US atrocities in Afghanistan like in My Lai

This music video, recorded in England, is called Jimmy Cliff at Glastonbury 2011 singing We Don’t Want Another Vietnam in Afghanistan. The lyrics are here.

Turning Point: America’s My Lai Moment In Afghanistan: here.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Afghanistan’s My Lai

13 March 2012

The action of the unidentified US staff sergeant in Panjwai district in Kandahar province, slaughtering at least 18 innocent civilians, including nine children, is a demonstration of both the brutality and the deepening crisis of American imperialism’s war of aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The atrocity recalls, in both its horror and its potential political impact, the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, an even greater act of mass murder that brought home to much of the American population, and particularly to young people, the barbarism of the war in southeast Asia.

The My Lai massacre was first brought to public attention in articles written by Seymour Hersh, then an investigative journalist for the New York Times, which described the killing of hundreds of Vietnamese villagers by a platoon of US soldiers under the command of Second Lieutenant William Calley.

There are obvious differences in detail between the events of March 12, 2012 and those of March 16, 1968, 44 years ago almost to the day. Sunday’s massacre appears to be the work of a lone gunman who, according to press reports, had suffered mental problems in the course of four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If, indeed, media reports of the mass murder suspect suffering from brain damage from his Iraq deployment are true, then that is an indictment of the Pentagon policy of sending even severely wounded soldiers again and again as cannon fodder back to war zones.

At My Lai, some 26 soldiers participated in the killing of 504 civilians. They were following orders by the US high command, which tasked them to destroy the village, burning every home, and identified the entire population as sympathizers of the National Liberation Front, the Vietnamese nationalist insurgents.

The stench of Vietnam, the greatest-ever defeat of American imperialism, now hangs over the whole US-NATO intervention in Afghanistan. The puppet regime in Kabul, like its predecessor in South Vietnam, is the creation of a vast influx of American troops and American dollars, without any significant support in the local population. The leading personnel of the regime are drawn from the most rapacious and unprincipled social types, worried more about fattening their offshore bank accounts than prevailing in a war that they regard as hopeless and for which they are prepared to risk nothing.

In just the past week, there have been reports in the US press of widespread looting of billions in American aid by Afghan cronies of President Hamid Karzai, linked to the failure of the Kabul Bank, and of intervention by Karzai’s top aides to block an investigation of the thieving. The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials are now investigating charges that the Afghan Air Force, created by the Pentagon, has been used to ferry narcotics and illegal weapons around the country—Afghanistan is the source of 90 percent of the world’s opium. Anyone familiar with the history of the Vietnam War will recognize the process of corruption and decay that is the prelude to collapse.

As was the case in Vietnam, fratricide has become a leading cause of death for the occupation forces in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, it was reluctant American conscripts “fragging” particularly brutal or reckless officers with grenades while they slept. In Afghanistan, US-trained Afghan policemen and soldiers have killed dozens of their US and NATO “allies” in a series of what the military describes as “green on blue” attacks. Last week, an Afghan policeman allowed Taliban insurgents to enter a checkpoint and kill nine of his fellow policemen as they slept, then escaped with them.

The parallel between Panjwai and My Lai is a stark refutation of the incessant claims by the administration and the corporate-controlled media that American imperialism is engaged in military interventions around the world for “humanitarian” reasons. First under George W. Bush, then under Barack Obama, US bombs and missiles have rained down on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, and now potentially on Syria and Iran.

The truth is that, like Vietnam, the explosion of American militarism over the past decade has an absolutely criminal character. The US ruling elite is no less brutal and ruthless than in the 1960s. If its methods have become more technologically sophisticated—smart bombs and drone-guided missiles instead of B-52s and napalm—the fundamental imperialist contempt and arrogance toward the people being targeted is the same, inevitably finding expression in the type of savagery meted out on Sunday morning.

In Afghanistan, in particular, Obama has played the main role in the escalation of violence, tripling the US troop presence and extending the war into every corner of that country, as well as across the border into Pakistan. He installed General Stanley McChrystal, who headed the assassination campaign against insurgents in Iraq, to lead a similar effort in Afghanistan, then fired him when he expressed reluctance to use airpower indiscriminately against civilians.

Under McChrystal’s successor, Gen. David Petraeus, US special operations forces greatly increased the night raids that have devastated many Afghan villages. This has been accompanied by mounting outrages, a few of them well-publicized, like the urination on corpses, taking fingers and other body parts of murdered Afghans as “trophies,” and the burning of Korans at Bagram Air Base.

From Rethink Afghanistan blog in the USA:

As of today, the Obama administration and its NATO allies are clear that, despite tons of speculation in Western media, this weekend’s atrocity in Afghanistan will not affect long-standing plans for a drawdown of troops to finish in 2014 with an expected 15-20,000 US soldiers staying in Afghanistan on five or six large permamnet bases for the forseeable future. It’s a plan to paper over the cracks and head for the exits that was set in stone at the London Summit in 2010 and nothing has or will be allowed to derail it – not even the domestic political (not military) necessity of a Surge(TM) or the paper peeling of those cracks in the walls wholesale.

USA: 2 dozen senators call for quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan: here.

Britain: Anti-Vietnam war protests had been rumbling around in the 1960s but March 17 1968 marked a major watershed in the streets of London when violence erupted: here.

18 thoughts on “US atrocities in Afghanistan like in My Lai

  1. Soldier Held in Afghan Massacre Had Brain Injury, Marital Problems

    (WASHINGTON) — The Army staff sergeant who allegedly went on a rampage and killed 16 Afghans as they slept in their homes had a traumatic brain injury at one point and had problems at home after his last deployment, officials told ABC News.

    But the soldier, who is based at Fort Lewis in Washington, was considered fit for combat duty and deployed to Afghanistan in December, officials said.

    What has trickled out about the unidentified suspect is that he is 38, on his fourth combat deployment in 10 years, the first three in Iraq. He was on his first tour in Afghanistan, where he’d been since December.

    When the massacre took place, he was assigned to Camp Belambay, a remote combat outpost where his job was to be protection for Special Operations Forces who were creating local militias. He was not a member of the special forces unit.

    An official told ABC News that the soldier had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the past, either from hitting his head on the hatch of a vehicle or in a car accident. He went through the advanced TBI treatment at Fort Lewis and was deemed to be fine.

    He also underwent mental health screening necessary to become a sniper and passed in 2008. He had routine behavioral health screening after that and was cleared, the official said.

    When the soldier returned from his last deployment in Iraq he had difficulty reintegrating, which included marital problems, the source told ABC News. But officials concluded that he had worked through those issues before deploying to Afghanistan.

    The shootings occurred at 3 a.m. at three houses in two villages in the Panjway district of southern Kandahar province, an area that was once a Taliban safe haven, but has recently become safer after a surge of troops in 2009.

    The soldier left the base in the middle of the night and wore night-vision goggles during the alleged rampage, according to a source.

    The first village was more than a mile south of the base. While there, he allegedly killed four people in the first house. In the second house, he allegedly killed 11 family members — four girls, four boys and three adults.

    He then walked back to another village past his base where he allegedly killed one more person, according to a member of the Afghan investigation team and ABC News’ interviews with villagers.

    All of the victims were shot in their homes, according to villagers and the Afghan president’s office.

    Video from the scene show blood-splattered floors and walls inside a villager’s home and blood-soaked bodies of victims, including the elderly and young children, wrapped in blankets and placed in the backseat of a van. Some of the bodies appear to have been burned.

    John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials “don’t know what his [soldier’s] motivation was. We are looking into that.”

    After the alleged shooting spree, it’s believed the soldier returned to the base and calmly turned himself in. He remains in NATO custody. One source told ABC News that the soldier had “lawyered up” and declined to talk.

    Details about the staff sergeant emerged as the Taliban vowed revenge against “sick-minded American savages” after the mass killing.

    Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


  2. Another Vietnam? Isn’t it a little too late for that?

    Why does the Special Forces need protection? Hmmmm! Makes One Wonder.

    If they were teaching the locals how to defend themselves, maybe they’ll learn quickly. The lesson here:
    Lock thy doors.
    Be thy neighbor’s keeper.
    Learn the alphabet.
    Naturally assume you have a mental illness if you saw more than one person doing the killing.
    Assume the killer has a mental illness caused by bumping the head on a trunk lid.
    Learn to psychoanalyze others to make sense of the chaos.
    Report all suspicious activity to the local police. They’ll pass it on to those being paid the big bucks to keep peace.
    Get wepons to protect yerself.
    Watch what you eat. Pay careful attention to those near you at the local market and on the trails with your sheep and goats.
    If your horse or dog drops dead…run!


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  9. US military atrocities abroad

    By: Ambeth R. Ocampo

    Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

    An insightful article in the March 26, 2012, issue of Newsweek reminded worldwide readers of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam on March 16, 1968, when American soldiers entered the village of My Lai and left it a few hours later with between 300 and 500 Vietnamese dead, most of them unarmed women, children and seniors. The article was illustrated with a black-and-white photograph of Lt. William Calley (the only soldier convicted of this crime, who was given a 20-year prison sentence, but was actually released after three and a half years of house arrest!) and a horrendous color photograph of the bodies of slain women and four toddlers sprawled on a dirt road.

    The article was written in the context of atrocities committed by US soldiers abroad, like the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and a more recent incident in Afghanistan where one soldier killed 16 people. Memory is helped by color photos from 1968, more so with video in 2012, but I wondered why there was no reference to the conduct of US soldiers in a much earlier conflict then known as the “Philippine Insurrection” (a revolt by Filipinos against the established US government in the Philippines), later revised into the “Philippine-American War” (meaning a conflict between two nations, this change in name finally recognizing the Malolos Government or First Philippine Republic).

    When the soldiers who participated in the My Lai massacre were interviewed, they said that Lieutenant Calley ordered them to rid the village of the enemy, and that the order included the extermination of children. During his trial Calley claimed that children had to be included in the order of battle because they threw hand grenades at the soldiers! This little detail should have been connected to US Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Smith (1840-1918), who was tried in a court martial for ordering his men to “take no prisoners” and lay waste to the Philippine province of Samar, making it a “howling wilderness.” Smith is quoted to have said, “the more you kill, the more it will please me.” His order of battle included women, children and the elderly, who were unarmed and noncombatants but who were apparently just as bad because they provided food and shelter to the enemy. When one soldier asked what was the cut-off age for the children to be killed, Smith replied that the soldiers should kill all Filipino children 10 years or older because they were big enough to brandish bolos!

    We have archival photographs in sepia of dead Filipino “insurrectos,” making the horror very remote from our times. We have transcripts of interviews with US soldiers at the turn of the 20th century who witnessed or participated in atrocities in the Philippines, but since these are text-heavy documents in archival records rather than color photos or streaming video, again the horrors of the Philippine-American War are so far from living memory that they are, at best, described as “panahon pa ni Mahoma.” Can we date this “panahon ni Mahoma” to pre-Spanish times when advanced settlements were Muslim? Is “panahon ni Mahoma” a reference to the introduction of Islam in Tawi-Tawi in the 14th century or to the 16th-century attack on the Spanish Philippines by the Chinese pirate Lin Feng, better known as Limahong?

    From the New York Times of April 15, 1902, we have an eyewitness account of the so-called “water cure” that was used to extract information or confessions from Filipino prisoners. This incident occurred in Igbaras, Iloilo, on Nov. 27, 1900, and the victim was the town presidente who was not named:

    “This [town] official was about 40 years of age. When he (the witness) first saw him he was standing in the corridor of the convent, stripped to the waist and his hands tied behind him, with officers and soldiers about. The man, he said, was then thrown under a water tank that held about 100 gallons of water, and his mouth placed directly under the faucet and held open so as to compel him to swallow the water which was allowed to escape from the tank. Over him stood an interpreter repeating one word, which the witness said he did not understand, but which he believed to be the native equivalent of ‘confess.’ The presidente agreed to tell what he knew, was released, and allowed to start away. He was not, however, permitted to escape. Water was brought in a five-gallon can, one end of a syringe was placed in it and the other in the man’s mouth. As he still refused, a second syringe was brought and one end of it placed in the prostrate man’s nose. He still refused, and a handful of salt was thrown into the water. This had the desired effect, and the presidente agreed to answer questions.”

    The use of torture in the Philippines was often explained away as “harmless” because nobody is supposed to have died from it. In some instances a medical doctor was on hand to supervise and ensure maximum pain with no fatalities. Sometimes the excuse given by US military officers was that the “water cure” was something they learned from Filipinos, or that this was actually administered by Macabebe Scouts.

    It seems it is not only Filipinos who have short memories but Americans as well. Thus, when we are reminded of US military misconduct in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, we should not forget to remember the beginning of it all. We must go back to the early 20th century, to the Philippine-American War.


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