FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Children Under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.

The other three children were not so lucky. They were killed Sunday in an aerial attack by a US aircraft in the the Nawa district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, not so far from Pakistan. The attack, described by the military as a “precision strike,” was reportedly aimed at several Taliban fighters who were allegedly planting an IED in the road, but the strike also killed three children, Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, all from one family, who were right nearby collecting dung for fuel.

Initially, as is its standard MO, the US denied that any children had been killed and insisted that the aircraft had targeted three “Taliban” fighters, and had successfully killed them. Only later, as evidence grew indesputable that the three children had also been killed, the US switched to its standard fallback position for atrocities in the Afghanistan War and its other wars: it announced that it was “investigating” the incident and said that it “regretted” any civilian deaths.

There are several questions that arise immediately from this second story. First of  all, if the three kids were close enough to be killed by this “precision” attack, they were surely also close enough to have been visible to whatever surveillance craft was monitoring the activities of the Taliban fighters, and if they were seen, there should have been no air strike called in. Second, the US, allegedly trying to reduce civilian casualties, is supposedly now operating its air attacks under rules of engagement that only allow strikes where there is “imminent danger” to US or allied forces. How is planting an IED an “imminent” danger? If the location is known, troops in the area can be alerted, and the IED removed or detonated. An identified IED is not an imminent threat.

The American media have been awash in coverage of the attack on the three Pakistani girls, and on the fate of the courageous girl’s education advocate, young Malala.

Not so the deaths of the three Afghan kids. They didn’t even merit their own article in the nation’s leading newspaper, The New York Times, which simply inserted a couple of paragraphs concerning their deaths near the end of an article about so-called “green-on-blue killings” of US troops by their supposed Afghan Army allies (two Americans were killed in one such attack on Saturday).

The contrast between the two attacks on children is even greater when it comes to the response in the two countries, Pakistan and the US.  In Pakistan, after the attack on Malala and her two classmates, tens of thousands of Pakistanis turned out in demonstrations to protest the actions of the Taliban fanatics and to demand that they be caught and punished (there have been arrests of two alleged perpetrators). The Pakistani government vowed to prosecute the would-be killers, and has paid to have Malala transferred to a safer and better hospital in the UK. It is also providing armed guards to protect the other two girls.

Meanwhile, in the US, most people don’t even know that their own military just blew away three young Afghan children. The sad truth is, even if they did know, they wouldn’t really care. There’d be no outpouring onto the streets of people demanding a halt to the air attacks and the drone killings. Only 28% of Americans say they object to America’s drone warfare, though it is clear that drone attacks are leading to the deaths of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of innocent civilians. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, a survey of 20 countries about reactions to drone warfare found that in the US only 28 % of Americans said they disapproved of America’s drone warfare campaign. In countries that are normally America’s allies, like Britain, Germany and Japan, disapproval rates were  47%, 59% and 75% respectively. In the US, the survey found 62 % of Americans actively support drone warfare, giving America the distinction of being the only country surveyed in which a majority of the public supports killing by drone.

The attackers of the three schoolgirls in Pakistan, who have been arrested already, will almost certainly be imprisoned for their heinous crimes. Not so the pilot and the targeting personnel who called in his deadly strike that led to the deaths of three Afghan children. They will come home from the war hailed as “heroes” by any Americans they meet. People will pass them and say, “Thank you for your service” — even though that “service” includes killing little children.

UPDATE: The US is going to extraordinary lengths to pretend it did not target innocent children in this strike, which it now says was done not by a plane dropping a bomb, but by a guided missile (presumably fired by a plane or a drone, since it had to be steered real time to its dimunitive targets). In a report in the New York Times, which publication itself went to great lengths to offer its own imagined ideas as to why the military could not be blamed for targeting these children, the Pentagon offered up that the children “appeared” to have been “used” by the Taliban to “emplace” the IED. There is no proof offered for this conjecture.

