afghanistan: you are being lied to

[redsock guest post]

Several weeks ago, the CBC's Brian Stewart explained how the Canadian military regularly censors the reality of the Canada's ongoing war in Afghanistan:
[I]t is a fact that the Canadian military regularly airbrushes certain acts of war right out of its media releases [and] demands that Canadian reporters embedded with its troops accept an unyielding cone of silence over these events.

On a recent visit to the sprawling Kandahar Airfield base in southern Afghanistan, I quickly joined everyone in a crowded briefing room in dropping to the floor when the sirens wailed to announce the approach of Taliban rockets, these "phantoms" of war.

The rockets are real enough. Sometime they land with a jarring whump. What makes them phantoms is the military's insistence that journalists never mention these attacks in their reports. ...

The excuse the Canadian Forces gives is that Taliban guerrillas might learn from immediate media accounts whether their warheads had hit a target or not, which would allow them to recalibrate.

That's a legitimate concern ... [but] a tally of rocket attacks on Canadians never does get out. Not even days or weeks later, after a safe passage of time. It's simply as if they never happened, and such censorship distorts our own sense of the war and its changing tempo. ...

This is one reason why it can seem like nothing much happens in Kandahar for days or weeks on end ... [This censorship] works for politicians anxious to avoid debate on the subject.

And now this, from the country with which Canada is fighting side-by-side:
On February 12 of this year, U.S. forces entered a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan and, after surrounding a home where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two male civilians (government officials) who exited the house in order to inquire why they had been surrounded, and then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager) who sought to help the victims. The Pentagon then issued a statement claiming that (a) the dead males were "insurgents" or terrorists, (b) the bodies of the three women had been found by U.S. forces bound and gagged inside the home, and (c) suggested that the women had already been killed by the time the U.S. had arrived, likely the victim of "honor killings" by the Taliban militants killed in the attack.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald writes that all three Pentagon claims -- which were reported as facts in the US media -- were utter lies.

According to the Times of London
US special forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims' bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.

Times reporter Jerome Starkey writes candidly about the "self-censorship" he and his colleagues are forced to do to keep their jobs. Journalists often cannot safely travel in Afghanistan without an armed military escort. To have the press utterly dependent upon the military for their security -- for their very lives -- cannot possibly lead to unbiased reporting.

Starkey recalls that in August 2008, he was threatened with being banned from all future embed assignments if he filed video of a British paratrooper firing his machine gun without wearing the proper body armour.
To my eternal shame, I backed down. Embeds were my livelihood. I swapped the clip for something a combat camera team provided. But I was blacklisted for more than a year all the same -- for arguing.

The Americans are just as subtle. I was thrown off a trip with the Marines Special Operations Command troops (MarSOC) last year when they realized I had written a story many months earlier linking their colleagues to three of Afghanistan's worst civilian casualty incidents.

As far as the now-admitted slaughter and cover-up mentioned above, Starkey says the only reason he found out the truth about the murders
was because I went to the scene of the raid, in Paktia province, and spent three days interviewing the survivors. In Afghanistan that is quite unusual. ...

I contacted some of the relatives by phone, established it was probably safe enough to visit, and I finally made it to the scene almost a month after unidentified gunmen stormed the remnants of an all-night family party.

It's not the first time I've found NATO lying, but this is perhaps the most harrowing instance, and every time I go through the same gamut of emotions. I am shocked and appalled that brave men in uniform misrepresent events. Then I feel naïve.

Last month, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal admitted that, in the nine months since being appointed to his current position by President Obama,
not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. ... We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.

Empire Burlesque blogger Chris Floyd sums up the facts -- "top American commanders acknowledge that their forces are killing scores of innocent civilians who pose no threat to the occupiers, and that their own incompetent policies are actually breeding more hatred and resistance" -- and asks:
Again: what do you call it when innocent, unarmed, defenseless people who "have never proven to be a threat" are gunned down in cold blood? What do you call such an act?

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