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Excerpt: "The evidence surrounding the Panjwai massacre is so far contradictory. If it was the work of a single gunman, he was likely to have been unhinged or motivated by perverted religious or racist hatred. But however extreme, it was certainly not an isolated incident."

The US service member who opened fire on civilians in Afghanistan has been detained. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
The US service member who opened fire on civilians in Afghanistan has been detained. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Massacres Are the Inevitable Result of Foreign Occupation

By Seumas Milne, Guardian UK

14 March 12


t was an "isolated incident", US officials insisted. The murder of 16 Afghan civilians as they slept, Hillary Clinton declared, was the "inexplicable act" of one soldier. And as Barack Obama and David Cameron prepared to put a public gloss on an earlier end to Nato's "lead combat" mission in Afghanistan, the US secretary of state pledged to continue "protecting the Afghan people".

After a decade of ever more degraded Nato occupation, who could conceivably wish for such protection? The slaughter of innocents in Panjwai, nine of them children, follows the eruption of killings and protests after US troops burned copies of the Qur'an last month. That came soon after the exposure of video of US marines urinating on dead Afghans.

The evidence surrounding the Panjwai massacre is so far contradictory. If it was the work of a single gunman, he was likely to have been unhinged or motivated by perverted religious or racist hatred. But however extreme, it was certainly not an isolated incident.

As in Iraq, the killing and abuse of civilians by occupation forces has been an integral part of this dirty war from its earliest days. As it drags on, ever more outrages emerge. Last year, members of a US unit were convicted of killing Afghan civilians for entertainment, cutting off body parts as trophies and leaving weapons with the corpses to make it seem as if they were killed in combat.

Nor is such depravity just a US habit, of course. Last year a hungover British guardsman stabbed a 10-year-old boy in the kidneys for no reason. British soldiers are currently on trial for filming their abuse of Afghan children, while US WikiLeaks files record 21 separate incidents of British troops shooting dead or bombing Afghan civilians.

The line between deliberate and accidental killings is in any case a blurred one. As the US General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of Nato troops in Afghanistan, commented: "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."

When six British soldiers were killed in Helmand last week, taking Britain's 10-year military toll over 400, their deaths were treated by politicians and media alike as a national tragedy. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in the war launched by the US and Britain in Afghanistan, but even the names of the 16 Panjwai victims are largely unreported.

Last year was a record for civilian deaths in the Afghan war: 3,021 were reported killed by the UN, which blamed Nato and its Afghan allies for 410 of them – though Afghan human rights organisations insist that such tallies heavily understate the numbers killed by foreign troops, whose casualties are said routinely to be blamed on the Taliban or not reported at all.

Many civilians are killed in night raids or air attacks, such as the one that incinerated eight shepherd boys aged 6 to 18 in northern Afghanistan last month. Across the border in Pakistan, CIA "targeted" drone attacks have killed 2,300, including hundreds of civilians and 175 children – a massacre of another kind — with the collusion of Britain's GCHQ electronic spying centre.

Of course, the Afghanistan occupation is far from unique in its record of civilian suffering. The Iraq war was punctuated by occupation massacres from the start: Haditha, where 24 men, women and children were murdered in cold blood by US marines in 2005, the killing of 17 by Blackwater military contractors in 2007, and another dozen by a US Apache crew in Baghdad the same year are among the more notorious. The only soldier convicted in the Haditha case walked free last month with a "general discharge under honourable conditions".

And in Vietnam, hundreds of villagers were notoriously murdered by US soldiers in My Lai in 1968, among other bloodbaths. The same was true of Britain's colonial war against Malaya's communist guerrillas, where 24 villagers were slaughtered by British soldiers in Batang Kali in 1948 – their relatives are still seeking some justice 64 years later.

Massacres are common in wars, but they flow from the very nature of foreign occupations. Brutalised soldiers, pumped up with racial and cultural superiority, sent on imperial missions to subdue people they don't understand, take revenge for resistance, real or imagined, with terror and savagery.

That has been the story of the Afghan campaign: a decade-long intervention supposedly launched to crush terrorism that has itself spawned and fuelled terror across the region and beyond. This is a war that has failed in every one of its ever-shifting kaleidoscope of aims: from destroying the Taliban and al-Qaida, to bringing democracy and women's rights, to eradicating opium production.

The warnings of its opponents from the start have been gruesomely borne out. The Taliban control swaths of the country, Afghanistan is the opium capital of the world, women's rights are heading backwards, and the robber-baron Karzai government is reviled by its people.

Where is the "good war" now? Foreign troops are a central cause of the conflict, not its solution – as is well understood in both the Nato countries and Afghanistan itself. In Britain, 55%  want troops withdrawn immediately; in the US 60% believe the war hasn't been worth fighting; in Afghanistan 87% of men in the south say Nato operations are bad for Afghans, 76% in the north.

