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Tue

01

May

2007

"No Mercy": Annals of the Afghan Liberation
Tuesday, 01 May 2007 09:17
by Chris Floyd

Britain's arch-conservative Sunday Telegraph continues to be a source of some of the most revealing reports about George W. Bush's "War on Terror." In its unquenchably pro-war pages, where the news section is just as skewed as the reliably rabid editorials, the ST regularly -- albeit inadvertently -- gives us a glimpse of the true face of the Terror War behind the painted masks of piety worn in Washington and London. We highlighted an example of this a few months ago, when the paper ran what was meant to be a panting, gushing paean to a super-duper Anglo-American unit in Iraq -- and unwittingly revealed the criminal heart of a very dirty "dirty war" being run by the Bush-Blair coalition in the conquered land. (See Ulster on the Euphrates.)

Now the ST has struck again, with another rah-rah piece that peels back some of the drapery obscuring the grisly realities of the "good war" in Afghanistan: US Aircrews Show Taliban No Mercy. The Tory story's political intent is two-fold: to portray the Blair government as a bunch of wussies in its prosecution of the Afghan war, and to exalt the Bush way of dealing with the dusky races, so redolent of the much-lamented Empire in its prime.

But the piece goes beyond the interesting interplay of politics and journalism to a much darker, deeper truth: the degradation of the human spirit in war. This is true in every conflict, of course, even the most limited and justified; but in unending campaigns of conquest and domination like the Terror War, whose ultimate aim is nothing more than the aggrandizement of a predatory elite, the brutalization and coarsening of the forces involved is all the greater. And we can see that in this Telegraph story, which is meant to show American soldiers at their strutting, manly best, but is instead a sad indictment of the Bush Imperium's all-pervading moral rot.

The burden of the piece is this: British forces in the hotly disputed Helmand province were not "ruthless enough in finishing off their targets" when going after the Taliban. They too often refrained from instant, massive retaliation in fear of killing civilians. But now the Americans have come down to show them how it's done, with the "uncompromising use of air power" and orders to "show no mercy" against suspected Taliban fighters. The centerpiece of the story is an attack by Apache helicopter gunships on a boatload of men crossing a Helmand river. Even though the copter crew "didn't have hostile intent or a positive ID from the ground commander," Special Ops told them "that although they could not themselves see the men on the boat, they must be the Taliban who had [earlier] attacked them." And so the Apaches swung in low and opened up with 30mm cannons on the Afghans, who had by this time scrambled to shore.

1st Lt. Jack Denton, 26, described it for the Telegraph: "You can see the person but you can't see the features of his face. The 30mm explode when they hit and kick up smoke and dust. You just see a big dust cloud where the person used to be." One particular dust cloud caught Lt. Denton's attention:

As the helicopters came in to attack, Lt Denton said, one of the men turned to face him and dropped to his knees. "I think he knew that there was no hope," he said. "He was making his peace."
The attack was "typical of a new, aggressive, approach adopted by American forces in southern Afghanistan and particularly in Helmand," said the ST. "Aircrews say they have been told to show no mercy, but to press home their advantage until all their targets have been destroyed."

For a moment, the ST reporter, Gethin Chamberlain, makes a brief feint in the direction of actual journalism, by bringing up a slight caveat about the "no mercy" missions:

The attack, and four other missions against suspected Taliban compounds, are clearly effective, but the stakes are high. Coalition attacks on mistakenly identified targets here, as in Iraq, have left dozens of civilians dead and wounded and can act as a recruiting sergeant for the terrorists.
Even here, of course, Gethin does yeoman service for the Terror War cause, with some perhaps deliberately muddled syntax that leaves the impression that only some few "dozens" of civilians have been killed by Anglo-American air attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, when in fact that number runs into the thousands. Because after all, what are a few dozen innocent lives here or there when you are putting whole countries on the right path? As that old breaker of nations, Josef Stalin, used to say: "When wood is chopped, chips fly."

In any case, such womanish scruples do not trouble the Telegraph's no-mercy Americans:

Capt. Staley [commander of Lt. Denton's Apache] said he had no qualms about pressing home such attacks until no one was left standing and claimed that American pilots were more effective than their British Apache counterparts, who he said flew higher and were less ruthless in finishing off their targets. 'The Brits are good but they don't have the extreme aggression that we do.'"
A prime example of that "extreme aggression" so prized by the Telegraph and by Capt. Staley in the Pentagon and Oval Office was on display in Afghanistan just last month, in Nangarhar province, as David J. Morris reports in Salon.com (America's Dangerous Trigger Finger):

According to an investigation by an Afghan human rights group released on April 14, the Marines, who said they came under small-arms fire after the bombing, went on a rampage, shooting at vehicles and pedestrians along 10 miles of road. At least 12 civilians were killed and another 35 were injured, including one infant and three elderly men. A 16-year-old girl, newly married and carrying a bundle of grass to her family's farmhouse, was shot in the back. A 75-year-old man was shot so many times that his son had trouble recognizing him when he reached the scene.

