Sunday, July 05, 2009

WHAT WAR BRINGS: Civilian deaths by air

This May 5, 2009, file photo, shows an injured Afghan child from the Bala Baluk, district of Afghanistan, on a bed at the hospital in Farah province of Afghanistan. Abdul Basir Khan, a member of Farah's provincial council, said villagers brought some 30 bodies, including women and children, to Farah city to show the province's governor, that they had been killed reportedly by coalition airstrikes. (AP Photo/Abdul Malek, file)

WHAT WAR BRINGS: Civilian deaths by air

This post is about US bombings of civilians. I cannot begin to cover all the air bombings of Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan (drone attacks), but I will cover a few examples.

God only knows how many civilians were killed or injured by US bombings, but I do remember “shock and awe” in March 2003 that was supposed to be surgical strikes to take out Iraqi leadership. Instead, those bombs only killed civilians. One particularly gruesome story was off an eight months pregnant woman whose baby was ejected from her womb and body with the top of his little head cut off. He died, of course. Instantly. The mother died shortly thereafter too – she bled to death. That happened in Basra.

And I am sure a lot of readers remember the story of Ali, whose picture appeared in the pages of TIME magazine. He lost both his arms, had severe burns on his body, and his entire family was killed. He was about 8 years old, if I recall correctly. He said he wanted his arms and his parents back.

A more recent, and horrendous example occurred in May 2009 in Afghanistan. This article is from the LA Times, and starts by casting doubt on who exactly is responsible for the bombings that killed about 140 people. I can tell who is to blame – as long as US troops are in the country, then the US IS TO BLAME since they are the ones responsible for security. And in this case, they are the ones who did the killing.

(Some people were reported as ‘missing’ since the bombing actually reduced them to miniature body parts and could not be identified. For example, a finger maybe found in a nearby bush or tree…. But how can you say who it belongs to? That is one of the problems with trying to find out how many were killed in a US bombing, but it is a minor problem compared to the fact that the US government does not give a shit who they kill or injure.)

Afghan civilian deaths: Who is to blame?

Commanders and villagers give conflicting accounts of the attack that Afghan officials say killed 140 civilians, a toll disputed by the U.S. But injured girls make clear the costs for two families.

…..Afghan officials say at least 140 civilians died, two-thirds of them children and teenagers.

Here is their report on the injured children:

Piercing wails rose into the antiseptic-scented air where four blistered and bandaged little girls lay in side-by-side hospital beds. One of them, 5-year-old Ferishteh, writhed and cried almost continuously, unable to find a position that did not cause her pain from the burns that covered her arms, legs and torso.

…..Nine-year-old Nazbibi, whose large brown eyes were half hidden by swollen eyelids with eyelashes burned away, remembered falling asleep with her mother and 10-year-old sister by her side.

"I heard a big boom, and I was buried except for my head," she said. "Everything collapsed -- the roof was on me, and there were flames. I was so frightened."

Her sister, Gulbuddin, was killed. Her mother, Sanam, suffered burns but survived, although the night's events so unhinged her that she apparently suffered a mental collapse.

The article says this about the people who were bombed:

There is no cellphone service in most of Bala Baluk at night, so villagers were unable to summon help, and they were too frightened to make the drive to Farah City. The wounded who weren't lucky enough to be unconscious shrieked themselves hoarse until morning finally came.

The really lucky ones are the ones who died instantly. Go and read the whole article, and see if you don’t agree.

And then about a month or two later, the US finally admits to some “mistakes”. (Well, sometimes they do. Most of the time they just ignore it after blaming it on someone else.)

Here is a report from the New York Times where the US military admits “mistakes”:

A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official. The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.

Of course, that does not bring any dead people back. Nor does it help the wounded. And it surely does not stop the US from doing it AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. I would bet we will hear about another bombing that kills civilians before the month is over. Not that many Americans would care. I guess they are too busy worrying about other people’s sexuality and the possible abortion of a fetus to worry about the death of living and breathing innocent people who happen to be under US occupation.

But it has gotten to the point that we can predict what the US military’s “story” about civilian casualties from air bombings will take, and how our corporate media will report it:

A sizable clump of peasants with unpronounceable names from an equally unpronounceable village on the other side of the globe are slaughtered by a drone, air strike, or troops on the ground. The initial story appears complete with quotes from locals, local officials, and aid workers- many if not all going on the record and giving their names- on or near the scene that lay out the basic facts of the story- that the US killed a bunch of civilians. And within hours of this come the denials from the US military. And not just any denials but creative ones. If not denying outright that anyone was killed at all (which is sometimes their first reaction) the US military will then offer up their own story in which the evil "Taliban" or "Al Qaeda in Iraq" killed the civilians in question. The sources for the military's side of the story are almost never named, were no where near the incident, and have no first hand knowledge of the event in question at all.

This doesn't stop our "liberal" media from giving the stories from anonymous military sources far removed from the atrocity equal if not more weight than the named local sources on the ground.

And here is another report that followed a few weeks later:

U.S. admits Afghan airstrike may have killed 86 civilians

An internal military investigation into an U.S. airstrike in western Afghanistan acknowledged that U.S. forces may have killed as many as 86 civilians and said the military needs to re-examine its rules to reduce future civilian casualties.

I agree that they need to re-examine their ‘rules’…. They need to STOP DOING IT COMPLETELY. Keep in mind that the locals said that 140 were killed, not 86. It is hard to identify bodies, however, once they have been blown to teeny, tiny bits of blood and flesh.

And of course, the local politicians are none too happy about the air bombings of their fellow civilians, and the air bombing of the politicians themselves.

Here is another incident, this time on May 24, 2009. It comes from a Reuters article:

An Afghan civilian died of wounds from a U.S.-led airstrike, which was supporting NATO-led forces in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the alliance said in a statement. The civilian was suspected of planting an explosive device but an investigation later determined he was not an insurgent, the statement added.

Just a blip on one day’s write up of security incidents. The killing of this man was not even noticed here in the USA. You can bet your last dollar it WAS noticed by his family. And this likely happens in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. In the blog Iraq Today, there is a listing of all security incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and links to US air power summaries. But most of the bombings over the last eight years we know nothing about.

And here’s another incident, this one from June 2009:

Dispute Over Afghan Deaths in Strike

The airstrike in Ghor Province in western Afghanistan on Tuesday was aimed at a local Taliban militant, Mullah Mustafa, but instead killed 10 civilians and 12 insurgents, according to Sayed Iqbal Munib, the governor of Sar-i-Pul, a neighboring province.

Oh, yes, there is always a “dispute” and generally, the locals end up being proven correct in their claims, long after everyone in the USA has forgotten about it.

And, no one is disciplined for making a “mistake” either.

Oh, and it has been going on for quite awhile. This story is from 2007.

Civilian death toll rises in the bloody battle of Helmand

Last week I saw the damage being done in the battle for hearts and minds. In the British headquarters a girl was brought in by her family. She lay on the table, blood leaking from her tiny frame. Occasionally her body would convulse, her screams reverberating around the base. On either side, three of her siblings whimpered. They, too, had been lacerated by masonry after a US bomber strafed their home last Sunday morning while the Taliban were firing from the same compound.

An hour earlier, soldiers at the base in Sangin had recognised the thud of a nearby explosive. By the time its disbelieving victims appeared at the British outpost, they had already buried two children. Others lay entombed beneath the rubble. Bombed by their would-be liberators, their parents had passed the bloodied bundles of their remaining children to the British army to save them.

Air bombings are happening quite often in Pakistan too. Here is a post on the drone strikes in Pakistan, and their impacts on civilians.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: civilian deaths by US air bombings.

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