Yet Cameron insists this "very good work" must go on. Despite the growing pressure to bring an end to a disastrous occupation, US demands on the Afghan government for a long-term "enduring presence" to save Nato's face are intensifying. But it's not going to be saved. There is no serious prospect of a change in the balance of forces before the end of 2014, when Nato forces are scheduled to end combat operations. With the US and Nato now committed to negotiation with the Taliban, the case for speeding up withdrawal has become overwhelming.

The best chance of preventing a return to civil war is an inclusive, negotiated settlement backed by the main neighbouring states. Spinning out the occupation to 2014 or beyond will only mean years more of massacres, dead soldiers and civilians and destabilisation of the region.

Like Iraq, the Afghanistan war has been a disastrous miscalculation for the western powers, which are having to learn the lessons of empire again and again. In the 21st century, more than ever, foreign military occupation will be resisted, paid for in blood – and rebound on those who try to impose it. your social media marketing partner


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+24 # Kayjay 2012-03-14 17:48
When will these arrogant gasbags orchestrating these "altruistic" incursions ever learn? We are following the same bloody two-step dance practiced in Vietnam. The Vietnamese didn't fight because they bought into communism. They fought to kick the Americans out of their small country aka. uber nationalism. Alas... the Afghans have spent generations kicking foreign armies out of their land. As to the rogue American's slaughter of innocents, I soley blame our "gutless" government leaders who will not implement a draft, thus making today's soldier serve tour after tour. No wonder they snap. The answer.....pull out the troops over the next four months. That will save innocent Afghan lives and our taxpayers billions that could be used on educating our people.
+12 # Ralph Averill 2012-03-15 05:17
"When will these arrogant gasbags orchestrating these "altruistic" incursions ever learn?"
When will "we the people" ever learn? That wars are never occur for the reasons given. That patriotism does not mean only to learn how to be a mindless killer. That there is neither glory nor honor in war. That you cannot build a nation by blowing it up.
-2 # Glen 2012-03-15 13:11
Kayjay, having a draft would only mean more people/soldiers would die or stress out, while enabling the military to prolong their exercises and that draft would never be rescinded. Having an endless lineup of bodies would not make anything better, would not curtail tours.

Of course, mercenaries will remain even if the U.S. military leaves. As now, draftees as veterans, many of them, would then join a mercenary group, whose numbers are growing.
+16 # Activista 2012-03-14 18:14
"US secretary of state pledged to continue "protecting the Afghan people"."
Hope that Hilary Clinton gets Nobel Peace Price.
protecting the Palestinian people
protecting the Iraqi people
protecting the Afghan people
protecting the Libyan people
protecting the Syrian people
protecting the Iranian people
and especially children and women ..
cluster bombs, F-15, drones, mines, starting civil wars
+1 # Activista 2012-03-16 13:04
protecting the Sudan people
+6 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-03-14 23:18
In Vietnam we saw pictures of a little girl running from napalm and other examples of victims of war. Today we only know that the US killed bin Laden and a few top leaders. Finally with the lone wolf attract by one US soldier we see people grieving. This knowledge should be spread around if there will be any change of a important new peace movement in the US. Of course the stop waiting money campaign has some effect but not enough.

Spread Democracy Now's coverage around and try to add to it,

h ttp://readersup pm-section/24-2 4/10448-daddy-c ame-home-to-fin d-his-family-de ad
+6 # giraffee2012 2012-03-14 23:32
And the GOP candidate are screaming "Bomb Iran before they make a nuke" --- then what? Occupy as we "rebuild" in yet another country?

Don't forget one of the "rebuilders" was Haliburton (Yes Cheney's golden egg) and so it goes with all these wars.

But the troops on the ground come home damaged.

And we need those billions to fix our bridges, roads, education, more.

WHO IS THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. I really do not think (anymore) that the President of the USA is "Commander in chief"

VOTE DEM/ VOTE Obama -- and get out and VOTE
+8 # moby doug 2012-03-15 00:31
The soldier who committed the massacre had already served 3 tours in Iraq, was on his 4th in Afghanistan. That alone is enough to drive anyone crazy. Bush, Cheney, Wolfy and the rest of the NeoCons who ginned up the Iraq War should be on trial for this atrocity. The so-called volunteer army is a tiny fraction of the population,full of troops who have been stop-lossed and economic-drafte d and recycled 4, 5, and 6 times into Iraq and Afghanistan. It's designed to allow the Pentagon to pursue wars without violent protests in American streets from draftees and the families of draftees. This is war on the down-low. The architects of war will never again go back to problematic conscript-wars like Viet Nam. They'll just keep recycling the small town, Mid-American, true-believers until they're all in cord-wards, cemeteries, and madhouses.
+10 # John Gill 2012-03-15 02:20
Quote from another article:

""We recognize that an incident like this is inexplicable and will certainly cause many questions to be asked," Clinton told reporters at the United Nations in New York."