A few hours after the shootings, the Marines returned to the primary site of the carnage, cordoned it off, and allegedly began removing evidence that it had occurred. Seven journalists representing multiple media outlets complained that the Marines confiscated their equipment and forcibly deleted photographs taken by Afghans working for the Associated Press...One journalist said he was told, "Delete the photos or we'll delete you."

After conducting an initial inquiry into the matter, the American military command in Afghanistan found no evidence that the Marines had come under small-arms fire after the bombing.
Perhaps these Marines too had been ordered to "show no mercy, but to press home their advantage until all their targets have been destroyed" -- even if, as in the Apache attack in Helmland, they "didn't have hostile intent or positive ID from the ground commander" before their "uncompromising use" of firepower. Perhaps if they hadn't turned that 16-year-old girl into a dust cloud -- or had been quicker in destroying the evidence -- they could have claimed that all the dust clouds were Taliban, and gotten a laudatory write-up in the Sunday Telegraph.

But the spiritual degradation does not only show in blatant atrocities like the Nangarhar rampage (or the Haditha rampage in Iraq, or the slaughter of the innocents in Ishaqi). It has permeated the minds of ordinary soldiers carrying out their ordinary duties -- if anything can said to be "ordinary" about Bush's intervention in Afghanistan's long-running civil war on the side of a coalition of war criminals, drug barons, warlords and woman-hating religious fanatics, that is. Witness the Telegraph story's closing words, from young Lt. Denton. The passage is obviously meant to be a bit of gung-ho G.I. bravado of World War II vintage, the kind of line you might hear in an old movie from a cheerful, apple-cheeked, tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold dogface played by, say, Ronald Reagan:

But for now, the American airmen are not losing any sleep over [the threat of being shot down]. "When you are on top of the enemy you look, shoot and it's, 'You die, you die, you die'," Lt Denton said. "The odds are on our side. I really enjoy it. I told my wife, if I could come home every night then this would be the perfect job."
"You die, you die, you die....You can see the person but you can't see the features of his face...You just see a big dust cloud where the person used to be...I really enjoy it...I really enjoy it....You just see a big dust cloud...I really enjoy it...you die, you die...you can't see his face...you die...I really enjoy it."

Even in a justified or unavoidable war,  the thought of killing another human being -- the thought that we, the common human family, have sunk to such a low point, yet again -- should be a matter of deepest tragedy, of enduring regret. It is a terrible thing to have to do, even when compelled by the most extreme necessity. Yet the Terror War is leeching the terror out of this dreadful act.  Because the Terror War has no deeper meaning -- no real purpose beyond loot and power for a few -- it devalues and degrades everything it touches.  To kill a human being is nothing more than stirring up a bit of dust; it's easy -- "the odds are on our side" -- it's fun, "I really enjoy it."

This is the ethos of the War on Terror (on every side of this hydra-headed conflict): "No mercy." "Extreme aggression." "Uncompromising force." And this is the dictum with which Bush now sends his troops into battle -- a directive that echoes almost precisely the instructions given by another "war leader" to his armies as they stood poised to launch a war of aggression based on false pretenses, some 68 years ago:

"Close your hearts to pity."

UPDATE: Yet another example of the effectiveness of the "extreme aggression" ordered by the Bush Administration in its Afghan satrapy cropped up on Sunday -- in the same province where the Marine rampage last month caused a spot of bother. AP reports:

Hundreds of angry protesters chanting “Death to Bush” demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan after six people — including a woman and a teenage girl — were reportedly killed when U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces raided a suspected car bomb cell early Sunday.

The U.S. said four militants were among the dead, but it was the civilian deaths that infuriated the protesters, who carried five bodies to a main highway and blocked traffic with felled trees during the demonstration. The bodies of the women were entirely covered by sheets, while the men’s faces were revealed.

“Their operation was based on incorrect reports, and they carried out a cruel attack on these houses,” said local resident Akhtar Mohammad at the protest. “We are not the enemy, we are not al-Qaida. Why are they attacking us?”

Afghan officials have repeatedly pleaded with the United States and NATO to take care during operations that might harm civilians, and the latest violence is sure to deepen distrust among Afghans, whose support for international forces and the shaky U.S.-backed government is waning.

The protest was held on the same highway where a U.S. marines convoy, fleeing after being hit by a suicide car bomb on March 4, fired indiscriminately on vehicles and pedestrians, killing 12 people.
Thesse primitives just don't get it, do they? We have to keep repeating it for them, over and over, in hopes that our civilized truth will eventually penetrate their dark, barbarian brains. So here we go again, real slow and real simple this time: "Wood chopped, chips fly." That's the way it is. You savvy, haji? So stop all this caterwauling about a bunch of dust clouds. Anyway, what are you going to do about it? "The odds are on our side" -- and we really enjoy it.
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