On March 1, a U.S./NATO helicopter gunship killed two Afghan brothers, seven and eight years of age, as they tended cattle in Uruzgan province. According to reports from residents, the boys were listening to a radio, which the helicopter crew interpreted as “radio signals” from Afghan resistance fighters.
The latest killing comes amidst a series of atrocities against civilians that has further inflamed opposition to the ongoing occupation.
On. Feb. 24, Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-installed “president” of Afghanistan, announced that he was demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. Special Forces troops from Wardak province within two weeks. Wardak is a key strategic region and an area of active resistance to the U.S./NATO occupation.
Will NATO commanders pay any more attention to Karzai’s latest “order” than the many earlier ones that NATO forces ignored and Karzai quietly dropped? Not likely.
What prompted Karzai’s latest proclamation was explained in a statement from his office, which read in part: “After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special force[s] stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.
“A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge.”
While U.S. commanders predictably denied the accusations, the level of popular anger in Wardak was made clear by street protests and threats by civilian groups to join the armed resistance if U.S. forces were not withdrawn.
On Feb. 26, 500 people marched in protest of the killings. “If the situation remains like this, this province will collapse very soon,” protester Haji Abdul Qadim told the Reuters news service. “People will join the insurgency very soon because of the abuses of these forces.”
In another recent incident brought to international attention on Feb. 26, a Swedish organization that operates health clinics in Afghanistan said that U.S. military forces occupied and damaged one of their clinics in Wardak on Feb. 11.
The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said in a statement: “Foreign soldiers entered the health facility by force, tied up and blindfolded the guard on duty, and occupied the facility.”
Andreas Stefansson, director of SCA, said that it was the second time one of SCA’s clinics had been occupied by NATO troops. The previous occupation lasted three days. Stefansson said that NATO has promised that such an occupation would not happen again.
“What we are seeking is that they actually live up to what they say,” Stefansson said. (Reuters, Feb. 26)
On Feb. 13, 10 people, including women and children, were killed in a NATO air strike in Kunar province. On June 6, 2012, 18 civilians were killed in a strike in Logar province. The grisly list of “accidental” killings stretches back a decade.
A ‘president’ in name only
These atrocities and the daily abuses that inevitably accompany imperialist occupation are the source of burning anger among the Afghan people. In the eyes of the population, Karzai shares blame with the occupiers for these outrages. Thus, Karzai’s repeated “orders” forbidding Afghan army units from calling in U.S./NATO air support and for U.S. troops to withdraw from Wardak and stop the hated “night raids” on people’s homes.
But his proclamations continue to be disregarded by the occupation forces, exposing the actual power relationship in the country. In reality, the lowest level U.S. commander has greater military authority than does the “president” of the country.
Further illuminating both this relationship and the U.S. intention to maintain a dominant role in Afghanistan was a Feb. 3 joint interview with then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Panetta and Dempsey reaffirmed that the United States would sustain a “strategic partnership” with Afghanistan, citing a decision by the NATO heads of state during a 2012 summit meeting in Chicago to maintain a long-term presence in the country despite a drawdown in the number of U.S. ground troops in the country.
“We’re committing to an enduring presence,” Mr. Panetta said on Feb. 3.
“Strategic partnership” and “enduring presence” are more Washington weasel words for continuing colonial domination over Afghanistan.
On Feb. 26, it was revealed that claims of resistance attacks inside the country declining by 7 percent in 2012 were just one more Pentagon lie. The 7 percent figure was posted on the International Security Assistance Force (the official name of the U.S./NATO force in Afghanistan) website in January, to bolster the administration’s “positive track” line about the war.
When the Associated Press made inquiries about the statistics, NATO officials in Kabul immediately backtracked, stated that they had “erred,” and admitted that in fact, there was no decline at all.
Costs of war
Eleven and a half years of U.S./NATO war and occupation have been a disaster for all but a tiny sliver of the Afghan population.
