Revolution#142, September 7, 2008

Revolution #142, September 7, 2008

The Massacre in Nawabad and the Blood on U.S. Hands

On August 21, U.S. and allied forces had carried out a massacre of Afghani civilians in the village of Nawabad in the Shendan District. While the U.S. denied, and has continued to deny that the massacre happened, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported on August 25 that its human rights team found that about 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed by U.S. air strikes.

The UN team met with the District Governor and local elders and interviewed people from a number of households in the village. Local residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims. The team observed seven or eight houses that were totally destroyed and serious damage to many others.

According to witnesses, villagers had been preparing for a ceremony the next morning in memory of a man who died some time before. Extended families from two tribes were visiting the village, and there were lights of fires as the adults cooked food for the ceremony.

A member of a commission sent by the U.S.-installed Afghan government to investigate the deaths, said that the children killed were between three-months and 16-years old and that all were killed as they slept. "It was a heart breaking scene," he told Carlotta Gall of the International Herald Tribune. The death toll may even rise higher since heavy lifting gear is needed to uncover all the remains.

In Nawabad, U.S. denial and cover-up began quickly, and continues. The U.S. claims that 25 militants, including a Taliban commander, and only five civilians were killed during the raid.  White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters on August 25th that U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan "take every precaution to try to avoid innocent civilian casualties."

After the massacre, hundreds of civilians demonstrated demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, shouting anti-US slogans at Afghan soldiers as they arrived in the area to bring aid to the families of the victims. "People didn't accept the aid and started throwing stones at the soldiers, saying the Afghan army is our enemy, we don't want anything from our enemies," a village elder told the Reuters news agency.

Carrying banners reading “Death to America,” villagers torched a police van and overturned a delivery truck in the area. A protester said, "We will continue our demonstration until the international community listen to us and bring those who carried out yesterday's attack to justice."

A Deliberate Policy of Mass Murder from the Sky

The atrocities committed by the U.S./NATO forces--and largely covered up and hidden from the public in the U.S. --are not isolated incidents, or the actions of rogue troops. They are the actions of a brutal occupying army that relies on terror in order to defend and expand the interests of U.S. Imperialism.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that this is not the only massacre in this very same area in recent days. On July 17, 2008 more than 30 civilians were killed and wounded in a similar incident.  The US/NATO and Afghan government forces in the last six months have killed over 255 civilians. Many civilians have also been killed by Taliban forces, whose reactionary aims and outlook also include a disregard for the lives of civilians.

On June 14, according to the BBC Persian service, thousands of residents of the southeastern province of Paktia demonstrated against attacks on civilians by Afghan and foreign forces. Witnesses said that the protests continued for three days. The protests were a response to the killing of at least 18 members of an extended family in an air strike. One protester also said that 11 members of another family were killed during a previous air attack. Although the demonstrations started peacefully, they turned bloody when the police fired on the protesters, killing at least one and wounding 12 more.

One of the worst massacres of civilians came on July 6 in eastern Nangarhar province. The U.S.-led coalition denied initial reports that it had bombed a wedding party and insisted that all of the dead were "militants." BBC reporter Alastair Leithead reached the village a week later. According to his report, filed July 14, villagers from one valley were crossing a mountain pass to reach the adjacent valley for a wedding. In three consecutive bombing runs, an American jet hit first a group of children, then a group of women, and then a group of three girls, including the bride, who had escaped the second bombing. Of the approximately 52 people killed, almost all were women and children who were escorting the bride.

In the July 6 massacre, American authorities tried to defend their action by claiming that the wedding party was actually a Taliban troop movement. In fact, as A World To Win News Service noted, "In fact, American aerial attacks on wedding parties have been a hallmark of the current occupation, just as they were during the Soviet occupation, since the invaders consider any large gathering of Afghans inherently hostile."

Despite the civilian death toll from the bombings the U.S. has expanded them in recent years and Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been loudly arguing for even more air strikes in Afghanistan. According to American military figures, civilian deaths in airstrikes increased from 116 in 2006 to 321 in 2007, as the total number of bombs dropped has doubled.  Afghan officials claim the number is much higher, saying that in the past two months at least 165 civilians have been killed in four American airstrikes.

As we have written, "The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was driven by reactionary imperialist interests and ideology from the beginning. This war was never about simply capturing Osama bin Laden in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Its focus was replacing the Taliban regime with one more suitable to U.S. interests, which included defeating Islamic fundamentalism and gaining strategic control of this crossroads of Central Asia, where an intense great power rivalry over the control of oil and natural gas resources and pipelines is taking place." [Obama’s Foreign Policy: Steering U.S. Imperialism Through Dangerous Waters, by Larry Everest, Revolution #137, July 27, 2008]

What kind of system is it that occupies a country like Afghanistan, and carries out these kinds of massacres of civilians on their way to weddings, and children in their sleep? And what does it mean when the 2 candidates for president vie for the distinction of being the most aggressive in the U.S. "war on terror" and occupation of Afghanistan.

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