The "No Mercy" Doctrine Strikes Again in Afghanistan

(Updated below.)

Last week, we reported here about the revelations in the UK's Sunday Telegraph that U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been told to show "no mercy" in using "uncompromising" force against any s
uspected Taliban insurgents. In that piece, crewmen of American attack helicopters bragged of the "extreme aggression" they employed in the occupied country; one spoke of the pleasure he felt in turning Afghans into "a big dust coud" when he hit them with his 30mm cannon rounds.

This week, we saw yet another example of the uncompromising aggression ordered by the Bush Administration in the supposedly liberated land: dozens of civilians killed in an American a
ir attack on three rural villages in Herat province. The bodies of at least 45 civilians -- including a large number of women and children under 10 -- have already been recovered, with more to come, say officials of the Bush-backed Afghan government. Several other women and children apparently drowned in a nearby river as they fled the massive air assault, which destroyed more than 100 houses and left more than 1,600 people homeless, as the New York Times' Abdul Wafa and Carlotta Gall report:

A provincial council member from Herat, Naik Muhammad Eshaq, who went to the area independently, said he had visited the three bombing sites and produced a list of 50 people who had died, including infants and other children under age 10. People were still digging bodies out of the rubble of their mud-walled homes on Tuesday afternoon, he said...

[Farzana Ahmadi, a spokeswoman for the governor of Herat Province,] said all 42 dead counted by the government delegation were civilians. She said the government was continuing its investigation to see if enemy fighters had also been killed.

Eshaq, the council member, said villagers were adamant that there had been no Taliban fighters in the area. "I could not find any military men," he said.

Pamela Constable of the Washington Post adds:

"So far the people have buried 45 bodies, and they are still taking out more," said Ghulam Nabi Hakak, the Herat representative of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, reached by telephone Wednesday night. "Yesterday they buried 12 children. They told us some women and children ran away and got lost and drowned. The exact number of dead is not clear, but the people are very angry."

Angry is right; thousands of people in the area have come out to protest the massacre in Herat. In addition, hundreds in Nangahar province mounted vociferous protests "accusing U.S.-led forces of
killing six civilians, including a woman and child, during a counterinsurgency raid," Constable reports. Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the photgenic ex-oil executive whom Bush installed as leader of the "sovereign" Afghan government, spoke out strongly against the killings -- although, perhaps mindful of the true provenance of his limited power, his lament was more in sorrow than in anger, as the WP noted:

"The intention may be very good to fight terrorism, sometimes mistakes are made, but five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue to accept civilian casualties," Karzai said. "It's not understandable anymore....We are very sorry when the international coalition force and NATO soldiers lose their lives or are injured. It pains us. But Afghans are human beings, too."

That's where the resplendent satrap is wrong, of course; Afghans are not fully fledged human beings -- at least not in the eyes of those waging the Terror War. Neither the wielders of disproportionate state power nor the "asymmetrical" resistance they spawn with their sledgehammer tactics consider those whom they slaughter to be real human beings. They are just counters in a grand geopolitical game for loot and dominion: cannon fodder, kafirs, collateral damage. There is simply no recognition -- even among the Ivy-educated elite, inheritors of centuries of civilization and enlightenment -- that those who stand in their way, or get ground up in their schemes, are individuals every bit as worthy of life as nice white folks with big bank accounts. No recognition that these faceless victims -- killed from afar, killed from on high -- feel the loss of their loved ones, the destruction of their homes, the ruination of their lives just as deeply and intensely as "normal" people in America or England do.

And so the "uncompromising" application of merciless force will go on, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, and in lands still waiting for the Terror War's touch.

UPDATE: Investigator Sarah Meyer has more on the earlier civilian killings at Nangahar, which have also sparked mass protests,  plus more much more in-depth research on the war in Afghanistan, which is growing worse -- more than five years after the "defeat" of the Taliban. You can find it all here: Index on Afghanistan.