Despite tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-funded “reconstruction aid,” Afghanistan remains one of the very poorest countries on the face of the Earth. The total U.S. budget for the Afghanistan war is over $640 billion and counting. (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
While U.S. and other NATO-country contractors, and elements of the Afghan elite, have become incredibly rich from this “aid,” the Afghan government presently spends a miniscule $46 per year on health care per person. (GlobalHealthFacts.org)
Afghanistan ranks as the worst country in the world for infant mortality, with a shocking 122 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. (CIA World Factbook 2013) By way of comparison, the infant mortality rate is 6 per 1,000 in the U.S. and 4.8 per 1,000 in Cuba. Life expectancy is just 49 years. Afghanistan is listed as 172nd out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, with the average adult having 3.3 years of schooling.
In addition to the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands wounded in the war, more than 2.7 million Afghans remain external refugees, most in Pakistan and Iran, and 425,000 are internally displaced. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2012
No amount of lying Pentagon propaganda can hide the reality that the war has been an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people and for the thousands of dead and tens of thousands of maimed troops sent to kill and die there in the interests of empire.
In the spring of 1944, in the quiet little town of Alcolu, South Carolina, two young girls, Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8, were brutally murdered while picking flowers along a railroad track. Their bodies were found in a nearby water filled ditch. The cause of death was determined to be multiple blows to their skulls with a metal railroad spike. A Mr. George Stinney was soon arrested for the murders. While there was no physical evidence or eyewitness accounts linking the defendant to the crime, unfortunately for Mr. Stinney, the two girls were white. He was black.
Two white police officers were able to get a confession out of Mr. Stinney within an hour, behind closed doors. It was the only evidence offered up during his trial, a trial that was held in one day and lasted only two and a half hours. It was attended by 1,500 people, all of them white. Blacks were not allowed in the courtroom. Mr. Stinney, his family having been driven from their small town, faced the trial alone. Council for the defense offered no evidence on its client’s behalf, and it requested no psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. A guilty verdict was reached after only 10 minutes of deliberation by the (all white male) jury. No recommendation for mercy was given. Had Mr. Stinney’s lawyer filed a simple one sentence appeal, the execution would have been automatically stayed for at least a year. But this was impossible due to the fact that Mr. Stinney did not see his attorney again from the time he left the court. Furthermore, his attorney never spoke to any members of the defendant’s family, let alone inform them that they had the right to appeal the death sentence. Just 81 days after his arrest, on June 16, 1944, Mr. Stinney would walk into the execution chamber.
There is one more tragic element to this already tragic story. Mr. George Junius Stinney Jr. was just 14 years old when he was put to death. He was the youngest person (legally) executed in the United States in the 20th century.
Being small for his age, weighing just 95 pounds (approximately 43 kilograms) and only five feet one inch tall (approximately 1.5 meters), it was with great difficulty that the death sentenced was carried out. But carried out it was. His small body was propped up with books in order to get him to fit properly in the electric chair (the original designers having carelessly overlooked the fact that one day their device might be used to execute a small child), allowing for an electrode to be attached to his right leg.
One commentator reported that George said nothing as the mask was lowered over his face. But after the first 2,400 volts passed through the boy’s small body “the death mask slipped from his face and his eyes were open when two additional shots of 1,200 and 500 volts followed.” George’s head “went up and the mask came of his face … and saliva and all was coming out of his mouth and tears from his eyes.”
The Governor, Olin Johnson, had received hundreds of letters and telegrams asking for leniency for the young boy. But facing a primary election in July, the Governor was not inclined to grant clemency. One telegram compared the execution of a child to something that Adolf Hitler would do. A stinging and bitter accusation considering that American troops had just landed on the beaches of Normandy ten days earlier in the D-Day invasion to liberate France from Nazi occupation and terror. On that one day alone, 9,000 Allied soldiers would die or be wounded fighting the Germans.
It can be argued that the execution of a 14 year old child was a social aberration from a bygone era. A simple anomaly. An isolated case that “fell through the cracks.” A repulsive event from a period when America was still suffering from racial and social ignorance. Surely, as a society, the United States has progressed far beyond the days of when it tolerated the State sanctioned execution of children, has it not?
