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Reality from the Carrier Flight Deck, the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ground Zero: a Day in October 2001

Prof. Marc W. Herold, The Afghan Victim Memorial Project

lta-image006.jpg

January 1, 2008

Reality from the Carrier Flight Deck, the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ground Zero: a Day in October 2001

 by

 Marc W. Herold
Department of Economics

University of New Hampshire

Durham, N.H. 03824

E-mail: Marc.Herold@unh.edu

 January 1, 2008

  

From the flight deck and the skies over Afghanistan

 

Lt. Ashley, age 26, flew in the two-seater Navy F-14 Tomcats off the carrier USS Carl Vinson during October 7, 2001 – January 2002. She was the only female pilot in the Black Lions Squadron on board the Vinson (though she is not in the front seat). The F-14 Tomcat was made famous in the film, Top Gun. She dropped 500 lb, 1,000lb and 2,000 lb laser and satellite-guided bombs daily above 15,000 feet high on Afghanistan. The ten Tomcats in the Black Lions on the Vinson made 40-50 sorties daily over Afghanistan. After one mission, Ashley remarked: "I was smiling. I had dropped by bombs. They had definitely hit….I was smiling at the fact that I had done my thing for the country."[1] The photo depicts Ashley gearing up for a mission on October 18, 2001.

 

 

Far up above any possible anti aircraft threat and dropping technology-guided bombs, the skills required in the "old fashioned 'airmanship’ are utterly redundant, but the technical wizardry makes for great media televised virtual reality. The back-seater is largely superfluous…and women are the equals of men in today’s "feminized" U.S. Navy?[2] The weapons which Lt. Ashley watches fall with absolutely no danger to herself - the range of the dreaded Stinger missile is only 15,700 feet - rain destruction far below upon the enemy and frequently civilians (as amply documented here in The Afghan Victim Memorial Project), real people with names like Nazirullah, Mahtab, Abdul Wasaj, Nurgessa, etc. .

 

From the Pentagon briefing room in Washington D.C.: Thursday, October 18th the official story 

 

Strike forces: 10 bombers and 80 Navy strike aircraft (from three aircraft carrier battle groups in the Arabian Gulf)

Pre-planned targets: 18 targets including a communication center in Jalalabad, 5 garrisons in Kandahar, 3 garrisons around Jalalabad and another 9 around Kabul.

 On October 19th, Pentagon spokesman, Admiral Stufflebeem reported, "Today is the 13th day of operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Let me give you some more information about what we did. On Thursday we struck 18 planned target areas. Those included airfields and air defenses; AAA sites, including dispersed armor and radar at those sites; ammunition and vehicle storage depots; artillery camps; troop deployment sites; as well as military training facilities, including armored vehicles, trucks and buildings. The CINC used over 90 strike aircraft. About 75 of those were carrier-based tactical jets; less than five are shore-based tactical aircraft; and about 10 land-based bombers."

In the course of the press conference, a couple revealing exchanges ensued illustrating Pentagon-Speak.

 Stufflebeem: We have an image of the Kabul military barracks west to show you. This is located in central Afghanistan. It's one of the training facilities and garrisons serving the central Taliban corps. The facility consists of barracks, support buildings, and vehicle maintenance and storage. As you can see, numerous armored vehicles and buildings have been destroyed. While the level of the occupancy of these facilities is unknown, destroying them makes them unavailable for the Taliban use during the winter months.

We also have several weapon-system video clips to show you.

Q: When was that, Admiral? Was that yesterday?

Stufflebeem: That was yesterday, as the video.

The first target you'll see in the video is a surface-to-surface missile-support facility near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. This facility supports missile launch and stowage. This first clip shows the support vehicles being struck.

Q: Do we know what kind of missiles?

Stufflebeem: I don't know. I'm sorry. We can get that for you. Surface to surface. I don't want to guess. We'll get you the answer to that one.

Q: These are planes that carry bombs, though; right?

Q: No, no. I'm talking about the missiles that were hit.

Stufflebeem: In terms of the target.

In the next clip, a tank is protecting a facility, and is taken out.

Q: Where is that? Also the same place?

Stufflebeem: This is in the same facility.

Q: Excuse me, Admiral. You said it was a SAM missile support facility, and then you said --

Stufflebeem: Surface to surface.

Q: It was a surface you did say? Beg your pardon.

Stufflebeem: The last two clips are targets at the Kandahar training facility. The first is a barracks building in the foreground, hit by one coalition aircraft, while another in the background is struck by a second aircraft.

In the second clip, the view is from one aircraft targeting or lasing a maintenance building, and you'll see a second aircraft's bomb hit near this target just before this jet's bombs strike this building.

Q: What was the target on that, just the building?

Stufflebeem: These were barracks. Barracks and a maintenance building.

