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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. angered by Afghan report on bombings that killed civilians

By Ken Hanly     Jan 26, 2014 in Politics
Kabul - The Karzai government just released a report that gives in detail its on the spot findings about U.S. air strikes in Parwan on January 15 that the report claims killed at least 12 civilians and possibly as many as 17.
There is anger among U.S. and NATO officials about the report who even issued warnings about "growing doubts" whether Karzai was fit to rule. NATO had themselves originally claimed that zero civilians were killed but then revised it to two the same day. Although NATO promised investigations it still has not issued any updates.
NATO officials concentrate upon the misleading propaganda aspects of the report rather than the basic facts about the number of civilians killed. They point out that the tenor of the report and some of the accompanying photos are much like those of the Taliban. The task of elaborating on this was probably farmed out to the New York TImes which is the paper of record when it comes to a professional elaboration of propaganda for the Obama administration: "It was the kind of dossier that the Taliban often publish, purporting to show the carnage inflicted during a raid by American forces: photographs of shattered houses and bloodied, broken bodies, and video images of anguish at a village funeral, all with gut-churning impact and no proof of authenticity."
The article points out that the dossier at least falsely represented at least some of the evidence and distributed other evidence whose relevance could not be determined. The Times claims that much of the material was posted on a Taliban website a week before the report. However, what does that show. Perhaps the material came from local officials and what supported the Taliban viewpoint was published on their website, The Times' technique here is pure ad hominem attacking the Taliban rather than the veracity of the material.
Times gives evidence from the governor of Parwan who said that the death toll of civilians was in the single digits and those who said otherwise were supporters of the Taliban. Just how reliable is that testimony who unlike Karzai may be anxious to keep good relations with the NATO forces? The TImes reports what the US says about the incident: The operation was planned and led by the Afghan Army, American officials have repeatedly emphasized. They said the airstrikes were necessary to save dozens of Afghan commandos and a handful of American advisers who were pinned down by heavy Taliban fire; an American and an Afghan had already been killed in the action. American officials claim the airstrikes destroyed two compounds from which the heaviest Taliban fire was coming and two children were killed in one of the houses.
The article then remarks that the Afghan commission described the action as primarily American with almost eight hours of indiscriminate and unprovoked bombing that was followed by a house to house rampage by US soldiers. The commission said it can prove that at least 12 killed were civilians. Abdul Satar Khawasi, a member of parliament from the area who led the investigation said; “Villagers on the streets and even inside their houses were shot, Ten houses were destroyed.” He claimed that most of the evidence came from accounts given by villagers and photographs and a video that was distributed by Karzai's office. Now get this: No commission members appear to have actually visited Wazghar. Instead, Mr. Khawasi sent his driver and a bodyguard to conduct the interviews and take photographs and video, according to Mr. Salangi, the provincial governor. Remember this is the governor referenced earlier as claiming the death toll was in single digits and anyone who claimed differently, including the commission I suppose, is a supporter of the Taliban.
As often happens in propaganda dossiers, material is incorporated that fits in with the event but was not actually part of the event. One photo the article cites was taken at the funeral of a NATO airstrike in northern Afghanistan in 2009 which killed at least 70 civilians. Of course it could not depict the events at Parwan. One wonders if the dossier actually claimed that it did or if it was simply evidence that NATO could do this sort of thing.
A second photo claims to have been from Wazhgar but has been circulating for years on other websites. No doubt the Times is correct in pointing out that there is misrepresentation in the evidence. However, this hardly shows that the conclusions about the numbers are wrong or that the U.S. numbers are anywhere near correct. The U.S. typically denies any civilian deaths and crows about suspected militants being killed until locals provide evidence that forces them to change their story.
The U.S. is no stranger to manufacturing propaganda stories that are far from the truth as in the famous case of the at least partially staged toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein during the occupation of Iraq. The event is still portrayed as an iconic moment;
Marking the 10-year anniversary of the statue’s toppling, The Associated Press described the memorable event: “Joyful Iraqis helped by an American tank retriever pulled down their longtime dictator, cast as 16 feet of bronze. The scene broadcast live worldwide became an icon of the war, a symbol of final victory over Saddam Hussein.
Perhaps the New York Times could contract with the Egyptian government to pen some articles supporting the military-backed government's viewpoint. The Egyptians could use some professionalism in their propaganda.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Parwan bombings, US Afghan relations, Hamid karzai, New York Times
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