December 16, 2008

Afghan Amputees_7b856.JPG

"We were walking, I was holding my grandson's hand, then there was a loud noise and everything went white. When I opened my eyes, everybody was screaming. I was lying metres from where I had been, I was still holding my grandson's hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere. I couldn't make out which part was which."

That's the testimony of one man caught up in the disastrous airstrike on a Afghan bridal party wrongfully identified as a Taliban force back in July. The carnage was so complete they had to bury the 47 victims in 28 graves. US and NATO troops have denied the attack, but say they are investigating. In another similiar attack back in August they denied involvement at first too. Then investigated and found themselves blameless, only to finally admit their culpability and apologise once independent footage of the destruction surfaced. In a third such incident, in November, footage surfaced before the kabuki dance could begin. So far this year, such mistakes have cost over 600 Afghans their lives.

The Guardian report from which the above quotation was taken also includes a video report which contains footage of Afghans mutilated and crippled by mistaken Western airstrikes.

Afghans understand what's going on here in a way that Western leaders don't seem to.

"If things were going OK maybe we could accept the occasional mistake. But with the economy the way it is, the worsening security situation, and the lack of development - when they kill civilians on top of everything else, it's too much for people," says Jahid Mohseni who runs Tolo TV, Afghanistan's most popular television station, with his two brothers.

..."We know they don't intend to kill the civilians but we don't believe they care enough not to," said Ahmad Zia, a jeweller in Kabul's busy bazaar. "If it continues we will see a lot more people joining the fight against the foreigners. It's inevitable."

Although the Western media and coalition forces consistently paint all insurgents in Afghanistan as Taliban, and the Taliban leadership are happy to take the credit, it may be that resistance has become more widespread. One Taliban commander told the Guardian:

"When an American vehicle is blown up every day on the main road in Wardak, the order is not coming from the Taliban leadership. It is the people themselves who have turned against the foreigners. They have come together in their villages and do not allow the foreigners to pass through their areas."

We saw this in Iraq too. There, what began as a rump of the Ba'athist state soon added Al Qaeda and then a whole host of other groups, spanning tribal and ethnic divisions as it became a general insurgency. In its aftermath, that insurgency spawned an entire country's worth of new factions, warlords and criminal gangs to contest with the existing ones for political power, which is why Iraq looks to remain a deeply broken society for years to come. That the US and its allies seems to have created a duplicate of that incredible foul-up through indiscriminate attacks often based on poor or corrupt tip-offs, after what looked to be a success story as late as 2003 or 2004, is the very definition of "epic fail".

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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