[News] From My Lai to Bala Baluk
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 15 12:35:07 EDT 2009
May 15-17, 2009
Obama Picks Up Where Bush Left Off
From My Lai to Bala Baluk
By MIKE WHITNEY
Barack Obama is aggressively stepping up the war
in Afghanistan. He's intensified the cross-border
bombing of Pakistan and he is doubling the number
of U.S. troops to 68,000 by 2010. He's also a
strong proponent of pilotless drones even though
hundreds of civilians have been killed in bombing raid blunders.
On May 4, 2009, 143 civilians were killed in a
bombing raid in Bala Baluk, a remote area south
of Herat. Obama brushed off the incident with
terse apology never intimating that the US policy
for aerial bombardment would be reviewed to avoid
future mishaps. Patrick Cockburn gave
<http://www.counterpunch.org/patrick05112009.html>a summary of the incident:
I did not meet survivors but I did talk to a
reliable witness, a radio reporter called Farooq
Faizy, who had gone to Bala Baluk soon after the
attack happened. He (had) some 70 or 80
photographs and they bore out the villagers'
story: there were craters everywhere; the
villages had been plastered with bombs; bodies
had been torn to shreds by the blasts; there were
mass graves; there were no signs of damage from bullets, rockets or grenades.
US military spokesmen denied the news reports and
concocted a wacky story about Taliban militants
rampaging through the village hurling grenades
into buildings. It was a ridiculous narrative
that no one believed. The facts have since been
verified by senior government officials,
high-ranking members of the Afghan military and
representatives of the Red Cross. The United
States military killed 143 unarmed villagers and
then they tried to cover it up with a lie. None
of the victims were fighters. After the bombing,
the villagers loaded body parts onto carts and
took them to the office of the regional governor
who confirmed the deaths. The photos of
grief-stricken Afghans burying their dead have
been widely circulated on the Internet.
Ninety-three children and 25 adult women are
among a list of 140 names of Afghans who
villagers say were killed in a battle and U.S.
air strikes last week, causing a crisis between
Washington and its Afghan allies.
The list, obtained by Reuters, bears the
endorsement of seven senior provincial and
central government officials, including an Afghan
two-star general who headed a task force
dispatched by the government to investigate the incident.
Titled "list of the martyrs of the bombardment of
Bala Boluk district of Farah Province", it
includes the name, age and father's name of each alleged victim.
The youngest was listed as 8-day-old baby Sayed
Musa, son of Sayed Adam. Fifty-three victims were
girls under the age of 18, and 40 were boys. Only
22 were men 18 or older. ("List of 140 Afghan
Killed In US Attack Includes 93 Children", Reuters)
Neither Obama nor anyone in his administration
has acknowledged that 93 children were killed by American bombs.
Military operations in Afghanistan have increased
under Obama especially in the south where the
Taliban are most heavily concentrated. The
fighting has spread into Pakistan where President
Asif Ali Zardari has been pressured into
deploying his troops the Swat Valley to fight
militants despite growing public disapproval.
Nearly 850,000 people have been forced from their
homes in the last few weeks to seek shelter in
the south. For the most part, the humanitarian
crisis has gone unreported in the western media,
but Obama knows what is going on and is sticking
with the same policy. Hundreds of thousands of
people are now living in tent cities without food
or clean water because of the escalation in the violence. It's a disaster.
OBAMA PICKS A GENERAL: Enter the assassination squads
This week, General David McKiernan was replaced
by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as Commander of
US Forces in Afghanistan. Here's how the
Washington Post summarized McChrystal's qualifications for the job:
"McChrystal kills people. Has he ever worked in
the counterinsurgency environment? Not really,"
said Roger Carstens, a senior nonresident fellow
at the Center for a New American Security and a
former Special Forces officer....
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former
Special Operations chief who is President Obama's
new choice to lead the war in Afghanistan, rose
to military prominence because of his
single-minded success in a narrow but critical
mission: manhunting. As commander of the
military's secretive Joint Special Operations
Command (JSOC) for nearly five years starting in
2003, McChrystal masterminded a campaign to
perfect the art of tracking down enemies, and
then capturing or killing them. He built a
sophisticated network of soldiers and
intelligence operatives who proceeded to
decapitate the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in
Iraq and kill its most notorious leader, Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi.("High-value-target hunter takes
on Afghan war" Washington Post)
Obama chose McChrystal because of his "black ops"
pedigree, which suggests that the conflict in
Afghanistan is about to take a very ugly turn.
According to Pulitzer Prizewinning investigative
journalist Seymour Hersh, McChrystal ran the
"executive assassination wing" of the military's
joint special-operations command. (JSOC) The
experts believe that he will breeze through
congressional confirmation hearings because many
Senators believe that his counterinsurgency
theories helped the surge in Iraq to succeed.
There's some truth to this, too. But it would be
more accurate to say that the ethnic cleansing of
Baghdad helped to reduce the violence. That is
the truth about the surge; it's a public
relations moniker for ethnic cleansing.
McChrystal's appointment suggests that Obama
supports the idea that hunter-killer units and
targeted assassinations are an acceptable means
of achieving US foreign policy objectives. Obama
supporters should pay close attention; this is a
continuation of the Rumsfeld policy with one
slight difference, a more persuasive and
charismatic pitchman promoting the policy. Other
than that, there's no difference.
Obama knows of McChrystal's involvement in the
prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad's Camp Nama,
just as he knows of his role in the cover-up in
the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army
Ranger Pat Tillman. None of this matters to
Obama. What matters is winning; not principle,
ideals, human rights or civilian casualties. Just winning.
FROM MY LAI TO BALA BALUK
On March 16, 1968, the US military was involved
in a similar incident which soured the public on
Vietnam and eventually helped bring the war to a
close. Barack Obama was only seven years old when
Charlie Company--led by platoon leader second
Lieutenant William Calley--entered the small
hamlet of My Lai and proceeded to slaughter 347
unarmed civilians. This is Sam Harris's account
of what took place on that day 40 years ago:
"Early in the morning the soldiers were landed in
the village by helicopter. Many were firing as
they spread out, killing both people and animals.
There was no sign of the Vietcong battalion and
no shot was fired on Charlie Company all day, but
they carried on. They burnt down every house.
They raped woman and girls and then killed them.
They stabbed some women in the vagina and
disemboweled others, or cut off their hands or
scalps. Pregnant woman had there stomachs slashed
open and were left to die. There were gang rapes
and killings by shooting or with bayonets. There
were mass executions. Dozens of people at a time,
including old men, women and children, were
machined-gunned in a ditch. In four hours nearly
500 villagers were killed." (Sam Harris from his
End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason")
The only difference between My Lai and Bala Baluk
is the degree of savagery. In both cases the
guilt can be traced directly back to the White House.
Obama believes that civilian casualties are an
unavoidable part of achieving one's policy goals.
The end justifies the means. He has strengthened
the Bush policy, not repudiated it. So much for "change".
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be
reached at <mailto:fergiewhitney at msn.com>fergiewhitney at msn.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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