We reported here last week about another in the barrage of stories detailing civilian deaths at the hands of American-led forces in the "good war" in Afghanistan, now being escalated by Barack Obama. (And not only in Afghanistan; Obama is also rapidly expanding American attacks inside Pakistan to include forces there with little or no involvement with the war in Afghanistan -- along with the usual blood-fruit harvest of civilians, of course.)
In last week's post, we took note of Washington's claim that U.S. missiles had killed "15 militants" in a raid that Afghan officials said actually killed 13 civilians, including six women and two children. Today, the New York Times reports that Pentagon has now admitted that they did indeed kill 13 civilians in the raid, and only 3 militants -- precisely as the Afghan authorities had claimed.
Not that this will give our cool, adorable, Buddha-like president a moment's pause, but the incident and its reportage gives us yet another timely reminder that the claims by Afghan authorities about civilian casualties are almost always highly accurate, while the first instinct of the Pentagon is to lie, deceive and spin -- with the sure knowledge that its initial claims will always be greeted as authoritative by the Homeland press, while the inevitable climbdowns and qualifications that come later will pass largely unnoticed.
Also, it should be stressed that the reports of civilian deaths at Western hands in Afghanistan that do make it into the mainstream press are almost always based on investigations by Afghan authorities -- that is to say, by officials who are part of the American-backed Afghan government. There is is a great myth among many backers of the "good war" in Afghanistan that accounts of horrendous "collateral damage" caused by American bombs, missiles, ground raids and covert operations are simply propaganda spooned out to the "liberal media" by the Taliban. This is itself another self-serving lie of the American war machine and its many sycophants.
Earlier this month, we reported on the case of Binyam Mohamed, the UK resident who had been sent through the thorn-studded guts of almost the entire American gulag, including a spell of "special rendition" torture in Morocco and America's own notorious "Dark Prison" in Afghanistan, before finally being deposited in the U.S. concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the end, all of the charges against Mohamed -- whose only "crime," it seems, was once reading a satirical article on how to create an atomic bomb by swinging uranium in a bucket -- were dropped, and he is now on his way back to the UK. (Where he still faces the threat of extradition back to the dictatorship of Ethiopia, the US Terror War proxy from which he originally fled to escape persecution.)
As we noted in our earlier report, both the US and UK governments -- including the Obama Administration -- have gone to extraordinary lengths to quash court cases seeking to reveal the extent of the tortures that these bastions of Western civilization inflicted on Mohamed. And today, the Observer reveals that Mohamed continued to be abused in Guantanamo Bay even after the progressive paragon Barack Obama took office:
Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp...
Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo's guards to give him counselling.
Mohamed's British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten "dozens" of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: "He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages."
Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."
...Claims that Mohamed was beaten during the period after President Obama announced Guantánamo's closure in January risk harming diplomatic relations between the administration and the British government. Prime minister Gordon Brown is believed to have raised Mohamed's case with the US president during their first talk following Obama's inauguration two months ago.
Stafford Smith, the director of legal charity Reprieve, said yesterday that Mohamed had been routinely beaten by Guantánamo's notorious emergency reaction force, a six-strong team of guards in riot gear who have been the subject of previous abuse allegations. The alleged beatings were routinely administered against Mohamed "for no reason" and some were "recent" according to Stafford Smith.
As several other writers have noted, the reports of Mohamed's continued abuse in Gitmo coincide with the Obama Administration's release of a report by the Pentagon, in which the Pentagon investigated itself for its handling of captives in Guantanamo Bay and found that itself was operating the concentration camp in complete compliance with the Geneva Conventions. (In other news, Kim Jong-Il has just completed a long contemplation of himself in the mirror and concluded that he is "a real sweetheart.")
So there's no need to worry if Obama takes his sweet time in closing down Gitmo and doing something or other with the captives there. Just like the Bushists and their cheerleaders like Rush Limbaugh said all along, those lucky duckies in the cages down there are living the life of Riley. And hey, if they complain too much, we can always ship them back to the "Dark Prison" and other detention centers in Afghanistan -- where, as the New York Times reports, the Obama Administration now claims that no American captive has any right of habeas corpus whatsoever. They cannot legally challenge their detention -- even if they were rounded up by mistake, or sold to the Americans by bounty hunters or personal enemies or local druglords. They have no rights, and they can damn well rot until the Unitary Executive decides what to do with them.
Hope and change, my friends! Feel the burn! You gotta love it!
Update to the update: You can find more on Obama's Vietnamization of Pakistan in this New York Times story -- a rather typical piece of stovepiping spin from the bowels of the security apparat, but still informative in many important respects for all that.