Throughout the long history of the Afghan War, the United States has never accused the Taliban of using white phosphorus weapons — until now. Suddenly, after the emergence of glaring evidence of Afghan civilians being seared and maimed by these chemical weapons following American airstrikes and combat operations, the Pentagon has released “classified information” claiming that the Taliban have actually been using white phosphorus weapons for six years, since 2003: a practice that the Pentagon — which has been using white phosphorus weapons in Afghanistan since 2002 if not before — denounced as “reprehensible.”
This is very curious. The bipartistan managers of the Terror War have always been eager to trumpet — even exaggerate — the atrocities committed by the various armed groups opposing the imposition of foreign troops in Afghanistan. But now we are to believe that the Pentagon has been keeping evidence of the Taliban’s chemical weapons use — chem weapons! WMDs! — under wraps for years.
The “classified intelligence” was released in friendly territory: The Times (UK), owned by Fox News’ own Rupert Murdoch.
(By the way, isn’t it strange that super-duper top-secret material which would threaten the very existence of the United States and its way of life if it were divulged to, say, lawyers for torture victims or members of the public who’ve been illegally spied upon, can always be released when there are PR gains to be made? Why, it almost makes you think that Arthur Silber might be right when he tell us that “the ‘secret’ knowledge, which goes by the viciously misnamed designation ‘intelligence’ … is almost always wrong… and is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable — and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.”
Could that really be true? Would they really, you know, just lie and exaggerate and make things up? Perhaps we could ask the brand-new commander whom Obama has appointed in Afghanistan: Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the Special Ops honcho who ran covert ops and commandos in Iraq (see “Ulster on the Euphrates” for more on such activities on “the dark side, if you will”), and later signed off on the shameful concoction of the “heroic death in battle” of the war-questioning, Chomsky-reading Pat Tillman, who was in fact killed by his own men.)
In any case, Murdoch’s minions in The Times dish up the murky Pentagon stew with nary a leavening of skeptical salt. While stovepiping assertions of “hundreds” of Western soldiers and Afghan civilians burned by the Taliban’s Willy Pete (again, glaring war crimes that the Americans have mysteriously failed to highlight over the years), The Times does not fail to push the new “get Pakistan” line as well. After first noting that much of the alleged Taliban WP seems to have been leftovers from the mountains of ordnance dumped in the country during decades of war, some of the rounds are, we’re told, “newer models which, it is suspected, had been smuggled across the border from Pakistan.” Straight from those halal-eating surrender monkeys in Islamabad, I’ll bet! We need to go in there and clean that nest of vipers out!
What’s more, the Pentagon is now trying to claim that the mass slaughter of more than 140 civilians last week — killed after a sustained bombing raid destroyed a compound where children, women and old men were sheltering from a battle miles away — was really the Taliban’s fault. How can that be, when officials of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, the International Red Cross and eyewitnesses on the ground all say that the compound, and three surrounding villages, were pulverized by a raid lasting several hours? Why, the discovery that some survivors were also by white phosphorus proves it! Because although the Pentagon routinely uses white phosphorus all over the country, it didn’t use it on the day of the slaughter! And how do we know this? Because… the Pentagon said so! Case closed! Just as it was when General McChrystal signed off on Tillman’s medal for his heroic death in battle, despite knowing the truth about the “friendly fire” killing.
I hold no brief for the Taliban — or rather, for the collection of various armed groups battling the occupation, when they are not battling each other or creating their own brand of “collateral damage.” I’m sure if they got hold of some white phosphorus, they’d use it. Why should they, in their small-scale way, be any more moral or humane than the full-blown, world-straddling war machine of the American empire? For those who turn to violence, who make blood their argument, there are rarely any restraints. But it remains extremely puzzling — not to say unbelievable — that the Americans would simply sit on all this “hard evidence” of chemical weapon atrocities by their relentlessly demonized enemies, for years on end, without ever saying a word.
Whatever the provenance of this “secret knowledge,” it was in fact the glaring evidence of the occupation forces’ own “reprehensible” activities that has panicked the Pentagon into these “revelations.” Yet even this is a curious defense; it essentially boils down to saying: “Hey, we aren’t the only ones who burn people with chemical weapons and kill civilians! The Taliban does it too!”
What a worthy stance, eh? But such is the moral level of this very dirty war — a war which is about to get even dirtier, as the new appointment by Obama and his Bush carryover, Robert Gates, clearly shows.