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Separating the wheat from the chaff
August 23, 2008 3:49 AM   Subscribe

More than seventy civilians killed in a US attack in afghanistan. Including many women and children. Last month, the US forces put an end to a wedding, and killed 47 persons. Figures are disputed, but Hamid Karzai asks for the Nato strikes to stop. A few days ago, French soldiers suffered from the strikes that were supposed to help them. How is it covered in the US ? I just checked CNN, and there is a small article about this incident. Foxnews page for Afghanistan : I guess it's self-explanatory.
posted by nicolin (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
We blew up another wedding?
posted by grobstein at 4:09 AM on August 23, 2008


How's that 'spreading democracy' and 'winning hearts and minds' thing working out for you?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:16 AM on August 23, 2008


From the first link:

"U.S. coalition spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green said Saturday that the operation was led by Afghan National Army commandos, with support from the coalition." so your "US attack" assertion seems ax grindy.

and

"Complicating the matter, Afghan officials are known to exaggerate civilian death claims for political payback, to qualify for more compensation money from the U.S. or because of pressure from the Taliban."

Come to think about it, your entire post seems ax grindy. Should this be on your blog instead?
posted by Daddy-O at 4:27 AM on August 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yes, we seem to have a thing about killing people at weddings. Seriously, is it because it's traditional to fire weapons in the air or something like that, or are we just careless murderers?
posted by A189Nut at 4:28 AM on August 23, 2008


A189Nut: "Yes, we seem to have a thing about killing people at weddings. Seriously, is it because it's traditional to fire weapons in the air or something like that, or are we just careless murderers?"

It's probably more like the worst, most thoughtless wedding gift ever.

"Sorry maam. We wanted to give your ceremony some fireworks but uh... we kinda got a bit carried away."
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:31 AM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


American style democracy does not support traditional Afghan marriage.
posted by chillmost at 4:38 AM on August 23, 2008


Come to think about it, your entire post seems ax grindy. Should this be on your blog instead?

I just wanted to know how this was covered by US medias. I don't know Foxnews but It seems that their page devoted to Afghanistan is really poor. But once again, maybe I didn't search well enough. I have no particular message, but I don't see why I shouldn't post these links here.
posted by nicolin at 4:57 AM on August 23, 2008


I vote: keep.

If just a few more people outside Afghanistan think "Holy shit, imagine that was the wedding I was at last month?" we might get somewhere here.
posted by imperium at 5:23 AM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know Foxnews but It seems that their page devoted to Afghanistan is really poor.

It absolutely is, which for many, many Americans familiar (all too familiar...) with the execrable Fox News, that is nothing anywhere near a surprise. In his defense, it should be noted that poster nicolin resides in Europe and is not an American, and therefore, apparently, didn't really know about Fox. But from now on, nicolin, you should be aware that a very large percentage of the MeFi readership is quite acquainted with Fox News, and knows full well that it is a right-wing mouthpiece and a bad joke. So, in the future there's no need to point out, in your FPP, what a rotten job they're doing.

I'd also like to point out that OP nicolin is a very talented musician. Check him out.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:35 AM on August 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Both news sites contained buried, hard to find links. Both covered the story at that buried link with reasonable depth. Both pointed out some discrepancies.

What have we here, then? Proper reporting on a legitimate news story that is hard to find because the target audience has developed a general distaste for war stories. Big surprise.
posted by mystyk at 5:41 AM on August 23, 2008


Interestingly, I saw the Secret report on this in my SIPR alert tracker only a few minutes before coming here. Deja Vu. As with most things involving Afghanistan these days, not all is as it seems.
posted by mystyk at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2008


Fuck war.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:47 AM on August 23, 2008


Looking at these google news results for this story supports nicolins point maybe better than Fox News link. Not much U.S. papers there. New York Times is there on page 3, though. Compare this to the latest aggregate about Georgia to see how stories usually spread.
posted by Free word order! at 6:01 AM on August 23, 2008


Shaff or chaff?

:-)

(and yes, flapjax is correct; nicolin is a very fine musician indeed.)
posted by aldus_manutius at 6:12 AM on August 23, 2008


One of Don Knuth's "Infrequently Asked Questions" is: Do I deserve retribution from aggrieved people whose lives have been ruined by actions that my leaders have taken without my consent? To which he replies "I believe the answer [...] is still no; yet I fear that a yes answer is continually becoming more and more appropriate, as month upon month goes by without any significant change to the status quo."

