[News] From My Lai to Bala Baluk

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 15 12:35:07 EDT 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney05152009.html

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.

 From Reuters:

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 Prize–winning 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 
book 
"<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393327655/counterpunchmaga>The 
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




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