October 26, 2007
Do Bush and his people ever wonder why
more and more recruits are joining the movements to fight against
US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? The overall policy of Shock
and Awe has a great deal to do with it. Washington's deeply-held
belief that bullying is the solution to making America the world's
greatest country is a prime cause of widespread resentment and
loathing. But of even more effectiveness in revving the engines
of hatred for the US are the stories and pictures that go round
the world concerning the slaughter of women, children and innocent
men in attacks by US soldiers and aircraft.
Looking back to my military
past I remember what the infantry did. Their duty -- their ethos
as soldiers, when engaged by the enemy -- was described something
like this: "To close with and kill the enemy in any weather
and in any terrain by day or by night." That's the way soldiers
were trained in the long-ago.
But now it appears the slogan
is "If you think you're being shot at, blaze away
at anything that moves or, better still, call in airstrikes that
will kill lots of people, many of whom will be women and children."
After machine-gunning a dozen
or so civilians you call in a Public Relations' media strike
that says you only fired two or three rounds that couldn't have
hit anyone. Or if you gave the jet jockeys employment by calling
for a few thousand-pound bombs that smashed houses to rubble
and killed a dozen or so women and children, it doesn't matter
a bit, because the PR robomouths will declare that you didn't
do it. But sometimes the inconvenient truth comes out:
" 'I saw everything,' said Reuters correspondent
Noor Mohammad Sherzai. 'I saw the suicide bomb attack . . . then
the Americans started firing.' A spokesman for U.S.-led coalition
forces said only one soldier had opened fire. "A US servicemen
fired two shots and those shots were away from the crowd and
not directed toward the crowd," said Major Joe Klopple.
Sherzai and other reporters at the scene said many shots were
fired and Afghan police were among those fleeing the scene. 'I
was running away as fast as I could, but some of the police overtook
me,' Sherzai said. 'A bullet hit the ground between my legs while
I was running,' said Takiullah Taki, a cameraman for private
Afghan channel Tolo TV. 'Some Afghan national police wanted to
shoot back, but others said that would make the situation deteriorate
further so they did not'."
OK; so who do we believe? Do
we trust Mr Sherzai and Mr Taki and the others who were shot
at by US troops, or Major Joe Klopple who wasn't there but proclaimed
to the world that only two shots were fired?
Are we to conclude that an
American Army officer told a deliberate lie?
Then there are the scores of
claims that "insurgents" are killed by airstrikes in
which hundreds of ordinary people have been slaughtered in Afghanistan
and Iraq. Just how do US forces know that a precise number of
"insurgents" died in their air strikes? Do ground troops
go in and check their identities? Do "insurgents" carry
identity cards? How are they identifiable? What distinguishes
them from ordinary people? Can the US military explain how ANY
of the people they kill in air strikes can be said to be "insurgents"?
Here's an item from the Washington
Post, which has some extremely brave Iraqis reporting for it:
"BAGHDAD, Oct. 12. The U.S. military's account
of the violence said troops were shot at during the raid and
called in an airstrike in self-defense. In addition to the civilians
killed, the U.S. military estimated that 19 suspected insurgents
died. A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Winfield S. Danielson III,
said the initial death tolls of combatants and civilians were
estimates. Of the 15 civilians initially reported killed, all
were women and children, and it was unclear whether the U.S.
military considered all the males killed to be insurgents."
were blown to pieces because some soldiers said they were shot
at. Now of course they may well have been shot at -- although
none of them were wounded or killed, and we would have certainly
been told about that, if it had happened. But the dead Iraqis
were not convicted insurgents. They weren't even definite insurgents.
They were "suspected" insurgents. Or even "unclear"
insurgents. No matter what they were called, they died, along
with the women and kids. Who cares?
The Bush administration has
no time for lily-livered baloney like internationally-agreed
agreements that declare the killing of civilians to be illegal.
Here is part of what is laid out by "Protocol 1 Additional
to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 . . . General Protection Against
Effects of Hostilities":
"Among others, the following
types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:
- An attack which may be expected
to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians,
damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would
be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military
Then think about this description
of a US attack, given by the New York Times last month:
"As the [football] teams
lined up Thursday for the game [in the dire suburb of Abu Dshir
in Baghdad], neighborhood residents said, a crowd of men gathered
to watch. They lighted a large oil lamp which illuminated the
street, a small shopping area where grocers and fruit vendors
stay open late this time of year. Two American helicopters hovered
overhead. Moments after the game began, the helicopters opened
fire on the crowd, the witnesses said."
"Seven men were killed, Sayyid Malik Abadi, the
head of the district security committee, who arrived at the scene
shortly after the episode, said Friday. He said perhaps an eighth
man had died as well, but too many body parts were scattered
about to be certain exactly how many were killed.
"The helicopters watched,
and they thought it was a gathering and fired on it," Mr.
Abadi said. "They fired rockets. When people started to
run, the helicopters' machine guns began shooting at the people
who were running."
The American military had a
different version of events. A spokesman said that earlier in
the evening American forces had twice observed episodes when
two or three men fired mortars into the neighborhood to the north.
After the second episode, the military called for an airstrike.
"We assess possibly two
or three were killed or wounded," said Maj. Brad Leighton,
a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad. "We
were not able to get an accurate assessment," he added.
"Collateral damage was not observed, but it is a possibility,"
Major Leighton said. "If some innocents were killed, we
Who do we believe? Major Brad
Leighton, who was "not able to get an accurate assessment",
or Ahmad Abdullah, 37, a taxi driver, who next day "stood
watching the coffins being loaded back onto the trucks to be
driven for burial to Najaf, a city holy to Shiites. "It
was a real massacre of innocent people, without clear reason,"
he said. "I lost my brother-in-law -- he was the father
of three kids and he was just watching the game. May God revenge
the bloodshed of those martyrs."
There is no doubt that the
deaths will be revenged. But by whom, and where, and how? Certainly
not through international processes in response to the Geneva
Convention's strictures concerning killing that is "excessive
in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated,"
which are treated with contempt by Bush.
The relatives and friends of
the dead will encourage the youth of the local population to
join the resistance movement and kill as many Americans as they
can. But the atrocities have a much wider effect. Pictures of
shattered bodies of Iraqi and Afghan children rarely if ever
appear on TV screens in the US, but they are seen in most countries
in the Middle East and Asia. DVDs are made of them and distributed
cheaply in bazaars from Morocco to Manila. They have an amazing
Young Muslims around the world
are being encouraged to take revenge for the killing of women
and children by US forces. The fires of their hatred are being
fuelled by attacks on civilians. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan
will wreak vengeance within their own countries, but nobody knows
where else there will be revenge for bloodshed.
Brian Cloughley is a former army officer who writes
on political and military affairs. His website is www.briancloughley.com