Monday, July 02, 2007

They're Just More Dead Civilians

The stories about the unending deaths of Afghan civilians, mainly as the result of "air strikes" (which is just a PC way of saying bombings), eat away at me.

Note the latest news:

More than 100 people, nearly half of them Afghan civilians, were killed in Nato air strikes against the Taliban this weekend, an investigation by local officials in Helmand province has concluded.

This, on the heels of repeated outcries for NATO to be more damn responsible while NATO spokespuppets issue the standard, meaningless apologies. It's just insulting. And although Karzai is trying to wrest control of the situation, he is virtually powerless to do anything to stop the killings while NATO's chief just wants to pay off the families and move on. (And what's the big topic of the day at that conference about Afghanistan? How much judges get paid. Get real.)

He [Karzai] has repeatedly called on US, Nato and Taliban forces to do more to prevent civilian casualties, warning that "Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such". And he has ordered foreign forces to co-ordinate military operations with the Afghan government. "From now on, they have to work the way we ask them to work in here."

Good luck with that. It's not going to happen.

And the military always uses the same excuse:

Major John Thomas, an Isaf spokesman told the Associated Press: "We don't mean to trivialise any of those who died but we want to make it clear that we believe the numbers are a dozen or less."

He blamed the Taliban for the civilian deaths, saying: "It's the enemy fighters who willingly fire when civilians are right next to them."

Now tell me, if London had decided to launch "air strikes" on Belfast to root out IRA terrorists, does anyone think this "human shield" line would have passed muster? Are you kidding me?

We are taught that "civilian casualties" are acceptable during war time but, while some may be absolutely unavoidable, when you have a situation like the one in Afghanistan where more ordinary people are being killed by the allied forces than by insurgents, isn't it time to rethink the military strategy - a strategy, by the way, which everyone has agreed will not even end the war there? Britain's government officials expect to be there for decades.

The US military is now also expanding attacks into Pakistan. How many more civilians will they kill there while their military pretends that fewer are dead than the real counts show?

Now, read this carefully:

Operations inside Pakistan might be carried out independently by the United States, probably with air power, by Pakistani forces acting alone or as joint offensives. In all cases, though, the US will pull the strings, for instance by providing the Pakistanis with information on targets to hit.

Musharraf has apparently already told his military commanders, the National Security Council and decision-makers in government of the development.

Officially, both NATO and Pakistan deny any agreement on hot-pursuit activities. Major John Thomas, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, told Asia Times Online, "The ISAF would not strike any targets across the border. That is not part of our mission. We work with the Pakistani government closely on cross-border issues. The ISAF does not have a counter-terrorism mission that I know of."

NATO is supposed to be in charge of military operations in Afghanistan, yet US forces are still free to do whatever they want to? Is it any wonder the place is still such a mess? And if the ISAF's mission does not include counter-terrorism, what is it still doing in Afghanistan?

This statement is from NATO's web site:

NATO is contributing to the fight against terrorism through military operations in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Mediterranean and by taking steps to protect its populations and territory against terrorist attacks.

And this:

ISAF’s key military tasks include assisting the Afghan government in extending its authority across the country, conducting stability and security operations in co-ordination with the Afghan national security forces; mentoring and supporting the Afghan national army; and supporting Afghan government programmes to disarm illegally armed groups.

No counter-terrorism mission for ISAF? You're kidding, right?

In addition to that, as far as NATO involvement in attacks inside Pakistan go:

Islamabad on June 25 urged NATO-led forces to exercise “restraint” while conducting operations against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan along its border, days after scores of civilians were killed in air strikes by coalition planes and helicopter gunships inside Pakistan.

NATO forces reportedly fired several missiles on June 22 at two villages, leaving at least 33 people dead and more than 70 wounded in North and South Waziristan.

“This incident underscores the need for better coordination, care and restraint by NATO forces, especially when they are operating close to the border,” foreign office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam told reporters in Islamabad. “We have protested against this incident and we condemn the killing of civilians,” she added.

And I have to mention that the NATO leadership looked incredibly stupid after that:

NATO-led forces admitted June 25 that during an anti-insurgent operation near the shared border, their forces had mistakenly tracked rebels into Pakistani territory and killed up to 10 civilians.

“We regret two things: one that we mistakenly operated inside the Pakistani border, and secondly we regret the loss of civilians in our operation,” an International Security Assistance Force spokesman, Major John Thomas, said in Kabul.

Trained military personnel who don't know how to read maps or use a freaking compass or GPS system? Who are they trying to kid?

And meanwhile, on the Pakistan front, guess who's running the show for those operations?

Senior US officials, including John Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, and Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state, recently visited Pakistan to spell out to opposition leaders that the US is still behind Musharraf, although it will support the participation of secular, democratic political parties in government.

This development occurred even as Washington voiced its dissatisfaction over Musharraf's performance with regard to the Taliban: it pointed to Pakistan's clear involvement in supporting the insurgency in Helmand province since last year.

Indeed, the US was even prepared to withdraw its support of Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, but after a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to Pakistan, the general remains in favor. Cheney's office is believed to run the United States' Pakistan policy.

What Dick wants, Dick gets. I'll bet he's even counting on flowers and candy.

The reasons are probably twofold: the US needs Pakistan's support should it attack Iran (covert operations into Iran are reportedly already taking place from Pakistan), and the US is concerned over the revival of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan

I think we all know that reason number #1 is the prime motivator for Bushco's continued support of Musharraf - to the tune of $1 billion per year. And Pakistan does have nukes, after all. The US administration knows that Musharraf is between a rock and a hard place politically, so he needs to be propped up in order to survive. Yes, another one of those flourishing "democracies" where Bushco actually runs the place. They're like franchises.

And because Dick just hasn't been able to come up with enough credible evidence to launch his war on Iran now, the newest meme is that there are Iranian weapons in Afghanistan. Karzai denies that charge.

Karzai has said there is no proof the Iranian-marked weapons are provided by Tehran.

"Iran and Afghanistan have never been as friendly as they are today," he said earlier this month.

But a defence ministry general said the government had "evidence", including documents, to prove the weapons were coming into the country for the Taliban, with Tehran's knowledge.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, would not give further details.

Of course he wouldn't. It's spin.

Ratchet up that rhetoric, boys:

"Iran is giving the option to the US that if it does not give Iran a green light on the nuclear issue and its role in the region, Iran can turn Afghanistan into a second Iraq or Vietnam for them," the general said.

Another military general who asked not to be named agreed, saying, "Iran is baring its teeth to the US at this stage" -- but is also capable of destabilising Afghanistan.

I guess since the "hey, there are Iranian-made weapons in Iraq" thing didn't quite cut it, Buscho now has to figure out other ways to convince the world that bombing Iran is an absolute, imminent necessity.

So meanwhile, as these warmongering fools try to stir up even more trouble, they are doing absolutely nothing to make sure that they stop killing innocent people who are obviously just getting in the way of the glorious day when they will win the war on terror - which, by definition, is impossible.

It's a geopolitical game played on the backs of innocents. War for war's sake. War for profiteering. War for oil. Why should they care about dead men, women and children?

It's infuriating and it needs to end. What the hell is my country doing over there?

Related: Wiki's count of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 2001

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