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"?
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").
Several civilians killed and wounded, Governor says
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:
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.