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From My Lai to Khataba

Tangled Webs

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, 1808

In the course of three hours [in My Lai in 1968] more than 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed in cold blood at the hands of US troops. . . . Yet not a single shot was fired at the soldiers . . . It took more than a year for the shocking story to reach the newsstands. Efforts had been made to cover up the atrocity from day one.

BBC, My Lai anniversary program, July 20, 1998

Several insurgents engaged the joint force [in Khataba, Afghanistan] in a fire fight and were killed. When the joint force entered the compound they conducted a thorough search of the area, and found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.

NATO media announcement, February 12, 2010

When a second son, Mohammed Zahir, went out to talk to the Americans [in Khataba] because he spoke some English, he too was shot and killed. The three women – Udin’s 19-year-old granddaughter, Gulalai; his 37-year-old daughter, Saleha, the mother of 10 children; and his daughter-in-law, Shirin, the mother of six – were all gunned down when they tried to help the victims, these witnesses claimed.

New York Times, March 10, 2010

It was widely suspected that US Special Forces had committed murder in the village of Khataba in eastern Afghanistan in February 2010, but there were two months of dodging and weaving and downright deliberate dishonesty before the truth had to be admitted.

US soldiers killed pregnant women and then lied about their atrocity. Their lies were endorsed by senior officers. And the war crime would never have been uncovered had not the London Times pursued the matter.

Many of us who served in Vietnam took a long time to realize that there had been lots of cover-ups similar to the current attempts at disguising criminal killings in Afghanistan. In Vietnam the type of barbarity that became an almost daily occurrence during the war on Iraq, and is now so common in Afghanistan, wasn’t confined to the village of My Lai, because there were other, covered-up, atrocities before that particular savagery.

Lies were as cheap and plentiful as bullets in Vietnam, and all too many of them struck their targets. We soldiers believed the fables fed to the world by the slick and flawed presenters at the Five o’clock Follies, as the media called the military’s daily briefings in Saigon; and it seems that not much has changed in all these years.

We were told that if we didn’t fight the communists in Vietnam, then they would take over all of Asia.

So we fought. And we lost. They beat the hell out of us, after all these years of destruction and sacrifice of lives and honor and cash. But even then the Communists didn’t take over Asia as we had been told they would.

And present-day foreign soldiers in Afghanistan are told that if they don’t defeat the insurgents then there will be terrorist outrages in their own countries. This is garbage, of course, but it’s simply part of the pattern of governmental propaganda.

And all the time the lies pour out, like those told by a foreign military mouthpiece in Kabul last week who claimed that the slaughter of four young people in Khost on April 19 was justified.

The four young unarmed Afghans were killed because they were in a car near a convoy of troops. Amazingly quickly after their death, two of them were declared to be “known insurgents”, allegedly because their fingerprints were on a data base. The other two dead boys were, of course, said to be “associates” of the “known insurgents.”

The statement was total fabrication.

That butchery followed the equally disastrous bullet-spraying that killed four civilians in Kandahar on April 13, when a bus “ignored warnings to stop”. Oh yes? So why did the surviving passengers state that the bus had already pulled over?

What the foreigners in Afghanistan don’t realize is that their tangled webs of deceit and deception are disastrously counter-productive. And in the case of the Khataba killings by members of a US special forces’ unit there has been an especially grave reaction.

After admitting the Khataba slaughter there was a ridiculous attempt by US forces to try to smooth things over, and a three star admiral, no less, went to apologize to families in the village where the butchery took place.

Vice Admiral William McRaven told the survivors he was “the commander of the men who accidentally killed your loved ones.” This was a stupid thing to say, because the night attack wasn’t an accident : it was deliberately planned, and based on false information provided by an Afghan spy in the pay of the US – just as are so many of the drone strikes and other assassinations that the US carries out in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.

The only “accident” in the whole squalid affair was that the truth eventually had to be admitted.

Two of the dead women were pregnant, and had over a dozen children between them. They were murdered in the most barbaric circumstances, and then their killers tried to manufacture ‘evidence’ to make it appear that the women were dead before the raid took place. There has been no indication that anyone has been disciplined in this case of calculated savagery. And it is unlikely that such action will ever be taken.

In January the overall commander in Afghanistan, the wonder boy, General McChrystal, issued an instruction intended to impose discipline on the out-of-control special forces, but the New York Times report made it clear that there was a loophole in his order through which you could drive a hundred Humvees, because his spokesman, Admiral Smith, stated that “very small numbers of US SOF [Special Operations Forces], are exempted from the directive.”

That statement is preposterous. If “very small numbers” are exempt from obeying orders that other combatants are supposed to follow, then it is these people themselves who make the rules about how big or small their numbers might be. It is they who then decide on the range and degree of exemptions, not the person who decided to exempt them. “Small numbers” in this context is like being slightly pregnant.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that “These [special operations] forces often operate with little or no accountability and exacerbate the anger and resentment felt by communities,” which puts it mildly, because the fury and hatred that has been caused by the knuckle-draggers’ crazy antics far outweigh any benefits from the occasional assassination of dangerous dissidents.

I recollect from Vietnam days that the killing of a guerrilla leader generally meant his replacement by a younger, more dedicated, and much more ferocious nationalist fighter. The infamous Phoenix Program of wholesale assassinations of suspected militants was a disaster. Thousands of Vietnamese were murdered – the majority of them in the most horrible fashion – but they won in the end.

Units of special weirdo thugs, of whom General McChrystal was a member for many years, are not accountable to anyone for their actions in Afghanistan or anywhere else. They have an open permit to kill, and when they exterminate innocent people – like pregnant women with many children – they can walk away, swaggering and tattoo-rippling, confident of immunity.

The murderers of the women will go unpunished. Not one of these women-killers will face a jury. The dead women received no justice, and those who killed them will not face justice.

And the West has the temerity, the gall, the sneering chutzpah, to insist that the Afghan government should enforce the rule of law in its country.

Downright lying is the order of the day. The sinister killers of the special forces and their scabby spin doctors in Afghanistan weave tangled webs of lies and deception.

And we will reap what they have sown.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY’s website is www.beecluff.com

 

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