Revolution #264, April 1, 2012
The Massacre in Kandahar, Afghanistan
And the Terror of U.S. Occupation
In the early morning hours of March 11, villagers in the Panjwai district, a very poor area of Kandahar in south Afghanistan, were hit with a bloody rampage that left 16 dead—nine children, four women, and three men. The perpetrator of this terror was a U.S. Army sergeant from an American base near the village.
It was 3 a.m. and most of the villagers were in their houses, asleep. The killer pulled one boy from his sleep, dragged him to the doorway, and shot him dead, one survivor remembered. Then he came back inside and put a gun inside the mouth of another child.
And the soldier went to another village, where he killed more people. Some victims, including children, had stab wounds. Gul Bashra, mother of a two-year-old victim, said, “They [Americans] killed a child who was two years old. Was this child a Taliban? Believe me, I have not seen a two-year-old Taliban yet.”
Abdul Samad lost 11 members of his family, including his wife and eight children, all shot in the head. The U.S. soldier poured a chemical over some of the bodies and burned them. The family had returned to the area recently, after fleeing in 2009 because of the violence caused by the “surge” in U.S. troops and military operations ordered by President Obama. The area was now safe, they were told. “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us,” Samad said.
The U.S. kept the killer’s identity secret for a few days, and then brought him back to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He has now been identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and has been charged under U.S. military law with 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder.
Mass Murder, Rape, and Torture—the American Way of War
Obama said about the massacre, “The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous, and it’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military.” Just the opposite is true. Far from being “unacceptable” to those who rule this country, there is a long, ugly history of depraved and ruthless acts against the people by U.S. troops serving the interests of those rulers, from the beginning of this country to the present.
To give just a few examples from this monstrous record:
- Genocidal attacks on Native Americans, such as the 1864 massacre by the Colorado Cavalry at Sand Creek, where the troops “used their knives, ripped open women, clubbed little children, knocked them in the head with their rifle butts…”
- The 1899 invasion of the Philippines, when Brig. Gen. Jacob Smith told his men, “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.”
- The deliberate targeting of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in 1945, killing more than 210,000 people, almost all civilians.
- The 1968 massacre at My Lai village during the Vietnam War, where U.S. troops killed everyone in sight—mostly women, children, and elderly—raped women, and mutilated the bodies of victims.
- The 2006 rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza by U.S. troops in Iraq who had earlier killed her mother, father, and five-year-old sister; the soldiers then set fire to Abeer’s body.
- The torture, degradation, and outright murder of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, including U.S. soldiers posing for photos next to dead prisoners or prisoners being tortured.
- U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three killed Taliban in Afghanistan (as shown in a video that went viral on the Internet this January)—a war crime under international laws that prohibit the degrading treatment of bodies of those killed in war.
No, the March 11 massacre in Kandahar was NOT an “aberration” or just a matter of a “rogue” soldier who may have “snapped” from too much stress. This latest U.S. outrage is linked to and exposes a military culture in which troops are taught and trained to become cold-blooded torturers and killers in service of the aims and needs of U.S. imperialism through wars of conquest. A military culture in which “the enemy” is viewed and treated as sub-human—as “gooks” and “ragheads” and “hadjis” who deserve the atrocities brought down on them. This is applied not just to enemy combatants, but to whole civilian populations, including children and especially women who, as “trophies of war,” are the victims of rape, mutilation, and gruesome murders.
A Military That Serves the U.S. Empire
U.S. officials claim the Kandahar massacre was an act of a “lone gunman acting on his own.” There is a whole long history of U.S. attempts to cover up massacres committed by its troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere—so no one should believe what Obama, his generals, and their mouthpieces say about this incident.
But whatever the case, this latest U.S. massacre is NOT a result of just a “lone gunman.” The sergeant was a part of a force of some 100,000 U.S. troops who occupy this oppressed country with tremendous brutality and terror—both high-tech, using Predator drones and other ultra-modern weaponry, as well as vicious killings, rapes, tortures, and other atrocities on the ground. And the troops in Afghanistan are part of a force that employs reactionary violence around the globe to enforce and extend the interests of the U.S. empire.
The U.S. military and the allied NATO forces in Afghanistan—and the way they fight—are in the most basic sense defined by the exploitative and oppressive world relations they represent and enforce. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is a war of empire, a war of domination, a war AGAINST the real interests of the people of Afghanistan. That is why brutality, murder, and civilian massacres remain as core elements of their war.
It is long past time for people broadly in the U.S. to face up to the crimes being carried out—in their name—in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The choice is clear: complicity in these horrors through silence and willful ignorance—or standing up for what’s right and with the people of the world, and building mass opposition to the U.S. wars, as part of the struggle against this whole murderous capitalist-imperialist system.
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