There is yet more news from Afghanistan about the killing of civilians by foreign forces’ air attacks. The BBC reported that “Angry villagers took 18 bodies – including badly mangled bodies of women and children – to the governor’s house in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, Haji Adnan Khan, a tribal leader in the city who had seen the bodies, was reported as saying. He said there might be more bodies trapped under the rubble. A BBC reporter in Lashkar Gah said he saw the bodies – three women and the rest children ranging in age from six months to 15. The families brought the bodies from their village in the Nad Ali district.” Ho hum; just another day in the war for freedom.
And then there was the killing of kids next door, as it were, for it was reported from Pakistan only a few days before the Lashkar Gah atrocity that “Eleven people were killed in Upper Dir district . . . when a roadside bomb exploded near a police van [and] four schoolchildren in a passing bus were among the dead.”
The criminal fanatics who planned and directed the Dir atrocity would claim, just like American official mouthpieces after the blitzing of tribal wedding parties or memorial services, that innocent people are simply unfortunate to be in the way when they tried to hit the main target. These barbarians attempt to convince us that in some way women and children are themselves at fault when they are killed by lunatic bombers or almost equally deranged controllers of aerial slaughter-machines. Another line is that it is the responsibility of those whom they target because they permit civilians to be close by. These claims are not persuasive enough to let us ignore the innocent children and their weeping families. In fact they are evidence of hand-washing arrogance.
People who kill kids, for whatever reason and no matter in what manner, are disgusting, murderous, cowardly barbarians.
Suicide bombing is not the way to achieve paradise, but alas there appears to be nobody influential enough to make this clear to the world at large. The problem is that rabble-rousing, brutal, religious bigots use their position to persuade poorly-educated (and some not-so-poorly-educated), easily-influenced people that those who die for their Faith, even if that involves murdering children, are assured of heaven.
It is tragic that the real meaning of the Koran, as well as civilised common sense, decency, and respect for human lives, are thrust aside by such as the rabidly fanatical Egyptian cleric Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who claims that Islam justifies suicide bombings.
In a BBC interview Al-Qaradawi said that “I consider this type of martyrdom operation [by suicide bombing] as an indication of the justice of Allah Almighty. Allah is just – through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak what the strong do not possess and that is the ability to turn their bodies into bombs like the Palestinians do. Islamic theologians and jurisprudents have debated this issue, referring to it as a form of Jihad under the title of ‘jeopardising the life of the mujaheed.’ It is allowed to jeopardise your soul and cross the path of the enemy and be killed if this act of jeopardy affects the enemy, even if it only generates fear in their hearts, shaking their morale, making them fear Muslims.”
A tortuous argument, to put it mildly ; and just as poorly constructed and badly delivered as the justification for the US slaughter of innocent men, women and children attending a night-time memorial service in the Afghan village of Azizabad on August 22. In that case it was at first (and as usual) flatly denied that there had been any civilian deaths. As the New York Times recorded : “The US hotly disputed the toll [of 90], claiming initially that no civilians were killed, then later revising the number up to 5-7 civilians. They also accused Afghan civilians who claimed a higher toll of spreading “outrageous Taliba n propaganda.” They were forced to re-examine their findings, however, when video evidence of the toll went public.”
United Nations officials conducted an inquiry immediately and found that 90 civilians had been killed, of whom 60 were children, but the US ignored the report, and when the Afghan government confirmed that there were scores of dead a US spokesman called the statement “outrageous.”
It was unfortunate – at least for the liars who deliberated concocted falsehoods about the massacre – that “Cellphone images that a villager said he took, and seen by this reporter [Carlotta Gall, a marvellous and courageous journalist], showed two lines of about 20 bodies each laid out in the mosque, with the sounds of loud sobbing and villagers’ cries in the background. An Afghan doctor who runs a clinic in a nearby village said he counted 50 to 60 bodies of civilians, most of them women and children and some of them his own patients, laid out in the village mosque on the day of the strike . . . In a series of statements about the operation, the US military has said that extremists who entered the village after the bombardment encouraged villagers to change their story and inflate the number of dead.”
If there had been no independent reporting of the atrocity it would, like so many others, have been forgotten about. (Nobody would have known about the atrocities at Abu Ghraib if photographs hadn’t appeared.) But Washington was forced to order an inquiry. Not that there is any intention to take disciplinary action against those responsible for any aspect of the horrible affair, even when it was eventually admitted there were “more than 30” civilians killed, because, with indifferent callousness, the spin-masters pronounced that the strike was against “a legitimate target.”
The pattern is clear : first lie your head off after a war crime has been committed; then try to play down the gravity of the slaughter and while you’re at it, vilify anyone courageous enough to have held an independent inquiry that discovered the truth. After it is obvious that a major atrocity did actually take place, all must wring hands and announce that an inquiry is to be held. (If anxious to appear serious it is better to state that it will be a “full” inquiry. But on no account must there be representation at the inquiry by officials, or, indeed, attendance by any citizens of the country in which the attack has taken.) Last, when irrefutable evidence has to be grudgingly admitted, say that there has been a mistake but that the people who identified the target, fired the missiles or lied in their teeth about the squalid affair are not going to receive even a wrist-slap in punishment. Then the whole affair will be forgotten except by the few hundred more Afghans, Iraqis or Pakistanis who have been persuaded that US “freedom” is meaningless and queue up to join the ranks of anti-western fanatics and suicide bombers.
There is a chilling parallel between the types of child killers. On the one hand, a formal military organisation is adamant that “legitimate targets” must be blasted even if the deaths of children are inevitable. On the other, the psychotic savages who plan and carry out suicide bombings that slaughter innocent youngsters are convinced their atrocities are justified by a warped interpretation of their Faith.
The potential victims of attacks – the ordinary innocent citizens of Pakistan and Afghanistan – should be protected; but this is impossible, given the zeal of both types of attackers. There can be no excuses for killing children, but violence feeds violence, courtesy of trigger-happy moronic foreigners and home-grown fiendish monsters. The terrible thing is that they have so much in common : mainly barbarity.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY’s new book, War, Coups and Terror, about the Pakistan army, has just been published by Pen & Sword Books (UK) and will be published in the US by Skyhorse Publishing (New York). He lives in France.