Two pilots are sitting in an air-conditioned windowless room in New Mexico. Before them sit an array of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. 6,250 miles away (about 10,000 kilometers) they are controlling a Predator drone that is circling lazily in a figure eight pattern over Afghanistan. They are observing a crude house made of mud when the order is given to launch a laser guided Hellfire missile at the target. With just seconds to go till impact, a small child walks out from behind one of the corners of the structure. A flash on the control screen confirms the impact and explosion, with parts of the structure collapsing and the child disappearing.
“Did we just kill a kid?” the co-pilot asks the pilot.
“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replies.
Confirmation as to whether or not a missile strike had just been carried out on a child was requested. “No. That was a dog,” comes the anonymous response from a military command center.
The pilots review the video of the drone strike that had just taken place.
A dog on two legs?
One of the pilots is no longer in the Air Force, declining to renew his enlistment contract when it was up. After 6,000 flight hours and six years of military service he says “I saw men, women and children die during that time. I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.” He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by doctors with the Veterans’ Administration.
While the above incident could be deemed an “accident,” apparently the targeted murder of children is now accepted US military policy.
Lt. Col. Marion “Ced” Carrington, Commander of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, states, “It kind of opens our aperture. In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent” as well. While the Lt. Col would not elaborate on what exactly are the rules of engagement when encountering potential child combatants, reassuringly he tells us that he advises the soldiers serving under him to use “courageous restraint.”
Apparently this “courageous restraint” was lacking on October 14, 2012, when US Marines operating in Helmand province requested, and got clearance for, an airstrike on “shadowy figures” thought to be in the process of setting up an improvised explosive device (IED). The assailants killed in the strike turned out to be three children who were 12, 10 and 8 years old.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a part of NATO and the organization that is nominally in command of the war (the reality being, of course, that it is a US led affair), said that it may have “accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians.” Family members of the victims reported that the children were sent to gather dung, which is used for fuel.
America’s first war in Iraq and its associated sanctions are believed to have resulted in the deaths of over half a million children. America’s second war in Iraq is believed to have resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 Iraqis (most of them between the ages of 15 and 44). America’s targeted drone attacks in the Tribal Regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have reportedly killed between 474 and 881 civilians, including 176 children
If these were the actions of China, Russia, Iran, or any other country on Earth, we would be able to see them clearly for what they are. War crimes and crimes against humanity of the highest order. We would also realize that they are the actions of a society that is in moral decline.
Why it is impossible for the vast majority of Americans to see this is incomprehensible.
Acknowledgement: The author would sincerely like to thank Professor Bryan A. Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, for making him aware of the story of George Stinney.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr, Coëtquidan, France.
“Afghan kids recruited for suicide attacks” by Joe Gould and John Ryan, July 18, 2012, Army Times. Accessed at:
“Attempts to clear name of 14-year-old boy who was executed in South Carolina 67 years ago” Reporter: Mark Potter, Anchor: Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News 6:30 PM EST (NBC News Transcripts), October 4, 2011.
