Monday, April 2, 2012

Morally Bankrupt: Collective Punishment of Children in Afghanistan

Remember Bradley Manning? He's the Army intelligence analyst who's been in detention since July, 2010, just now reaching the stage of his pre-trial hearing, for allegedly leaking military secrets. The most sensational of these secrets was the helicopter video known as "Collateral Murder" which recorded U.S. troops gleefully shooting down on unarmed civilians including journalists in Baghdad. At one point a van with children in it comes to the rescue of the wounded, so they shoot them, too. Ethan McCord was a soldier on the ground that day, and he radios in the information that there are children injured whom he is trying to rescue. "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," we hear one of the morally bankrupt soldiers in the helicopter reply.

Fast forward to March 11, 2012 and the massacre of 17 civilians, including 9 children. Most accounts of the night raid in Panjwae district of southern Kandahar province identify the killer -- Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, supposedly acting alone -- but fail to identify the victims. Here, thanks to CNN reporter Sara Snider, are their names:
Mohammad Dawood Abdullah
Khudaidad Mohmmad Jama
Nazar Mohammad Taj Mohammad
Sahtarina Sultan Mohammad
Zuhra Abdul Hameed
Nazia Doost Mohammad
Mosooma Mohammad Wazir
Farida Mohammad Wazir
Palwasha Mohammad Wazir
Nabia Mohammad Wazir
Asmatullah Mohammad Wazir
Faizullah Mohammad Wazir
Esa Mohammad Mohammad Husain
Akhtar Mohammad Murad Ali
Some of those slain, loaded into the back of a truck following their collective punishment.
Many outlets of corporate-owned media in the U.S. continue to churn out a false tale of one man run amok, but independent investigation by Afghan officials and some brave journalists have uncovered troubling reports from residents. From Mirwais Khan and Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press:
Several Afghans near the villages where an American soldier is alleged to have killed 16 civilians say U.S. troops lined them up against a wall after a roadside bombing and told them that they, and even their children, would pay a price for the attack. 
Residents have given similar accounts to both The Associated Press and to Afghan government officials about an alleged bombing in the vicinity, which they said occurred March 7 or 8, and left U.S. troops injured. The residents also said they are convinced that the slayings of the 16 villagers just days later was in retaliation for that bomb.
From Bill Rigby of Reuters:
The lawyer defending the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians claims U.S. authorities are blocking his ability to investigate the incident.

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan have prevented his team from interviewing injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar, and are allowing other potential witnesses to scatter, making it difficult to track them down.
Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network spoke to survivors in the villages a few days after the attacks. Her video report may be seen here on CNN's website. An eight year old survivor told how her father was shot after trying to defend her mother, who was being dragged by the hair.

Others? From the AP report:
Naek Mohammad, who lives in Mokhoyan, told the AP that a U.S. soldier, through a translator, said: "I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it -- and your children will pay for this."
Here's another child who was injured but survived:

Hakim's interview of the Afghan Army general investigating the incident turned up reports that villagers heard a helicopter overhead during the shootings, and saw Americans with headlamps standing outside the houses during the shootings.

Will the truth come to light? Not if the moral bankruptcy of male bonding does its job, says blogger Kathleen Barry, author of Unmaking War, Remaking Men. She reports:
President Obama claimed "it appeared you had a lone gunman who acted on his own," not wanting it compared to the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war.
Barry says guys stick together after a violent spree. Here's more from Obama, as reported by Reuters:
"In no way is this representative of the enormous sacrifices that our men and women have made in Afghanistan," Obama said. But he added, "It does signal the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plans that Afghans are taking more of the initiative in security."
A widowed survivor speaking from behind her burka told Hakim she would like to take more initiative. She feels only that she wants to use her bare hands to kill those responsible  after watching her husband's murder:
And that is why the U.S. morally bankrupt in Afghanistan. We haven't protected women, children, or even U.S. interests. And that is also why collective punishment is not only wrong, it is stupid.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest in our history, with no end in sight.

1 comment:

chrisrushlau said...

U.S. Marines Stripped
of Guns During Panetta Address - Less than a week after a U.S. staff sergeant allegedly massacred 16 civilians in Kandahar, Afghanistan, American soldiers were banned from bringing guns into a talk by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, at a base in Helmand province. More...
The point of this story, Lisa, is that the rule in a "zone of hostilities" or whatever they call it is you have to take your weapon with you wherever you go, even if you never come within a mile of a local person or never leave your huge base. It's like your ID card. You don't have to carry your ID card, but you have to carry your weapon. In 2004 at least, in Iraq, but photos I've seen recently of a guy I know who went to Afghanistan last year showed him with his rifle on a strap on his shoulder: does a cook need a rifle inside a US base?
So apparently SSG Bales is being a good NCO by taking the heat for his troops, and President Obama is honoring his personal sacrifice. It's hard to believe they have a course in law school called "professional responsibility". What if medical schools had a course called "kindness"? First day of class: "OK, how many of you people care about people?"