there isnt a credible source, its not hard to walk up to a western journalist and lie to them about deaths hamas and hezbollah do all the time. What better way to recruit new soldiers than to lie to them about innocents being slaughtered by "big satan" america.

Maybe you dont think there is a differance :b between someone planting a bomb in an area frequented by civilians i.e. market place, voting booth, police/military recruiting with the intentions of harming just civilians. Compared to a private getting orders to drop ordinance on a specific target thats a thousand miles away. My point (so you dont misunderstand) is that intention is everything. Insurgents intend to kill civilians with their bombs and drivebys, just like those soldiers who murdered all those afghans and took body parts as trophies. That to me is murder, why because they had full intentions of taking an innocent life. Disagree all you want but you wont change my mind.

When i said both sides i was referring to coalition vs taliban/insurgent forces. A majority of the insurgency in iraq and afghanistan is due to outside interference from other muslim nations, im sure you know that much. From what i know most afghans understand that the faster the insurgency is defeated and a stable government/military/police force is formed the faster we're outta there. Hence the recruitment and intel we receive from afghan civilians, they want better for their children like any parent does. Just like here, people have differant views some think supporting us is the best thing, others think following the taliban rule of law is the best thing. The only question is who is right, one side forces you to follow their way the other allows a choice. Which is better?

I dont listen to O'Donnell or care what he says, everything they (tv/radio pundits) do is for ratings and rambling off random afghan names while probably butchering the translation is insulting to those that died, it also doesnt make ratings. Does he take time to read the deaths of us military daily?? Bet he doesnt, but since i dont listen to him i dont know for sure

I know several people in active duty, one is a colonel that was my teacher. Guess what he was deployed to do?? If your answer is helping to start a stable educational system you are correct. I get irritated when people call the men and women serving in our military murderers. In a military our size, of course there will be bad people with EVIL intentions, and like cops you only hear about the bad ones and the good ones go on faceless and un rewarded.

Ill read your response but this is my last post. In the words of Buzz Lightyear "your a sad, strange, little man and you have my pity"

mike said...

I'm so proud of you nima. Your words are so true and so what I would write , if I could write as eloquently as you do. God bless and please continue to tell truth to power.

Anonymous said...

I guess that it just wsn't nice of O'Donnell to limit the discussion of war deaths to those of Americans.

So unmannerly.

Other than that, knock yourself out having a good old time misinterpreting by pretending he meant more than that if you need the spurious moral superiority fix.

Mike said...

Hey anonymous
You are really annoying me now. Your points are so childish and it seems like you like to hear yourself talk no matter how foolish it makes you look,

I have a simple solution for you. There are those of us that really enjoy reading Nima's comments, but if you are not one of us, simply go somewhere else. Don't try to muddy the water with your b.s.

Nima Shirazi said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mike.

Honestly, I don't at all mind if commenters like "Anonymous" continue to share their views here - issues like these are bound to evoke strong, passionate responses.

My problem with Anonymous (beyond his seeming inability to not post anonymously) is that his arguments aren't cogent and his "us vs. them" worldview is clear. He projects his own myopia outwardly and ascribes to others what he suffers from himself.

This is perhaps unsurprising with regard to the topic at hand (and others written about here), as Anonymous himself noted that his "view of life" is similar, or in some aligned with or supportive of, that of Texas evangelist and ardent Christian Zionist Hal Lindsey. This would mean that Anonymous may be sympathetic to (if not more enthusiastic about) dispensationalism and End Times eschatology, whereby he would believe Jewish control of "the land of Israel" and Jerusalem is required for the Rapture to occur. The doctrine is also heavy of promised land and chosen people and also dabbles in Antichrist weirdness. (Lindsey wrote on WorldNetDaily back in 2008 that Barack Obama's campaign and rising popularity was setting the stage for the eventual arrival of the Biblical Antichrist.)

Furthermore, Anonymous is apparently stubborn enough to repeat and prop up strawmen such as this attempt at witty snark: "I guess that it just wsn't [sic] nice of O'Donnell to limit the discussion of war deaths to those of Americans."

But the fact is (and has always been) that O'Donnell specifically didn't make that point. Again, he said, "This weekend saw the worst single loss of life in the ten years of the Afghan War."

No mention of limiting his comments to refer to Americans only. The uninitiated viewer, taking his words at face value, would be forgiven for believing that O'Donnell was correct and that, over the course of the past decade, no single death toll has been as large or tragic as the recent helicopter crash.

If, again, the argument then follows: Yeah, but it's assumed that he's talking about Americans, since why would he include Afghans in his comments or consideration in the first place?, then the point about The Invisible Dead and the American media and public's own blindness when it comes to the victims of our bombs and bullets is already made.

Thanks again.

[I apologize for referring invariably to Anonymous as "he" when the comments could easily have been posted by a woman. After all, there are plenty of women out there who write silly things.]