“Attorney Decries Juvenile Executions (From Young Blood: Juvenile Justice and the Death Penalty, P 159-165, 1995, Shirley Dicks, ed. – See NCJ-166057)” by D. Bruck, 1995. Accessed at:
“Columbia Journal; Prison Lures Them In (as Tourists)” February 22, 1994, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“D-Day June 6, 1944” United States Army Official Homepage. Accessed at:
“Do Targeted Killings Work?” by Daniel L. Byman, Senior Fellow Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, July 14, 2009, The Brookings Institute. Accessed at: http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2009/07/14-targeted-killings-byman
“Iraq Sanctions Kill Children, U.N. Reports” by Barbara Crossette, December 1, 1995, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan” the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and the Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law), September 2012. Accessed at:
“Questions Raised in Deaths of Afghan Children in Coalition Strike” by Alissa J. Rubin, October 17, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“Some Afghan kids aren’t bystanders” by Dan Lamothe and Joe Gould, December 3, 2012, Military Times. Accessed at:
“Study Claims Iraq’s ‘Excess’ Death Toll Has Reached 655,000” by David Brown, October 11, 2006, The Washington Post. Accessed at:
“The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002-2006” by G. Burnham, S. Doocy, E. Dzeng, R. Lafta and L. Roberts, with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Al Mustansiriya University and the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 11, 2006. Accessed at:
“The Merciful Executioner: Spectacles of Sexual Danger and National Reunification in the George Stinney Case, 1944” by Annette Louise Bickford, University of Toronto, Southern Anthropologist Vol. 35, No. 1, 2010
“The Woes of an American Drone Operator” by Nicola Abé, December 14, 2012, Der Spiegel. Accessed at:
“War in Iraq: Humanitarian Relief Efforts” April 11, 2003, The Washington Post. Accessed at:
“When Something Wicked This Way Comes: Evolving Standards of Indecency – Thompson and Stanford Revisited” by J. L. Whitney, 46 Clev. St. L. Rev. 801 (1998)
“World: Middle East Iraqis blame sanctions for child deaths” by Jeremy Bowen, August 12, 1999, BBC. Accessed at:
Photo – George Stinney, 1944, executed at age 14 years old (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- US sets records with number of drone strikes in Afghanistan this year (rt.com)
- Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? [2 of 2] (wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com)
The new Executive Director of Amnesty International USA – Suzanne Nossel – is a recent U.S. government insider. So it’s a safe bet that AI’s decision to seize upon a topic that dovetailed with American foreign policy interests, “women’s rights in Afghanistan,” at the NATO Conference last month in Chicago came directly from her.
Nossel was hired by AI in January 2012. In her early career, Nossel worked for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke under the Clinton Administration at the United Nations. Most recently, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State, where she was responsible for multilateral human rights, humanitarian affairs, women’s issues, public diplomacy, press and congressional relations.
Amnesty International’s “NATO: Keep the Progress Going” poster at a Chicago bus stop.
She also played a leading role in U.S. engagement at the U.N. Human Rights Council (where her views about the original Goldstone Report on behalf of Palestinian women did not quite rise to the same level of concerns for the women in countries that U.S.-NATO has attacked militarily).
Nossel would have worked for and with Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, and undoubtedly helped them successfully implement their “Right to Protect (R2P)” – otherwise known as “humanitarian intervention” – as well as the newly created “Atrocity Prevention Board.”
This cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy (which has served mainly to rationalize the launching of war on Libya) is now being hauled out to call for U.S.-NATO military intervention in Syria.
“Smart Power” = smart wars?
In fact, Nossel is herself credited as having coined the term “Smart Power,” which embraces the United States ’ use of military power as well as other forms of “soft power,” an approach which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at her confirmation as the new basis of State Department policy.
An excerpt from Nossel’s 2004 paper on “Smart Power” published in the Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs magazine sounds a lot like Samantha Power’s (and also traces back to Madeleine Albright’s) theories:
“To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war.
“Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military [our emphasis] — to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”
Perhaps the AI’s hiring of a State Department shill as executive director of its U.S. affiliate was merely coincidental to how/why its “NATO Shadow Summit ” so closely mimicked the CIA’s latest propaganda assault, but….
The “CIA Red Cell,” a group of analysts assigned to think “outside the box” to anticipate emerging challenges, was right to worry in March 2010 when the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) found that 80 percent of French and German citizens were opposed to continued deployment of their countries’ militaries in the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan.
Even though public apathy had, up to that point, enabled French and German politicians to “ignore their voters” and steadily increase their governments’ troop contributions to Afghanistan, the CIA’s newly-created think tank was concerned that a forecast increase in NATO casualties in the upcoming “bloody summer … could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal.”
In a “confidential” memo, the “Red Cell” wrote: “The Afghanistan mission’s low public salience has allowed French and German leaders to disregard popular opposition and steadily increase their troop contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Berlin and Paris currently maintain the third and fourth highest ISAF troop levels, despite the opposition of 80 percent of German and French respondents to increased ISAF deployments, according to INR polling in fall 2009.