He wrote this some time ago, I believe.
posted by mhoye at 6:35 AM on August 23, 2008


Spurred by this FPP to get a sense of how many civilians have been killed since we invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001, I was dismayed (although not surprised) by how difficult it is to get anything like an accurate total: the difficulties in collecting accurate information on civilian casualties in Afghanistan are perhaps even more pronounced than they are in Iraq (where total civilian casualty counts range, roughly, from 100,000 to one million), and have been noted since at least early 2002. Numerous estimates exist, but I'm having trouble getting anything like a total. If we assume, conservatively, an average of between 3,000 and 5,000 civilian deaths per year, then we are looking at a civilian death toll of between 21k and 35k. But it also seems possible that the true total is perhaps twice that. Does anyone have a better handle on these numbers?
posted by ornate insect at 6:50 AM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tehran news
posted by hortense at 7:06 AM on August 23, 2008


.
posted by lester at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2008


I fail to see how Americans killing civilians in Afghanistan is news.
posted by pompomtom at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2008


I fail to see how Americans killing civilians in Afghanistan brown people is news hasn't stopped yet.

FTFY.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:07 AM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's sad is that this is just a tiny blip on the news radar...in a week, completely gone.

What pompomtom said.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2008


US Military to investigate Apologies to nicolin for the 'chaff' comment, I'm sure any attempt I would make at constructing a post in French would be incomprehensible.
posted by fixedgear at 8:23 AM on August 23, 2008


I have no particular message

bullshit. if you had no particular message, your link would have read "More than seventy civilians killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. coalition military operation in Afghanistan" which is what the first paragraph of the article states.
posted by quonsar at 8:39 AM on August 23, 2008


A few days ago, French soldiers suffered from the strikes that were supposed to help them.

Canadians know what that's like. Idiot US pilots are just a llittle too gun/bomb-happy to act as any sort of troop support.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2008


Idiot US pilots are just a llittle too gun/bomb-happy to act as any sort of troop support.

I need a minus sign beside these comments.
posted by mw at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2008


I don't know Foxnews but It seems that their page devoted to Afghanistan is really poor

as they say in America, "no shit"
posted by matteo at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2008



Canadians know what that's like. Idiot US pilots are just a llittle too gun/bomb-happy to act as any sort of troop support.


This is mostly bogus. "Friendly Fire" incidents happen with all sides. Play with dangerous toys and the wrong somebody inevitably gets hurt. This is why War is always the last and worst call in terms of "resolving conflict", and generally only makes matters worse. Worth noting: this incident, which didn't get much coverage in Canadian media either, has already been used by the Taliban to justify the killing of non-combatant aid workers in the region, including one Canadian woman.
posted by philip-random at 9:29 AM on August 23, 2008


How is killing civilian non-combatants "friendly fire"?
posted by A189Nut at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


This kind of stuff breeds terrorism more than an hundred bible or quran thumpers.
posted by elpapacito at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2008


How is it covered in the US ?

In general the the use of air power gets little media attention. Here are some good articles on the subject:

Normalizing Air War from Guernica to Arab Jabour

The U.S. Military's Assassination Problem

Blowing Them Away Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2008


How is killing civilian non-combatants "friendly fire"?

American Exceptionalism. When anyone else does it, it's terrorism. When 'Murica does it, it's a minor oopsie, friendly fire doncha know.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2008




I think it's funny how people think that Afghanistan is populated solely by 'brown people'.

I guess the makeup of Persians is not know to a majority of Mefi members.

Or it makes a better argument to simply ignore this.
posted by Dagobert at 11:16 AM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


How is killing civilian non-combatants "friendly fire"?

Everybody America isn't at war with is a friend, aren't they?
posted by philip-random at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2008


Idiot US pilots are just a llittle too gun/bomb-happy to act as any sort of troop support.

That may be the dumbest comment I've read in weeks.
posted by nola at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's funny how people think that Afghanistan is populated solely by 'brown people'.

I think it's funny how you don't realize that's a jab at the American conception of the entire Middle East.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2008


How is killing civilian non-combatants "friendly fire"?

