Truth and Recklessness on Afghanistan

During the debate Thursday evening, Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of “hurting our cause” in Afghanistan with a statement he made in August that “all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians.”

Now, Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause.

That’s not what we’re doing there. We’re fighting terrorists, and we’re securing democracy, and we’re building schools for children there so that there is opportunity in that country, also. There will be a big difference there, and we will win in — in Afghanistan, also.

Palin brought up Obama’s remarks again the next day during an interview with Fox News:

Speaking to Fox News on Friday, Sarah Palin indicated for the first time that she does not consider Barack Obama qualified to be commander in chief and sharply criticized him for saying last year that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are “just air raiding villages and killing civilians.”

Calling Obama “reckless,” Palin said that where she comes from Obama’s remarks “disqualify someone from consideration for the next commander-in-chief.”

“Some of his comments that he’s made about the war, that I think, in my world disqualify someone from consideration for the next commander-in-chief,” said Palin. “Some of the comments he’s made about Afghanistan, what we are doing there, ‘just air raiding villages and killing civilians.’ That’s reckless.”

It should not surprise anyone that Gov. Palin seems so shocked at the idea that U.S. air strikes are killing Afghan civilians. After all, despite her transparent attempt at a do-over after looking up the answers, it’s perfectly plain that she doesn’t even know the names of any newspapers or magazines, much less read them.

The reality is that Obama’s assertion is true — and not only is it true that civilians are being killed in U.S. air strikes, but the numbers of such deaths is increasing sharply and seriously compromising stated U.S. goals in Afghanistan.

A year ago, 60 Minutes reported on the effect aerial bombing had on one village in Afghanistan that was bombed in March, 2007:

Our journey took us through Afghanistan, up the Shomali Plain north of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban are active in the area, so 60 Minutes hired Panjshiri mercenaries to cover our trip. The scene of the air strike is a village in the hills above Kapisa Province.

The 60 Minutes team found the dead buried in a cornfield. It appears there were no enemy combatants. It was four generations of one family, all killed in the air strike: an 85-year-old man, four women, and four children, ranging in age from five years to seven months. One boy survived. The night of the bombing, seven-year-old Mujib happened to be staying with his uncle, Gulam Nabi.

“Some of the bodies were missing a hand or a leg or half a head. We recognized one of them only by the clothes she was wearing,” Nabi remembers.

Nabi recognized Mujib’s mother among the dead.

“I saw my mom, my sisters, and my brother and my grandfather were dead. And our house was destroyed,” the little boy remembers.

Pelley also interviewed Hamid Karzai, and told him about this boy’s answer when Pelley asked him how he feels about Americans:

“To return just for a moment to the bombing at Kapisa,” Pelley addresses President Karzai. “A rocket was fired at a U.S. base there. It missed. No one was hurt. And yet, the response was to drop 4,000 pounds of explosives on that neighborhood.”

“That is wrong,” the president says.

“They hit what they were aiming at,” Pelley points out.

“That is a mistake,” Karzai says. “I know that. It may be at times careless. A careless mistake, but not deliberate.”

“There is one young boy who is the sole survivor from that house,” Pelley tells Karzai. “A seven-year-old boy named Mujib. We asked him what he thought of the Americans and as you might expect, he said, ‘I hate them.’”

“Naturally,” Karzai agrees.

“That doesn’t bode well for the future,” Pelley says.

“Yeah, it doesn’t,” Karzai responds. “That’s why I’m so strongly asking for rethink of the use of air force. And this little boy I will call to my office. I will share his pain with him, as do the rest of the Afghan people. And try to get him a future.”

And Mujib did meet President Karzai, sometime during the first half of 2008. Then, on August 25, 90 civilians, including many women and children, were killed in a U.S. bombing raid on a small village near Herat, in western Afghanistan.  Karzai now says his government “has demanded a review of the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in the country.”

Atrocities like this one, combined with official indifference — and worse — on the part of U.S. officials, is what’s “hurting our cause” in Afghanistan.

The link to Chris Floyd is via Glenn Greenwald, whose post on this issue is also a must-read.

One Response to “Truth and Recklessness on Afghanistan”

  1. Chief says:

    This has been cut from near the end of Glenn Greenwald’s 11 Sep piece.

    Civilian deaths — which the civilians may well consider murder — tend to turn people against us.

    Vietnam all over again. Every dead body was a VC.

    The U.S. does not have nearly enough people who speak the local languages and know the local customs. Hell the CIA and the DIA cannot find enough qualified linguists.

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