“Public Apathy Enables Leaders To Ignore Voters …
“Only a fraction (0.1-1.3 percent) of French and German respondents identified ‘Afghanistan’ as the most urgent issue facing their nation in an open-ended question, according to the same polling. These publics ranked ‘stabilizing Afghanistan’ as among the lowest priorities for US and European leaders, according to polls by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) over the past two years.
“According to INR polling in the fall of 2009, the view that the Afghanistan mission is a waste of resources and ‘not our problem’ was cited as the most common reason for opposing ISAF by German respondents and was the second most common reason by French respondents. But the ‘not our problem’ sentiment also suggests that, so for, sending troops to Afghanistan is not yet on most voters’ radar.
“But Casualties Could Precipitate Backlash
“If some forecasts of a bloody summer in Afghanistan come to pass, passive French and German dislike of their troop presence could turn into active and politically potent hostility. The tone of previous debate suggests that a spike in French or German casualties or in Afghan civilian casualties could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal.”
The CIA “Special Memorandum” went a step further, inviting “a CIA expert on strategic communication and analysts following public opinion” to suggest “information campaigns” that State Department polls showed likely to sway Western Europeans.
The “Red Cell” memo was quickly leaked, however, furnishing a remarkable window into how U.S. government propaganda is designed to work upon NATO citizenry to maintain public support for the euphemistically titled “International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF) waging war on Afghans. Here are some of the CIA propaganda expert’s suggestions:
“Messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) guilt for abandoning them. The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties. …
“Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission. … Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences.”
‘NATO: Keep the Progress Going!’
Amnesty International struck similar themes in announcements posted online as well as billboard advertisements on Chicago bus stops, telling “NATO: Keep the Progress Going!” beckoned us to find out more on Sunday, May 20, 2012, the day thousands of activists marched in Chicago in protest of NATO’s wars.
The billboard seemed to answer a recent Huffington Post article, “Afghanistan: The First Feminist War?”
“The feminist victory may be complete in America, but on the international stage it’s not doing so well with three quarters of the world’s women still under often-severe male domination. Afghanistan is an extreme case in point in what might be termed the first feminist war … a war that now may not be won even if Hillary Clinton dons a flack jacket and shoulders an M16 on the front lines. Still, since the Bush Administration to the present America‘s top foreign policy office has been held by women … women who have promised not to desert their Afghan sisters.”
Our curiosity was further piqued because we consider ourselves to be women’s rights and human rights proponents and also due to our own prior federal careers in intelligence and military. (Colonel Wright is retired from the State Department/US military and Rowley is from the FBI.)
So along with a few other anti-war activists, we packed into a taxi to head to the Chicago hotel where Amnesty International’s “Shadow Summit” featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other female foreign relations officials was being held. We happened to carry our “NATO bombs are not humanitarian”; “NATO Kills Girls” and anti-drone bombing posters that we had with us for the march later that day.
As we arrived, an official-looking black car dropped off Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, who was to be a main speaker (on the first panel, along with former Secretary Albright; U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois; and Afifa Azim, General Director and Co-Founder, Afghan Women’s Network; along with Moderator Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Deputy Director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program).
Verveer cast a cold glance at us and would not answer Ann Wright’s questions as she scurried into the hotel with her aides surrounding her and us following behind. At first the hotel security guards tried to turn us away but we reminded the registration desk the Summit was advertised as “Free Admissions” and that some of us were members of Amnesty International.
So they let us register and attend as long as we promised to leave our signs outside and not disrupt the speakers. The hotel conference room was about half full. We stayed long enough to hear the opening remarks and the moderator’s first questions of Albright and the other speakers on the first panel.
All generally linked the protection and participation of Afghan women in government as well as the progress made in educating Afghan women to the eventual peace and security of the country as envisioned by the new strategic “partnership” agreement that Obama had just signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Ms. Verveer said Afghan women do not want to be seen as “victims” but are now rightfully nervous about their future. When we saw that audience participation was going to be limited to questions selected from the small note cards being collected, we departed, missing the second panel as well as kite-flying for women’s rights.
We noted, even in that short time, however, how easy it was for these U.S. government officials to use the “good and necessary cause” of women’s rights to get the audience into the palm of their collective hand — just as the CIA’s “strategic communication” expert predicted!