No one said this. There were two or more comments that said something like:

Idiot US pilots are just a little too gun/bomb-happy to act as any sort of troop support

which is as been pointed out, is dumb and bogus.
posted by fixedgear at 11:52 AM on August 23, 2008


I think it's funny how you don't realize that's a jab at the American conception of the entire Middle East.

So wait, you use the phrase 'brown people' and your defense is that is what 'Mericans think?

That's a bit disingenious.
posted by Dagobert at 11:55 AM on August 23, 2008


A nice Bush-ism that - disingenious. Being serious, I like the word.
posted by A189Nut at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


disingenuous
disingenious

Jaysus, I miss a single letter and it becomes a Bush-ism

Keep reaching for the straws and keep you head in the sand. That's how you convince people.
posted by Dagobert at 1:53 PM on August 23, 2008


So wait, you use the phrase 'brown people' and your defense is that is what 'Mericans think?

Forgive me for typing in a hurry. Should be 'what the Americans that politicians pander to in order to gain a majority in an election' think. Happy?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2008


So, going back to the original point; You maintain that the reason this isn't getting reported by the US press is because American politicians have convinced a majority of the populace that we hate brown people.

buh?
posted by Dagobert at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2008


This best part of Fox's Afghanistan page is the banner they are running about Obama. It says 'Obama: Biden Is 'A Leader Who Shares My Values'. I don't know if it is just me, but I read it as something about Osama bin Laden at first glance. Did anyone else experience this? It has to be intentional, right?
posted by Mr_Zero at 3:05 PM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, going back to the original point; You maintain that the reason this isn't getting reported by the US press is because American politicians have convinced a majority of the populace that we hate brown people?

I think it is more the claim that you (we) don't care.
posted by A189Nut at 4:54 PM on August 23, 2008


Bingo. Yep, a lot of MeFites care. A lot of Americans care.

Not, however, the people who voted the Chimp into office, and who will give Obama a serious run for his money.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:06 PM on August 23, 2008


I'd be skeptical of anything you hear about Afghanistan, good news or bad. Everybody has an agenda, and the journalists covering it aren't able to distill the truth adequately.

Think of this. You have a big wedding. Everybody is invited, including the cousins who have been "up in the mountains" for the last few months. Good guys, bad guys, it's a wedding. Lasts for days, and is spread out over a fairly wide area. Think of a cajun Lagniappe. Anyway, informants rat out their enemies, wedding gets blown up. Twenty people die.

U.S. reports twenty bad guys dead. That's true. Other news reports twenty civilians dead. That's also true - the dead guys weren't wearing uniforms, and they weren't involved in operations, so in Afghan eyes, they were civilians. News reports twenty kids dead. Also true, since the mujahediin are only 13.

Everybody's spinning it, and the numbers aren't accurate anyway, and the definition of a wedding isn't what we think it is.

That is an oversimplification, but I wouldn't get worked up over anything you hear, good or bad. We won't ever know what happened to Pat Tillman, and we have our thumb on all the players in that incident.

As far as racist jingoism goes, yeah that's sad. Doing the right thing, the wrong thing, anything, for the wrong reasons is idiocy. Unfortunately, news is more about marketing than information. Nothing has changed since 1890, or for that matter, 5000 B.C.
posted by Xoebe at 5:19 PM on August 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Brilliant catch, Mr_Zero, a true subliminal!
posted by jamjam at 5:26 PM on August 23, 2008


Next ticker headline: Team Obama-Biden Laden with Challenges
posted by benzenedream at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Tarnak Farm, where a kill-happy US air force pilot bombed Canadian troops after being told to hold fire, killing four and wounding eight.
Here is an excerpt from the letter of reprimand given to Schmidt:

"You acted shamefully on 17 April 2002 over Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan, exhibiting arrogance and a lack of flight discipline. When your flight lead warned you to "make sure it's not friendlies" and the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft controller directed you to "stand by" and later to "hold fire," you should have marked the location with your targeting pod. Thereafter, if you believed, as you stated, you and your leader were threatened, you should have taken a series of evasive actions and remained at a safe distance to await further instructions from AWACS. Instead, you closed on the target and blatantly disobeyed the direction to "hold fire." Your failure to follow that order is inexcusable. I do not believe you acted in defense of Major Umbach or yourself. Your actions indicate that you used your self-defense declaration as a pretext to strike a target, which you rashly decided was an enemy firing position, and about which you had exhausted your patience in waiting for clearance from the Combined Air Operations Center to engage. You used the inherent right of self-defense as an excuse to wage your own war."[5]
That's quality troop support there, that is. And it isn't the only time a trigger-happy jackass has killed our troops. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is an oversimplification, but I wouldn't get worked up over anything you hear, good or bad.