Q: Another quick follow-up. Yesterday -- among the targets hit yesterday was a moving vehicle that passed by the area where CNN was operating in near Kandahar. Can you give us any indication of what that -- who was believed to be in that moving vehicle?

Stufflebeem: I don't -- I'm sorry. I don't have anything on that, Jamie. I don't know.

Q: Admiral, yesterday there were photographs coming out from the Kabul area showing that individual homes were hit. Can you talk about whether or not the United States has determined that the Taliban, for whatever reason, are using individual homes for military purposes? Or do we have information, perhaps, that these are the residences of Taliban leaders?

Stufflebeem: I don't have any specific information on those homes. I will say that we do track very carefully where we put our weapons, and if it -- the rare occasion that we aren't exactly on a target, we admit that. We regret that.

It is also not inconceivable that a propaganda organ of the Taliban might use this tactic that you're referring to their advantage. But I have not personally seen any reports that indicate that they've done that.

Q: Admiral, on the Kandahar barracks, to what extent are those barracks still occupied, with all the bombs falling, or are they just empty buildings at this point? And specifically, given that it's in Kandahar, to what extent are al Qaeda forces integrated with Taliban and might have been in that barracks?

Stufflebeem: Well, we don't know who would have been in that barracks. We know it's flattened now, so we know that it's no longer available for anybody to occupy. That is part of systematically taking away that military capability. There now is not a garrison at that location to come back to, to refresh, to retrain, and re-equip in.

Q: So it doesn't really matter if it was occupied or not?

Stufflebeem: It does not. It is -- it was a designated military target of the Taliban. There may or may not have been somebody there, they may or may not have been associated with al Qaeda, but it is no longer available to them.  

Wall Street Journal reporters added that land-based F-15E fighter jets (flying out of Oman and Kuwait) had joined the fray, hitting suspected sites of the Taliban's 55th "Batallion" (sic).[3] In addition, U.S. Defense officials admitted that an unmanned RQ-1 Predator spy plane armed with two Hellfire anti-tank missiles had been deployed on the 18th for the first time. Operated remotely, the drone's main value as an armed vehicle is that it can be used quickly to strike because it is collecting near to real-time intelligence. The Predator carries two color video cameras and can remain airborne for more than forty hours.[4]

 The Center for Defense Intelligence reported, "heavy air strikes on Kandahar and daytime raids occurred in Kabul were aimed at a military base and air defenses; strikes were reported against a Taliban tank unit. In addition to targeting troops and weapons, attack the Taliban's elite 55th (055) Afghan Arab Brigade, made up mostly of al Qaeda fighters, and others who have been driven out of hiding by bombing. TV stations and terrorist camps were likely targets in Jalalabad."

 The 55th Brigade, numbering some 5,000 troops financed and trained by bin Laden, had operated on the Old Road front north of Kabul since 1996, but later shifted to Kandahar where it was stationed when the air war started.[5] U.S. bombing and strafing by AC-130s was specifically targeting the 55th.

 

From the ground zero (level) where the U.S. bombs struck

 The BBC News reported that at least three cities had been hit on the 18th: Kabul, Kandahar, and Khogyani/Jalalabad.[6] I calculate that between 27-36 civilians died under U.S. bombs on Thursday, October 18, 2001.


A quick view from ground zero in Kabul:


Caption : KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Afghans recover the dead (covered with cloth on the right and back) outside a destroyed house in Qala-e-Zaman Khan area in Kabul October 18, 2001, after American planes bomb the capital for the whole day. At least six civilians including women and children died as US bombs hit several residential areas of the Afghan capital [Photo by Shah Marai, copyright 2001 by AFP and ClariNet]. Source: http://www.ummah.com/inewsletter/massacres/afghanistan/index3.htm

The U.S. attacks on October 18th killed civilians in three areas of Kabul, one site in Nangarhar province and hit areas of Kandahar killing and injuring people. A huge fire blazed early Thursday morning near Kabul airport as U.S. jets launched new attacks. A Navy F/A-18 dropped a 1'000 lb bomb on the neighborhood of Qalaye Zaman Khan, in eastern Kabul, missing a Taliban tank garrison located several hundred meters away. The Afghan Islamic Press reported 8 died in this attack.[7] The attack destroyed 3-6 homes and killed at least 6 civilians - including 5 members of Nazirullah’s family (a woman and 4 children).[8] RAWA reported,

 "3 houses were destroyed in Qala-e-Zaman Khan. 5 members of one family were killed which included 4 women and a child."[9]

 

Both RAWA and Agence France Presse reported that a young girl was killed in the eastern suburb of Kabul called Macroyan.[10] A U.S jet dropped a bomb upon a nearby military base. The AFP reporter said, "The explosion was very heavy. It shattered windows of houses in the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood."[11] The target was a small Taliban tank garrison.