Not everyone was hoodwinked however. Even before the “Summit” was held, Amnesty realized it had a PR problem as a result of its billboard advertisement touting progress in Afghanistan. An Amnesty official tried to put forth a rather lame defense blaming an accidental poor choice of wording.
But many readers (and AI members) posted critical comments and questions, including concerns about Albright’s involvement given her infamous defense of Iraqi sanctions in the 1990s, which were estimated to have caused the deaths of a half million Iraqi children, with the comment “we think the price is worth it.”
“Could someone from AI please explain why Madeleine Albright was invited to participate in this event? We (and especially those of us who are familiar with AI) should all be able to understand that the wording on the poster was a genuine, albeit damaging, mistake. But why Ms. Albright?”
“The posters are pro-NATO and play into prevailing tropes about so called ‘humanitarian intervention’ via ‘think of the women & children’ imagery. The posters & the forum that includes Albright are neither slight slips nor without context. AI is copping heat because they have miss-stepped dramatically. There is NOTHING subtle about either the imagery nor the message!
“It is not a case of ‘oh sorry we didn’t realize it it could be interpreted that way!’ They used pro Nato imagery & slogans ahead of & during a controversial summit that has thousands protesting in the streets. Tell me again how that is not taking sides?
“They asked a notorious apologist for mass murder of children to speak on the right of women and children… tell me again: how is that not taking sides. So it is absolutely reasonable for past supporters (and board members like myself) to be asking how it is that Amnesty USA so lost its bearings they could make a critical SERIES of errors like this?”
Of course the defensive AI blog author never answered the numerous questions asking why Amnesty had chosen Madeleine Albright as their main speaker. So we will venture an answer that probably lies in the fact that all of the powerful feminist-war hawks who have risen to become Secretary of State (or are waiting in the wings) are now taking their lead from the ruthless Grand Dame who paved the way for them, Madeleine Albright — (see Coleen Rowley’s recent articles: “Obama’s New ‘Atrocity Prevention Board’: Reasons for Skepticism” and “Militarization of the Mothers: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, from Mother’s Day for Peace”).
It’s also possible the highest ranks of the feminist wing of military interventionism (i.e. Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, et al) are so passionate and hubristic about the nobility of their goal and “Amercan exceptionalism” that some have simply succumbed to a kind of almost religious (blind faith) type fervor.
The Road to Hell
Nossel’s and Albright’s theories are flawed in many ways but suffice it to say that democracies are actually not less prone to war. A long list of “democracies” – including Nazi Germany, the Roman Empire, the United Kingdom, France and the United States itself – disprove this assertion.
In any event, the U.S. has been terribly hypocritical in its support of “democracies” in foreign countries, often toppling or attempting to topple them (i.e. Iran’s Mossadeqh, Guatemala’s Arbenz, Chile’s Allende) in order to gain easier control of a foreign country through an allied dictatorship.
No one is going to argue that the goals of humanitarianism, preventing atrocities and furthering women’s rights around the world are not “good and necessary” (in the words of the CIA strategic communications expert). We would go so far as to say these ARE truly noble causes!
Testimonials about human rights’ abuse are often true and fundamentalist regimes’ treatment of women seems to vary only in degrees of horrible. But while it’s true that many women lack rights in Afghanistan, some would argue that it’s conveniently true. And that the best lies are always based on a certain amount of truth.
The devil, however, lies in the details of promoting equality and accomplishing humanitarianism. Most importantly the ends, even noble ends, never justify wrongful means. In fact, when people such as Samantha Power decide to bomb the village Libya, to save it, it will backfire on a pragmatic level.
It must be realized that it is the nobility of the U.S.-NATO’s motivation that – as CIA propaganda department has advised – should be relied upon to convince otherwise good-hearted people (especially women) to support (or at least tolerate) war and military occupation (now known to encompass the worst of war crimes, massacres of women and children, torture, cutting off body parts of those killed, as well as increasing mental illness, self-destructive behavior and suicides among U.S. soldiers and the corresponding cover-ups of all such horrible means).
