Toss the COIN

Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency. COIN for short.

Toss the COIN.

In 2002, a U.S. Air force AC-130 gunship and a B-52 bomber dropped bombs on an Afghan wedding party.

Over 40 people were killed and 100 wounded.

The military admitted at least one bomb had “missed its target.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, “We are aware of reports of civilian casualties but don’t know if casualties were caused as a result of the bomb.”

U.S. military spokesperson Colonel Roger King: “Anytime there are inadvertent casualties, it increases the difficulty of operations, because we have to work with the civilian populace to be successful.”

At first they refused to apologize.

Then Colonel King offered one: “The US government extends its deepest sympathies to those who may have lost loved ones or who may have suffered any injuries. Coalition military forces take extraordinary measures to protect against civilian casualties.”

President Karzai demanded that “all necessary measures” be taken “not to harm innocent Afghan civilians.”

U. S. Operation Enduring Freedom.

Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Toss the COIN.

Again in 2002. It’s claimed that a US attack on a wedding party in the Eastern province of Khost killed 10 and injured many more.

An Agence France Presse report at the time concluded: “A wedding was in progress in the village when people fired gun shots into the air in traditional celebration and US helicopters flying over the area could have mistaken it for hostile fire. An aircraft later bombed the area for several hours.”

Not sorry.

President Karzai. Couldn’t open his mouth.

U.S. Operation Jawbreaker.

Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Toss the COIN.

In 2008, another wedding party.

Bombed by AC-130 gunships.

The Afghan government claimed 48 civilians were killed – women, children, and men. The bride was among the dead.

A US military statement: “Intelligence revealed a large group of militants operating in the Deh Bala district. Coalition forces identified the militants and used air strikes to kill them.”

A US military spokesperson, Lt. Colonel Rumi Nielson-Green, “…Any loss of civilian life is tragic and we go to great lengths to avoid civilian deaths…”

But not sorry.

“We are trying to organize aid and a commission has gone there headed by the ministry of frontier affairs,” President Karzai offered.

U.S. Operation Mountain Resolve.

Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Wedding Crashers. The American Air Force.

And the movie.

Starring Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and a scary Christopher Walken.

Movie tagline: Life is a party. Crash it.

It bombed at the box office.

But there were no casualties in Hollywood.

Toss the COIN.

A local Afghan police chief said Western air strikes killed five farmers loading cucumbers into a taxi in the Zhari district.

The farmers were going to sell their produce in Kandahar.

Taliban terrorists or cucumber purveyors?

Not sorry.

No comment from the Prez.

U.S. Operation Anaconda.

Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Toss the COIN.

2003. Hutala.

An American airstrike killed 7 boys and 2 girls.

Ages 8 to 12 years old.

The boys were playing marbles or ball in front of their house.

The girls were collecting water from a stream.

Two A-10 attack jets fired rockets and machine guns at the children.

Maj. Christopher West, spokesperson for the US military command at Bagram Air Base: “We regret the loss of innocent life and we follow stringent rules of engagement to specifically avoid this type of incident while continuing to target terrorists who threaten the future of Afghanistan.”

Karzai was “profoundly shocked” and sent a delegation to investigate and offer assistance to the families.

U.S. Operation Mountain Lion.

Winning the hearts and minds of Afghan children.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Toss the COIN.

2011. The mountains outside Nanglam in the Pech Valley of the Kunar Province.

Helicopter gunships attacked and killed again.

Nine boys ages 9 to 15 years old.

The kids were collecting firewood.

According to an article in the New York Times, there was only one survivor. Hemad.

The boy explained: “We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw helicopters come. There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us, and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting.”

The U.S. military said it was a mistake.

The grief-stricken families rushed up the mountain and found the dead bodies. The head of one child was missing and so were limbs. People scoured the terrain to find the body parts to assemble them back into human beings.

General David H. Petraeus issued an “unusual personal apology.”

Petraeus wrote: “We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions. These deaths should have never happened.”

President Karzai refused to accept the General’s apology.

The Pashtun president shook his fist in anger at a press conference.

Karzai railed: “The people of Afghanistan are tired of these incidents and excuses, and condemnations cannot relieve their pain. I am asking you on behalf of the people of Afghanistan that there be no repetition of this incident.”

Then President Karzai, ever the US puppet, accepted an apology from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, his Pentagon Puppet Master.

The puppet strings worked his puppet mouth and out spilled these words: “Secretary Gates is an honored friend of Afghanistan and I trust completely when he says he’s sorry and he apologizes. That’s something that we respect personally because of him as well as because of the message he brings on behalf of the United States government.”

U.S. Operation Mountain Thrust.

Killing the hearts, minds, and bodies of the Afghan people.

One PTSD bomb at a time.

Toss the COIN again.

HELEN REDMOND is a freelance writer in Chicago. She can be reached at redmondmadrid@yahoo.com




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Helen Redmond is an independent journalist and writes about the war on drugs and health care. She can be reached at redmondmadrid@yahoo.com

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