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ANATOMY OF TORTURE — Historian Christopher Dietrich on the 100-year-long history of American torture; Jeffrey St. Clair on the implications of giving impunity to the CIA’s torturers; Chris Floyd on how the US has exported torture to its client states around the world. David Macaray on the Paradoxes of Police Unions; Louis Proyect on Slave Rebellions in the Open Seas; Paul Krassner on the Perils of Political Cartooning; Martha Rosenberg on the dangers of Livestock Shot-up with Antibiotics; and Lee Ballinger on Elvis, Race and the Poor South. Plus: Mike Whitney on Greece and the Eurozone and JoAnn Wypijewski on Media Lies that Killed.
The Civilian Carnage From Operation Noble Justice

Remember, Kill Chain

by ANDREW COCKBURN

In a cold February dawn in 2010, two small SUVs and a four-door pickup truck headed down a dirt road in the mountains of southern Afghanistan. They had set out soon after midnight, traveling cross-country to reach Highway 1, the country’s principal paved road, which would lead them to Kandahar and north to Kabul. Crammed inside were more than thirty men, women, and children, four of them younger than six. Everyone knew one another, for they all came from the same cluster of mountain villages roughly two hundred miles southwest of Kabul. Many of the men, unemployed and destitute, were on their way to Iran in hopes of work. Others were shopkeepers heading to the capital to buy supplies, or students returning to school. The women carried turkeys, gifts for the relatives they would stay with in Kabul. A number were Hazaras, an ethnic minority of Shia Muslims whom the Taliban treated with unremitting cruelty whenever they had the opportunity. Now they were in western Uruzgan Province, Taliban country and therefore very dangerous for them, but they risked the shortcut because they were short on gas.

They met no other cars and little foot traffic; the world around them must have seemed empty. But it was not. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched and their every movement—even the warmth from their bodies—transmitted across the globe. As the ramshackle vehicles—one of them kept breaking down and another blew a tire—clattered along, people they would never meet conferred across oceans and continents as to who they were, where they were going, what they were carrying, and whether they should live or die.

Unwittingly, the little group was driving toward an Operational Detachment Alpha, a U.S. Special Forces patrol dropped in with a supporting force of Afghan soldiers soon after midnight to attack the nearby village of Khod. Such raids were routine in Afghanistan, planned and executed by the semimythic Special Operations Command that specializes in the pursuit and elimination of “high-value targets.” Someone thought this operation important enough to give it the code name Operation Noble Justice.

Sunday, February 21, 4:12 a.m.

Pilot of MQ-1 Predator, call sign Kirk 97: We are eyes on the first vehicle; observing to try and PID on the pax in the open; stand by for movement on the second.

The 27-foot-long Predator drone was circling at 14,000 feet. Below its belly protruded a “sensor” ball carrying a variety of cameras, including an infrared video that picked up the warmth thrown off by the vehicles and passengers 2.5 miles below. Almost in an instant—but not quite—the images flashed across the world to twin screens inside a metal box roughly the size of a shipping container at Creech Air Force Base in...

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