 

 

 

 

In memory of

 

Nazirullah family 5 members

Mahtab’s mother-in-law

died at noon on October 18, 2001

 

In the Qalaye-Zaman neighborhood of eastern Kabul. A 1,000 lb bomb destroyed six homes in eastern Kabul. The U.S. bomb killed Abdullah Nazirullah’s grandmother, sister, brother, sister-in-law and mother. The bomb missed a Taliban garrison situated more than 100 meters away. A year later Nazirullah lived next to the rubble of his former home caring for this three-year-old surviving son whose head was injured in the U.S. bombing. The bombs also wrecked Mahtab’s home, killing her mother-in-law with flying shrapnel. Abdullah, 27, added, "this is inhuman and unjust. Those people who did this will suffer a worse fate."[12]

 

A U.S Navy F/A-18 drops four 1,000 lb "precision" bombs, killing 5-8 civilians

At 3:23 P.M. two other U.S. bombs struck the Badam Bagh tank base and the adjacent residential area in northern Kabul where the Taliban 37th commando unit's garrison was located. The bomb destroyed a building and ammunition dump which exploded, killing 7 shopkeepers and passersby.[13]

  

IPB Image


Kabul, October 18 at 03:23pm (local time) two bombs hit the surrounding areas of Badam Bagh (37th commando unit of Taliban). It is located close to residential areas.

 Behroz Khan of Pakistan's The News, reported from Peshawar that U.S. planes bombed an oil depot in the populated Khair Khana district of Kabul, hit the airport and surrounding areas, and struck military camps south of Kabul in Rishkor, Charasyab (an old Hekmatyar site) and Ghund-i-Talimi.[14]

 The power supply system of Jalalabad was hit by a bomb and the city's TV station tower was destroyed on Thursday night.[15] The village of Khogyani, 40 kms southwest of Jalalabad, a center of poppy growing, was struck, killing another 10 civilians according to the Taliban.[16]

 Kandahar was without power and water for five days as a result of the U.S. bombing. Bombs hit a Taliban guesthouse, the main prison, and destroyed four homes. Al Jazeera reported that by the 19th, Taliban air defenses in Kandahar had turned silent,

 

"The anti-aircraft guns are totally silent........the Taliban do not have sophisticated weapons to confront the missiles and the shells which are raining down on Kandahar day and night."[17]

 

At 10 A.M., a bomb fell in a field where 10 year-old Abdul Wasaj was playing football, injuring a dozen people.  

 

In Sympathy for

 

 

Abdul Wasaj, 10

 

 

 

 

injured at 10 A.M. on October 18, 2001

 

in Kandahar. Abdul had been playing football in front of his home with ten other boys. A U.S. bomb suddenly exploded throwing him several feet into the air. He said, "I heard a boom and went unconscious." The large blast created a thick dust cloud that hid dozens of wounded, said his father, Ghulam Gilani, 40. "It took a while to find him because he wasn’t crying out like the others and he was buried in sand. I thought he must be dead." Mr. Gilani carried his son to a local hospital which could do nothing. So he took his son to Quetta without anesthetic. "He cried all the way."

 

 

A U.S. "precision" bomb hits children playing in a neighborhood

 

  

In memory of

 

Nurgessa Gul’s husband

Nurgessa Gul’s 2 sons

 

 

died around October 18, 2001

in a neighborhood of Kandahar. U.S warplanes bombed and strafed Kandahar relentlessly during the week of October 15th. A projectile hit the Gul home, killing Nurgessa Gul’s husband, Agha Gul, and her two sons. Residents of Kandahar walk around rubble in a street after a U.S. "precision" raid on Friday, October 19, 2001 (Al Jazeera photo reproduced by Reuters). Abdul Rahim, 45, resident of Kandahar was injured on Friday night in the U.S. airstrike. His relatives brought him to a hospital in Quetta for treatment (photo available by Arshad Butt, A.P.).

 

U.S. "precision" strikes in Kandahar

   

 

In a widely reported attack, U.S. planes fired upon a moving vehicle at night outside the Kandahar offices of CNN-Al Jazeera, damaging the office heavily but killing no one as the employees had sought cover outside from the on-going attacks.[18] Al Jazeera's Youssef Al-Shouli who arrived in Kandahar late Wednesday night said he knew of three government buildings, including the road maintenance department building, that were hit.[19] In the evening, he reported,

 "there is very great tension in Kandahar, which was the target of four raids in 30 minutes."[20]

 The fierce bombing of Kandahar, led 3'500 panicked Afghan refugees to pour across the Chaman border on the following day of October 19th, the largest daily influx since the U.S. bombing began.[21] Catherine Philp of The Times reported from the Chaman border crossing on the utter fear caused in Kandahar by the low-flying AC-130 gunship which had been strafing the city with machinegun and cannon fire.[22] Phlip wrote,