In any event, the point remains that the children should have been readily identifiable in any surveillance video, given the shorter length of their shadows in an October sun. And more importantly, the US is not supposed to do air strikes unless there is an “imminent danger” to allied or Afghan troops, and the placing of an IED, witnessed and filmed so its location would be known, cannot be considered an imminent threat.

The US and the Times cannot seem to get their story straight either. In the lead to the article, NATO command is said to have reported that the children were killed by an “artillery strike” that was called in. Later, a NATO official is quoted as saying a guided missile was used.

So much lying inevitably leads to confusion and contradiction.

The truth: three little kids were killed by US forces who target them in violation of their own operating rules on use of force as agreed to with the Afghan government. Although the Times headline reads “Questions Raised in Deaths of Afghan Children in Coalition (sic) Strike,” that question is not mentioned. Nor does the Times honestly report that it was a US strike, not a euphemistic “Coalition” strike.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 20, 2019
Vijay Prashad
The Coup in Bolivia Has Everything to Do With the Screen You’re Using to Read This
Kenneth Surin
Labor and the UK General Election
Ron Jacobs
The Trumpists’ Attempts at Snark Define Their Day: Impeachment Day Three
George Ochenski
The Walls are Closing in on Donald Trump
Timothy M. Gill
Towards a Democratic Socialist Foreign Policy
Robert Hunziker
Neoliberalism Backfires
Thomas S. Harrington
Let’s Give Three Cheers for Those “Western Ears” 
Michelle Renee Matisons
Freedom, Valor, Love: On Snowden’s Permanent Record
James C. Nelson
How Trump is Warping the Federal Courts: the Case Against Lawrence VanDyke
Rev. William Alberts
Whistleblowing Religion
Chandra Muzaffar
The Coup That Ousted Morales
Mike Garrity
Trump Administration Ignores Court Order Stopping 85,000 Acre Payette Forest Logging and Burning Project, Conservation Groups Sue
Andrew Moss
Raising the Stakes in the Struggle Over Immigration Detention
Dean Baker
Making Andrew Yang Smarter
Lawrence Wittner
The People of the World
November 19, 2019
Ramzy Baroud
How Western Media Bias Allows Israel to Getaway with Murder in Gaza
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Kurds is Still Happening
Dave Lindorff
Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong
Richard Greeman
French Yellow Vests Celebrate First Birthday, Converge With Planned Labor Strikes
Dean Baker
Impeachment is a Kitchen Table Issue
Walden Bello
Is China an “Imperial Power” in the Image of the West?
Jim Britell
Modern Biology and Ecology: the Roots Of America’s Assertive Illiteracy
Sabri Öncü
Non-Financial Private Debt Overhang
John Steppling
Baby Shark Coup
Binoy Kampmark
Open Guidelines: The Foreign Interference Problem in Australian Universities
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Greece and the Struggle for Freedom
Colin Todhunter
Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter
James Graham
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn on the Eve of the Debate
Elliot Sperber
Scrutiny – From Scruta
November 18, 2019
Olivia Arigho-Stiles
Protestors Massacred in Post-Coup Bolivia
Ashley Smith
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Macho Camacho: Jeffery R. Webber and Forrest Hylton on the Coup in Bolivia
Robert Fisk
Michael Lynk’s UN Report on Israeli Settlements Speaks the Truth, But the World Refuses to Listen
Ron Jacobs
Stefanik Stands By Her Man and Roger Stone Gets Convicted on All Counts: Impeachment Day Two
John Feffer
The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Shock Therapy and the Rise of Trump
Stephen Cooper
Another Death Penalty Horror: Stark Disparities in Media and Activist Attention
Bill Hatch
A New Silence
Gary Macfarlane
The Future of Wilderness Under Trump: Recreation or Wreckreation?
Laura Flanders
#SayHerName, Impeachment, and a Hawk
Ralph Nader
The Most Impeachable President vs. The Most Hesitant Congress. What Are The Democrats Waiting For?
Robert Koehler
Celebrating Peace: A Work in Progress
Walter Clemens
American Oblivion
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail