Monday, July 26, 2010

the moment of truth in Afghanistan?

This morning saw the biggest leak of classified military files since the Pentagon Papers. In The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the true extent of the failed military 'strategy' in Afghanistan became apparent. Unreported incidents that have led to the deaths of many hundreds of civilians; 'black' units with instructions to kill or capture Afghan insurgents without any recourse to any kind of judicial process; the increasing use of Reaper drones to hunt and kill by remote control from Nevada; the acquisition by the insurgents of surface-to-air missiles.

Emerging from documents leaked by a 22 year old military intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning, who is now in prison facing court martial, the 'collateral damage' of the conflict has never been starker: French troops strafing a bus full of children in 2008; a US patrol machine-gunning a bus; Polish soldiers mortaring a village wedding party, apparently in reprisal for a previous attack, which constitutes a war crime--in all, the files document 144 unreported incidents. For example: British forces are identified as being involved in 21 unreported incidents resulting in at least 26 deaths; at least 16 children were killed or wounded. This is a brutal war against the Afghan population; no wonder the insurgents are growing stronger by the week. War crimes tend to do that.

Richard Norton-Taylor, writing in The Guardian, said this:

'The logs...provide unprecedented insight,...painting a picture...of brutality, cynicism, fear, panic, false alarms and the killing of a large number of civilians -- many more than of foreign troops or insurgents -- by all sides in the conflict. And, inevitably, "friendly fire". It is a story of deep-seated corruption by senior members of the Afghan police, of black operations by coalition special forces engaged in assassinations of dubious legality, of spies, and of unmanned but armed drones controlled by "pilots", including private contractors, sitting in front of computers thousands of miles away.'

Every citizen concerned about this war should read these files, and decide for themselves:

I have little doubt that these files will make an enormous contribution towards government leaders finally coming to say what the world has said for a long time: that this war is not only unwinnable, but quite fundamentally unjust.

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