Yeah, but given that the as yet un-named "single" shooter involved is being held and debriefed at an undisclosed location outside of Afghanistan, will in all likelihood not be tried in the country of Afghanistan, and is no doubt being primed with the story that is least embarrassing to the USA, (if he is lucky enough to escape "suicide" in his cell,) I'm sure Ms. Clinton will find some way of "explicating" this incident.
+13 # Anarchist 23 2012-03-15 03:08
Here in Kanchaniburi where 10,000 POWs died to build a railroad with famous bridge for the Japanese in WWII. Many touching epitaphs on their gravestones-I read many-about perserving freedom and liberty. But every war we have had since we 'won' our freedom and liberty-Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq and others, has made mockery of this sentiment and those many dead. Until we repudiate war as a means to solve things, we will continue to create a stinking charnel house of death -and call it freedom. And now, we want another war against Iran? To the cliff, Lemmings.
+12 # RMDC 2012-03-15 07:01
Thanks for this article. This is the truth. War itself is an atrocity and a massacre. The Global War on Terrorism is in reality a war on the poor nations of the earth, the people least able to defend themselves. This makes wars like in Afghanistan, Libya, or the coming war in Syria even more criminal.

Soldiers in the US are trained to be enraged against the people they fight. Racism is pandemic in militaries.

The solution is not to blame the people at the bottom. They are stressed to the limit and they snap -- much more often than is ever reported. The blames is at the top -- the president, the CIA, Pentagon, and interest groups like the neo-cons or Project for a New American Century, and AIPAC.

War itself is a crime. According to the Nuremberg Principles, a war of aggression is a crime against Peace and the greatest crime humans commit because it sets loose all other crimes -- massacres, crimes against humanity, rape, murders, and so on. This is the legacy of the Bush/Cheney regime. This is what they gave the world. Obama seems helpless to change anything. He promised change but all we got is the same old crimes.
+12 # RMDC 2012-03-15 07:10
"US secretary of state pledged to continue "protecting the Afghan people"." -- either Hillary Clinton is insane or she lives on a different planet.

Has any politician every told the truth about war?
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-03-15 09:56
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Did the Bushzis think there would be no kickback? There is a monstrous social debt in Iraq, Afghanistan & America, & it will be collected relentlessly.
+3 # Bodiotoo 2012-03-15 12:24
Occupying Armies hang around...Paris Treaty of 1783: British Troops were still in US territories well into the later portion of the decade. Obama pull the troops out. There is nothing to accomplish there except continuing to stir up resentment. Why can we not learn from history?
+3 # Activista 2012-03-15 13:04
"Four of the murdered children were sisters between the ages of 2 and 6 and four others were brothers aged between 8 and 12. According to a witness, "he dragged the boys by their hair and shot them in the mouth"
This was US Navy Seals base/ Special Force.
When killing Bin Laden 5 of the 6 killed (one women) were Unarmed other unarmed women were wounded - 79 American "heroes" and a dog ...
American boys want to be hero ... kill, kill, kill
+6 # Kayjay 2012-03-15 14:20
I don't want to be misunderstood as to my stand on any war. I want t turn those swords into plowshares ASAP. Bring those troops home and end these endless wars. But I gotta disagree on the notion that a draft would enable the gasbags' plan for endless wars. The draft sucks...forcing countless low income Americans to fight the fight to protect the interests of the 1 percent. Why do these gasbags continue to send these volunteer soldiers over to log tour after tour? Because it touches only a relatively small slice of our populace. the politicos know full that any hint of a draft will bring the howling mobs out in more and more are forced into meaningless military conscription. The protests of the 1960s and 70s were not so much about saving the world. These mobs surrounded the White House with the chant "Hell NO we won't GO!"
+2 # Activista 2012-03-16 19:18
Turkey said on Friday it might set up a "buffer zone" inside Syria to protect Syria Free Army ...
- aka Israel building fence inside Palestine to protect Palestinian people? Massacres Are the Inevitable Result of Foreign Occupation ..
0 # Lucius 2012-03-18 10:14
They've already ramped up the hype to if not exonerate this mass murderer, then to at least mitigate his culpability: he has money 'issues', he was stressed from a 4th deployment, he just snapped, he'd been drinking, etc. etc. The Taliban want him beheaded. The only question is to what degree his punishment will be plea bargained down from that.

Make no mistake, this was a premeditated crime of mass murder. A crime against humanity. However, given the precedents of military 'justice' I wouldn't be surprised if he's awarded a medal and a get out of jail free pass.

Lest we forget, this essay makes crystal clear, this is not, as Sec. Clinton pretends, an isolated inexplicable case. Anyone who doesn't see that war = atrocities simply hasn't been paying attention.

Of course, since we Americans can do no wrong, and GIs are our best, our most 'honorable' Americans, the military will find an honorable solution and its justice will be served.

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