Before there were breaks in the bombing, but now it is all the time, it hardly stops," sobbed Hamida Ahmad, 26, as she pushed her two young sons past the border guards. After a night crouching in the dark, they had set off with other family members for the border. "When we left our house in the morning, the raids were still going on. The children started screaming as soon as we stepped out of the house and saw the planes over us in the sky… That fear only intensified when most of the remaining Taliban fighters, mainly Arabs from the 55 Brigade, moved into civilian buildings around the city to avoid strikes on their quarters. Mr Ullah gave in to his wife’s pleading to move the family to Pakistan. "The Americans have to be very careful if they want people to believe it is only the Taleban they are trying to destroy," Mr Ullah said.

 Taliban officials reported that at least 12 people were killed and 20 injured during the day of air strikes upon Kandahar.[23]

 The Pentagon and U.S. State Department sought quite successfully to disappear Afghan civilian casualties. Flying over 15,000 feet high, U.S. pilots were (are) oblivious to such disturbing detail. On the ground, a young man in Kaul said to an Al-Jazeera reporter, pointing to his grandmother's foot, which he had just removed from under the rubble in Qalaye-Zaman,

 The planes drop leaflets assuring us and saying America is helping us, and then we see this.[24] 

Abdullah, 27, added,  

This is inhuman and unjust. Those people who did this will suffer a worse fate. 

 

[1] Martin Bentham and Adam Lusher, "I was Smiling: I had dropped my Bombs, They hit," Telegraph (October 21, 2001) at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/10/21/wmumb21.xml&sSheet=/news/2001/10/21/ixhome.html

[2] from Gerald L. Atkinson, "War as Entertainment: Was as Radical Feminist Propaganda" (March 4, 2002) at http://www.newtotalitarians.com/WarAsEntertainment.html

 [3] Greg Jaffe and Chip Cummins, "Rumsfeld Sees Limited Gains From Raids as Pilots Continue Strikes Against Taliban," Wall Street Journal [October 19, 2001] at http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2001/011019-attack01.htm

[4] "US Uses Unmanned Spy Plane on Afghan," Agence France-Presse [October 19, 2001 at 00:56 IST]

[5] details on the 55th can be read at Rohan Gunaratna, "55 Brigade: Arab Legion of Elite Troops is Key Target," Sunday Times (October 21, 2001) at http://www.mail-archive.com/kominform@lists.eunet.fi/msg09716.html

[6] "Three Afghan Cities Bombed," BBC News [October 18, 2001 at 15:17 GMT] at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/south_asia/1605880.stm

[7] "At Least Six Dead as US Bombs Hit Afghan Homes: Witnesses," Agence France-Presse [October 18, 2001 at 9:13 PM Manila time] at http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/lnacademic/results/...docNo=5

[8] "Bush Signals Switch to Ground Assault: Civilian Toll Mounts," Dawn [October 19, 2001]

[10] "List of incidents where US bombs have struck non-military targets," Agence France Presse (October 28, 2001)

[11] "Fire blazes in Kabul as US jets launch fresh bombing runs," Agence France Presse (October 18, 2001)

 [12] "At least six dead as US bombs fit Afghan homes: Witnesses," Agence France Presse (October 18, 2001)

 [13] "Seven Killed as US jets hit arms dump," Evening Times (Glasgow) (October 18, 2001)

[14] "US Broadens Attack Eyeing Fall of Mazar. More Civilians Killed in Fresh Attacks," The News.Jang [October 18, 2001]

[15]"U.S. Targets Taliban Troops, Barracks," CNN.com [October 17, 2001 at 9:03 PM EDT]

[16] see Agence France-Presse, "6 Civilians Dead as US Bombs Hit Afghan Homes," Times of India [October 19, 2001]

[17] "Taliban Air Defenses Turn Silent Under Assault," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 16:39 IST)

[18] "Heavy Bombing Reported in Kandahar; CNN Office Hit," CNN.com (October 18, 2001 at 8:28 PM EDT) at http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/10/18/ret.afghan.attack/

[19] CNN.com, op. cit.

[20] "US Cruise Missiles Hit Kandahar: Al-Jazeera," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 02:18 IST)

[21] "Panic-Struck Afghans Cross into Pak in Hordes," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 15:27 IST)

[22] Catherine Philp, "Fleeing Refugees turn against US over gunships," The Times (October 18, 2001) at http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/1018-04.htm

[23] Kathy Gannon and Amir Shah, "U.S. Airstrikes Pound Afghanistan," Associated Press (October 18, 2001)

[24] "Civilian Casualties of U.S. Bombs in Afghanistan Continue to Rise," IslamOnline.net (October 18, 2001)


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