In the decades after Vietnam, a number of military scholars identified declining American public support for that war as the main factor responsible for the U.S. “losing” Vietnam. One lesson learned and quickly implemented was to get rid of the military draft and put the wars on a credit card so fewer citizens would pay attention.
Some control also had to be gained over the type of free media (that led to trusted TV anchor Walter Cronkite broadcasting his public souring on the Vietnam War). A whole series of war propaganda systems, from planting retired generals as “talking heads” on TV to the assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld deciding to “embed the media,” have worked pretty well to maintain the necessary level of war momentum in mainstream media and amongst public opinion.
But now, with American polls approaching the same problematic levels as those in Europe cited by the “CIA Red Cell,” we suddenly see major human rights organizations like Amnesty International (as well as others) applauding Obama’s (and the feminist war-hawks’) “Atrocity Prevention Board.”
Such sleight of hand seems to work to work even better amongst political partisans. By the way, it should be noted that Congress may allow these Pentagon propagandists to target American citizens through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. Should we connect the dots?
There are some clear lines where the laudable need to further human rights should not be twisted into justifying harsh economic sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children or, even worse, “shock and awe” aerial bombing that takes the lives of the women and children the “humanitarian” propagandists say they want to help.
Madeleine Albright’s response about the deaths of a half million children on 60 Minutes, that “the price was worth it,” illustrates the quintessential falsity of what ethicists call “act utilitarianism” or concocting fictional happy outcomes to justify the terrible wrongful means.
It also seems that a human rights NGO, in this case Amnesty International, which had gained a solid reputation and hence the trust of those it has helped through the years, will be jeopardized in aligning itself with the U.S. Secretary of State and NATO.
This is exactly how the Nobel Peace Prize got corrupted, aligning itself with the U.S. Secretary of State and NATO, which is why Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire withdrew from the Nobel Peace forum held in Chicago during NATO.
Good NGOs and non-profits that want to maintain the trust in their humanitarian work tend to be very careful to maintain their independence from any government, let alone any war-making government. When NGOs, even good ones, become entwined with the U.S./NATO war machine, don’t they risk losing their independent credibility?
Ann Wright is a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserve Colonel and a 16-year U.S. diplomat who served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She returned to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010 on fact-finding missions.
Coleen Rowley, a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, was legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003. She wrote a “whistleblower” memo in May 2002 and testified to the Senate Judiciary on some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. She retired at the end of 2004, and now writes and speaks on ethical decision-making and balancing civil liberties with the need for effective investigation.
Tbilisi – U.S. Ambassador-designate to Georgia, Richard Norland, outlined priority areas of U.S. cooperation with its “reliable partner”, Georgia, during a nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 21, saying that upcoming elections would be “a very important litmus test” for Georgia’s NATO aspiration. […]
He reiterated the U.S. support to Georgia’s NATO aspirations and said that the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Chicago would provide an opportunity “to highlight Georgia’s progress towards meeting membership criteria, as well as its significant partnership contributions.”
He stressed on importance of Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operations, where “brave” Georgian soldiers operate without caveats in the Helmand province, noting that Georgia would become the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF after it deploys an additional battalion in Afghanistan this fall.
Responding to Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s question about Georgia’s NATO integration, the Ambassador-designate said that the Alliance had already declared that Georgia would become a NATO member.
“So the issue really has to do [with] how and when,” Norland said. “There is no single path to NATO membership. As it stands now, I understand, the Annual National Program and the NATO-Georgia [Commission] are the primary mechanisms to which Georgia and the Allies are pursuing the issue of Georgia’s membership.”
He also said that “a lot of emphasis” was also placed on steps Georgia was already taking, including its contribution to the ISAF mission, defense reforms, as well as steps towards democratic and economic reforms.
“These are all part of the package that go[es] into meeting the criteria for NATO membership,” Norland said.
