So finally the truth comes out…sort of.
After initially claiming that two pregnant women and a teenage girl killed in a US Special Forces raid on an Afghan home in Khataba in February had been discovered bound and slain by the Americans, the US military has admitted that they were actually shot and killed by those US troops–who then tried to cover up their “mistake” by carving the bullets out of the bodies with knives, removing other incriminating bullets from the compound’s walls, and then washing away the bloody evidence with alcohol.
In this new grisly version of the story issued from the US command in Afghanistan, it was a case of the Special Forces Unit lying to superiors about what had transpired in their botched raid, which also killed an Afghan police commander and a government prosecutor.
The only reason we know all this today is because of the intrepid digging by a relentless reporter from the Times of London, Jerome Starkey, who, unlike the hacks in Kabul passing themselves off as journalists from American news organizations, didn’t just accept the press release on the incident put out by Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s office, but instead did his own investigation, talking to Afghan and UN investigators, as well as local people where the incident happened.
For his efforts at getting to the truth, Starkey was attacked by the US military, accused of lying and misrepresenting US statements.
Now that Starkey has been fully vindicated, there has been no apology from McChrystal’s office, or from the military public relations operation. Nor have US reporters and editors, who left Starkey undefended while his credibility was being attacked by the US, said anything about his role in bringing the truth to light.
The New York Times, in an article today by Richard A. Oppel, Jr., datelined Kabul, said that the US military, “after initially denying involvement in any cover-up in the deaths,” had “admitted that its forces had killed the women during the nighttime raid.”
The paper also credited the Times of London (without mentioning Starkey), with, a day before the military’s about face, disclosing that American forces on the scene had “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.”
What the paper didn’t mention is that Starkey had broken the story weeks earlier, only have his exposé ignored by the US media, which allowed him to be slandered by the American military.
This story is not over yet, either.
The US military, incredibly, is still claiming that despite an official investigation by US/NATO personnel into the incident, “Nothing pointed conclusively to the fact that our guys were the ones who tampered with the scene.” As Oppel demurely observed, “However, given that Special Operations forces killed the women, it was not clear why anyone else would have a motivation to remove bullets from the bodies or tamper with evidence at the scene.”
It would appear that a cover-up is still underway.
There has been no talk of bring charges against the Special Forces personnel who committed these killings and who then sought to cover up their actions, or those who were with them who allowed this crime to be committed and didn’t report it.
It is worth pointing out that Gen. McChrystal’s background is running Special Forces operations. He ran a major death squad operation in Iraq before being put in charge of the Afghan War, and was widely reported to be planning to repeat that tactic in Afghanistan. This particular night raid, on what was thought to be a Taliban household, but which turned out to be a party for the naming of a new baby boy, was almost certainly part of just such a mission.
The point to be taken from this ugly window on American operations in Afghanistan is that far from being an aberration, this is precisely how the war is being fought. Had this raid not been based on bad information, so that instead of killing a police officer and a prosecutor, the Special Forces hit-men had actually taken out a Taliban fighter or two, the fact that they also slaughtered a few pregnant women and a girl would have gone unnoticed and unremarked. In fact, the Special Forces killers wouldn’t have even bothered to try to cover up their handiwork by digging knives into the victims’ bodies to gouge out their bullets.
We can safely assume that this kind of thing is going on all over Afghanistan every day.
Welcome to Obama’s War.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org