Wow, that makes things a lot easier! Especially now that the American air war in Afghanistan has ramped up to a level of around seventy bombing raids a day. Normally I'd worry about the morality of running a war of national liberation like that, but I guess that, as a substantial number of the citizens of Afghanistan are "bad guys", it doesn't matter if their weddings get obliterated all the time, and anyway, maybe they made it up. Hell, for all I know, there is no war in Afghanistan, and the Bad Guys are just making everything up! That would certainly explain why the US refuses to release any information at all about civilian deaths there. Maybe there are none!

News reports twenty kids dead. Also true, since the mujahediin are only 13.

Yes, and next time a terror attack kills 50 American kids, console yourself with the thought that a lot of those kids were probably racists or something. (Note: this kind of consolation does not require any evidence.)
posted by stammer at 8:24 PM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a political war and it calls for discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing would be a knife, but I'm afraid we can't do it that way. The worst is an airplane. The next worst is artillery. Barring a knife, the best is a rifle — you know who you're killing.
-- John Paul Vann
posted by kirkaracha at 9:42 PM on August 23, 2008


Those being critical of air support operations should read more about the men on the ground who request Close Air Support and the complexities involved in these situations. Identifying enemy units (not wearing uniforms) from several thousand feet up at several hundred knots and then targeting and hitting them in a dusty, built up area isn't exactly simple. With limited forward control and communications (soldiers use FM radios, aircraft as a rule UHF) it's extremely difficult for the pilots to ensure accurate use of what are basically, big exploding things designed to cause a lot of damage. Incidents that involve foreign troops acting through proxies to call in air strikes and you have an even more complex situation, though no less desperate.

You can say that they shouldn't be using weapons like these if they cannot ensure that no civilians will be hurt and that would be great - but that means that the soldiers who requested air support are going to die, probably in extremely horrific ways judging by how the Muj used to treat Soviet captives*. It would be great if the soldiers weren't there and then they wouldn't have to call in air support and bomb danger close. But they are and if you ask them - I mean genuinely seek them out and ask them - they will tell you that they had to be. Those soldiers are there trying to make the people of Afghanistan's lot a better one. The reasons civilians and their properties are damaged is because the soldiers live in buildings within the towns and villages because that's how you defend people in a counterinsurgency.

The Taliban were (and are) by all Western standards evil men. None of the citizens of Afghanistan deserved what they suffered under the Taliban, many of them do not deserve to suffer under the yoke of local Afghani war lords working for the Alliance. It isn't a perfect world - that would have been the world where Afghanistan was invaded, the Taliban were kicked in the teeth, the border to Pakistan closed and then basically spent the few hundred billion we've spent in Iraq bringing Afghanistan into at least the late 19th Century.

Incidents such as bombing weddings may well be bored/pissed off pilots acting up because they have been taking too much Dextroamphetamine but I sincerely doubt that there are that many military pilots who are motivated to kill innocent people for no reason other than they wanted to pickle that Mk 82 on "a bunch of ragheads". Shockingly the military prides itself on professionalism and whilst there are examples of men going off the deep end due to losses of friends and colleagues there is considerably less random violence committed just because they didn't want to finish their tour without popping a few caps.


*"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier."
- Kipling (who wrote this about Britain's forays into Afghanistan almost exactly 100 years before the Soviet invasion).

Over 130 years on and we're still fighting on the same damned frontiers. It's a shame we never invested in making Afghanistan since there would have been no squandering of goodwill if we'd have done so. Add to that the fact that then maybe we'd have had some experience at nation-building. Once we had seen how tough it is to build infrastructure (other than pipelines) in Afghanistan we'd have maybe thought twice about Iraq.
posted by longbaugh at 4:24 AM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Identifying enemy units

