While America continues its giddy, self-congratulatory celebration of “change,” Afghans find themselves mired in the tragically familiar: yet another round of mourning for yet another massacre of innocent civilians in yet another blind, bludgeoning air strike by American forces.
This time almost 40 people, including 10 women and 23 children, were ripped to shreds of bone and viscera when an American missile struck a wedding party in the remote village of Wech Bakhtu, according to Washington’s own hand-picked native satrap, President Hamid Karzai. As the Guardian and National Post report:
The bombing on Monday of Wech Baghtu in the southern province of Kandahar destroyed an Afghan housing complex where women and children had gathered to celebrate. Body parts littered the wreckage and farm animals lay dead.
Abdul Jalil, a 37-year-old grape farmer whose niece was getting married, said at the scene of the bombing that US troops and Taliban fighters had been fighting about half a mile from his home.
A short while later fighter planes bombed the complex, killing 23 children, 10 women and four men, he claimed.
“In the bombing, mostly women and children were killed,” said villager Hyat Ullah. “Some lost their head. Some lost their hand. They were in very bad condition.”
Such mass slaughters of civilians are now a regular occurrence in the occupied land. At last 18 people — three women and 15 children — were killed by an allied air strike in Helmand in mid-October. Some 90 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a night raid on the village of Azizabad in September — an atrocity that the Pentagon at first tried, My Lai-like, to cover up completely, but was eventually forced to partially acknowledge, admitting “only” 33 civilian deaths in a report that contradicted the eyewitness evidence gathered by the Afghan government, NGOs and UN investigators who detailed the much larger true death toll. In July, Americans bombed yet another wedding party in Nangahar, killing 47 civilians — including the bride, as the NY Times notes.
In deploring the new slaughter at Wech Bakhtu, Karzai pleaded with the incoming U.S. president, Barack Obama, to “end civilian casualties in Afghanistan” after he takes over the American war machine in January. But there is little chance of that happening. Obama has pledged to send even more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Obama took a great deal of heat during the campaign for brief remarks last year that actually acknowledged the carnage being wrought by U.S. strikes:
“We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”
His opponents, including that great “progressive,” Hillary Clinton, somehow turned this into an indication of Obama’s “weakness” on “defense” — although it was in fact a forthright commitment to more war. But far more noteworthy than Obama’s acknowledgment of the obvious, however, was his idea that increasing the number of American troops in Afghanistan will somehow reduce the number of bombing runs and missile strikes that are taking such a horrific toll on civilians. Because of course the opposite is true. More U.S. troops on the ground will mean more “close air support” to back them up, and bail them out, when they are under fire.
This is precisely what happened Monday at Wech Bakhtu, as the NY Times reports:
Zalmay Ayoby, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said the strike on Monday took place when Taliban and American-led forces were engaged in a firefight near the village of Wech Bakhtu. He said that an air strike was called in after the Taliban opened fire on a coalition unit, and that a missile struck a compound where a wedding party was being held.
Most of the civilian slaughters by American and allied air power have occurred while in support of ground forces. It is inevitable that more ground troops will draw more fire, necessitating more air support. This in turn guarantees an increase in civilian casualties; for despite the modern myths about “precision bombing” and “smart weapons,” bombs and missiles are indiscriminate killers, targeting is an inexact science — and the lives of an occupied people are always cheap.
This is not hard to figure out. And Obama, who is, as we are constantly told — correctly, I think — one of the most intelligent men ever elected president, must know it. He must know that putting more troops into Afghanistan will mean “more air-raiding [of] villages and killing civilians.” Perhaps he is counting on the bipartisan backing of this “good war” in the American political and media establishments (including most of the “progressosphere”) to circumvent the “enormous pressures” that will inevitably be caused by his planned “surge.”
Meanwhile, innocent Afghans will continue to die at the hands of their “liberators” — even as these “liberators” blame the survivors for the attacks on their families. As the Guardian notes:
Jalil said US forces came into his village after the bombing run. “The Americans came and told us ‘you are sheltering the Taliban’, and I told the Americans ‘come inside and see for yourself, you are killing women and children’,” Jalil said.
And the National Post reports:
This latest reported attack, after a series of incidents which have killed innocent Afghans, drew anger from villagers.
“Now you can see how the Americans are coming and bombing women, children, everyone … all innocent people,” said Mohamed Asim. “I want to ask the Americans, did you come to stabilize and bring peace to our country, or have you come to destabilize and destroy our country?”
Come January, how will Barack Obama answer that question? We can only look to his own words on the campaign trail. As we noted here last month:
The Democratic candidate’s stated polices on the conflict dovetail exactly with those of Rove, Bush and McCain: Thousands of more troops. More military hardware. More drone missile strikes, not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan as well. Obama has also pledged to pressure the Europeans to send more troops and hardware of their own to Afghanistan, with “fewer restrictions” on their combat operations.
In other words, he will answer it with steel, fire and blood.