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Massacre in Kandahar

Eli Stephens, Left I on the News

May 23, 2006

I wrote about the most recent American murder of Afghans in the post just below this one, but a headline in the San Jose Mercury News (not online because the article is a New York Times article) made by blood boil enough to post again. Here's the headline:

U.S. planes attack Taliban
Several civilians killed and wounded, Governor says
"Several"? In the first sentence of the article, we learn that 16 civilians were killed and 15 wounded, for a total of 31. 31 is "many" or "dozens." Certainly not "several" ("more than two or three, but not many").

But why do I call it a "massacre"? Here's something I wrote last year on the subject, on the occasion of the U.S. bombing of an Iraqi wedding party:

Perhaps the most famous "massacre" on American territory, the Boston Massacre, involved the killing of five men by British soldiers. The equally famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre involved the killing of seven men. What makes all three of these events a "massacre" is their one-sided nature; the fact that the people killed were not fighting back, but were simply gunned down in cold blood.
Yesterday I cross-posted my article about the most recent Israeli murders in Gaza on Daily Kos, and (in one of the 413 comments!) someone asked, "What would be a better way for Israel to capture REAL terrorists as opposed to firing rockets into crowded intersections?" To which I replied, "Firing rockets into crowded intersections isn't a way to 'capture REAL terrorists' at all. It's a way to kill alleged terrorists, and pretty much guarantee that you'll kill some totally innocent civilians at the same time."

And here in Kandahar we have the same story repeating itself. The U.S. military says, "The purpose of this operation was to detain individuals suspected of terrorist and anti-Afghanistan activities." But it's kind of hard to "detain" people when you are dropping bombs on them from the air. The U.S. military also says, "These individuals were active members of the Taliban network and have conducted attacks against coalition and Afghan forces as well as civilians" (note how the word "suspected" suddenly disappears; between the last sentence and this one the individuals went from being "suspected" of certain activities to having "conducted attacks," no question about it). And to top it off, this was a night-time operation. The assertion that, even with the best night-vision goggles, a pilot could identify "individuals" is implausible to put it mildly.

Incidentally, one of the villagers says that "when the bombing started, the Taliban were desperately trying to take shelter and were not trying to fight." Which seems plausible considering the no doubt inferior, if not total lack of night-fighting capability on the part of these alleged Taliban, not to mention their probable lack of anti-aircraft weapons. So "massacre" -- the murder of a group of people who were not in the process of fighting back -- is definitely the right word.

The Taliban

With the latest U.S. airstrike which killed some unknown number (20-80 seems to be the range) of suspected (note that word) Taliban, along with another unknown number (but seemingly around 20) of "innocent civilians," it's worth reprinting something I wrote in December 2003 on the occasion of another U.S. airstrike which killed nine Afghan children and one young man. Before I do, let me state the obvious - the Taliban and I have nothing in common. They are fundamentalist religious reactionaries. I...am none of those things. However:
Despite the impression one could get from reading the American press, the words "al Qaeda" and "Taliban" are not interchangeable. The Taliban were a fundamentalist religious group which ruled Afghanistan. To what extent they were "aiding" al Qaeda or "shielding" al Qaeda is not really known. What is known is that the United States, instead of indicting Osama bin Laden and demanding his extradition according to international law, simply issued an ultimatum to the Taliban to "turn over" bin Laden, with the assumption that they could even if they would (notice that it hasn't proved possible for the U.S. despite vastly superior firepower, manpower, and mobility to the Taliban government). When the Taliban refused the arrogant, illegal request of the United States, the U.S. invaded and overthrew their government.
Resisting an illegal invasion, and resisting the occupation of your country, is a recognized right under international law. Being a fundamentalist religious reactionary doesn't negate that right.

To shed light on the nature of the U.S. action (which is more or less identical in concept to the Israeli missile assassination described two posts below this one), let me repeat an analogy I've used before, though possibly not in a post on this blog (I can't find it if I did). Suppose a convicted mass murderer, someone who had killed dozens of people and actually been convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, escaped from prison. He runs into a house. Do the police have the right to bomb the house, and then, like the U.S. military did in this case (and countless other similar cases), claim that the death of the innocent victims in that house was the fault of the criminal who ran into their house? What if he ran into a shopping center? Do they have the right to bomb the shopping center? I'm sure we're all glad we don't live in a country where such things would be acceptable. I'm equally sure the Afghan people feel the same way. The deliberate murder of innocent people, even in the course of targeting people who are known to be guilty, is murder.

:: Article nr. 23479 sent on 23-may-2006 18:57 ECT


Link: lefti.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_lefti_archive.html#114836095551400002

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