Revealing phrase, that. The real problem in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that there is nothing even remotely resembling a conventional enemy. Both wars make the guerilla warfare of Vietnam look positively straightforward by comparison, and that war was so inherently murky we could never possibly win it. In Iraq there are militias, true, and in Afghanistan there are the resurgent remnants of Taliban war-lords, etc, but neither of these entities represents a unified front. The question of who exactly we are supposed to be fighting in both countries is thus mostly opaque, and what America is doing now with its occupying forces is offering "security" and "stability"--states of mind which our continued troop presence often seems to undermine just by being there. We are policing these nations, biding our time until a "political solution" takes hold, and are doing so with questionable tactics, practices and motives. The road to hell is paved with these kinds of intentions, and eventually there's a good chance we will leave both countries more broken than when we entered them. We don't have history or time on our side here.
posted by ornate insect at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2008


The simple answer to that ornate insect is "more troops" and "more NGO support". I've read stories of towns and villages being provided with stuff to improve quality of life (be it engineering equipment, building supplies or even simple things like water pumps) but because the troop numbers are so low and because resupply is such an issue in backwater areas the NGOs will not send in the people to install the equipment.

I know a lot of people dislike the military being involved at all but there are thousands upon thousands of men and women within the armed forces whose training would allow them to assist in rebuilding efforts as well as stopping Taliban raids on innocent villagers and giving medical attention (preferably the sort that didn't come as a result of misdirected munitions).
posted by longbaugh at 7:52 AM on August 24, 2008


On a related note, see
How to Save Afghanistan (Jul. 17, 2008) By RORY STEWART for TIME magazine


***

longbaugh--we're now seven years into the Afghanistan conflict, and while the country is in many ways better off than it was under the Taliban, it is still far from being stable: the poppy fields for heroin have re-emerged as the nation's biggest cash crop, violence against foreign troops is on the rise, Karzai's hold remains tenuous, and neighboring Pakistan is in turmoil.

It also seems perhaps a little late to begin the kinds of comprehensive "nation building" efforts at aid, relief, re-education, and infrastructure that you're talking about (and I'm saying that as someone who basically agrees with you about the need for a more humanitarian approach: for what it's worth, one that Obama/Biden are also advocating, I believe).

I'm not saying the US and the UN troops should let Afghanistan necessarily dissolve back into its prior chaotic state, but I am saying that we are now seriously working against the clock to ensure a lasting peace is possible in that most impoverished and war-torn of countries. There is a kind of math of goodwill given out to occupying forces, and in a country as used to occupation as Afghanistan, that math is now seriously against us. You may think that's just pessimism, but I see it as realism.

posted by ornate insect at 8:19 AM on August 24, 2008


Oh I know - I said all of the above before we even went in. It was obvious before we went in what would need to be done and it was absolutely no surprise to me to see it not happen. When politicians can learn to succesfully utilise the military and it's capabilities we might see some improvement, not just in warfighting but in the aftermath. Initial activities in country worked splendidly but the lackadaisical way we addressed the porous Pakistan border and the terrible misdirected efforts to round up/kill enemy combatants screwed us militarily. The lack of troops numbers to create safe havens for civilians ruined the post-warfighting stage and so here we are, stuck playing the Great Game (again) and not being able to provide some semblance of normality to the people we are supposed to be helping.

I firmly believe it's too late to salvage anything* from Afghanistan or Iraq, least of all our dignity and global respect. I think maybe 2003 was the cut off point for success in Afghanistan. Now we're dribbling troops into the country in the hope of stopping it falling back into Taliban hands. It'll be the Soviet pullout all over again within the next 8-10 years. So yeah, basically - we pretty much agree :)

*by which I mean success in a humanitarian sense. Iraq and Afghanistan will likely have some sort of Alliance presence protecting any war profiteering that has taken place for a good long time. If not Alliance then PMC led local militias are likely to be seen here and there.
posted by longbaugh at 10:54 AM on August 24, 2008




I have no particular message

bullshit. if you had no particular message, your link would have read "More than seventy civilians killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. coalition military operation in Afghanistan" which is what the first paragraph of the article states.


Well actually local news (France) have brought Afghanistan to the foreground. I noticed that these news weren't echoed here, investigated some US medias, and concluded that it didn't seem very well covered, whatever the reason. A few days later, new airstrikes causing several more casualties gave me the feeling that it was more or less customary. I wanted to know how the people here felt about the whole thing (I mean the events and the coverage itself). It would have been better to post to askmefi... but I still thought that the news deserved to feature here.

About the bullshit... I have read more than the first paragraph of the first article. Maybe that's why I don't share your views about responsibilities involved.
posted by nicolin at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2008










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