He said that “serious efforts” were being undertaken by the U.S. administration to use upcoming NATO summit in Chicago “to signal acknowledgment for Georgia’s progress in these areas and to work with the Allies to develop a consensus on the next steps forward.” … Full article
- A New NATO Ally? (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- U.S. and NATO are on the march worldwide – Part II (alhittin.com)
- ‘US builds hospitals in Georgia, readies for war with Iran’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A US soldier opened fire on Afghan civilians in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 16 of them. […]
Agence France Press said its correspondent has counted the bodies of the killed, saying they were 16 people.
“Today at around 3:00 am a US soldier walked off his base and started shooting at civilians”, Ahmad Jawed Faysal, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor, told AFP.
“What we know at this stage is that there have been casualties in two villages, Alokozai and Garrambai villages (in Panjwayi district)”, he said.
“A delegation has been sent to find out how this has happened as well as to determine the dead and injured”, Faysal added. […]
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement it “regretted” the incident, saying the soldier has been detained. … Full article
An analysis by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, which the U.S. Army has not approved for public release but has leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most authoritative refutation thus far of the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the troop surge began in early 2010.
In the 84-page unclassified report, Davis, who returned last fall after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, attacks the credibility of claims by senior military leaders that the U.S.-NATO war strategy has succeeded in weakening the Taliban insurgent forces and in building Afghan security forces capable of taking primary responsibility for security in the future.
The report, which Davis had submitted to the Army in January for clearance to make it public, was posted on the website of Rolling Stone magazine by journalist Michael Hastings Friday. In a blog for the magazine, Hastings reported that “officials familiar with the situation” had said the Pentagon was “refusing” to release the report, but that it had been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House.
Hastings wrote that he had obtained it from a U.S. government official.
Contacted by IPS Friday, Davis would not comment on the publication of the report or its contents.
Writing that he is “no Wikileaks guy Part II”, Davis reveals no classified information in the report. But he has given a classified version of the report, which cites and quotes from dozens of classified documents, to several members of the House and Senate, including both Democrats and Republicans.
“If the public had access to the classified reports,” Davis writes, “they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is true behind the scenes.”
Davis is in a unique position to assess the real situation on the ground in Afghanistan. As a staff officer of the “Rapid Equipping Force”, he traveled more than 9,000 miles to every area where U.S. troop presence was significant and had conversations with more than 250 U.S. soldiers, from privates to division commanders.
The report takes aim at the March 2011 Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, then the top commander in Afghanistan, and the Defence Department’s April 2011 Report to Congress as either “misleading, significantly skewed or completely inaccurate”.
Davis attacks the claim in both the Petraeus testimony and the DOD report that U.S. and NATO forces had “arrested the insurgents’ momentum” and “reversed it in a number of important areas”.
That claim is belied, Davis argues, by the fact that the number of insurgent attacks, the number of IEDs found and detonated and the number of U.S. troops killed and wounded have all continued to mount since 2009, the last year before the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 NATO troops.
Davis notes that Petraeus and other senior officials of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the U.S.-NATO command in Afghanistan, have boasted of having killed and captured thousands of insurgent leaders and rank and file soldiers, cut insurgent supply routes and found large numbers of weapons caches as well as depriving the insurgents of their main bases of operation since spring 2010.
If these claims were accurate measures of success, Davis writes, after the Taliban had been driven out of their strongholds, “there ought to have been a reduction in violence not a continual, unbroken string of increases.”
In fact, Davis writes, Taliban attacks “continued to rise at almost the same rate it had risen since 2005 all the way through the summer of 2011″ and remained “well above 2009 levels in the second half of 2011″ even though it leveled off or dropped slightly in some places.
Davis notes that total attacks, total number of IEDs and total U.S. casualties in 2011 were 82 percent, 113 percent and 164 percent higher, respectively, than the figures for 2009, the last year before the surge of 30,000 troops. The annual number of U.S. dead and wounded increased from 1,764 in 2009 to 4,662 in 2011.
The veteran Army officer quotes Congressional testimony by Adm. Mike Mullen December 2, 2009 as citing a lesser increase in Taliban attacks in 2009 of 60 percent over the 2008 level as a rationale for a significant increase in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, implying that the war was being lost.
Davis leaves no doubt about his overall assessment that the U.S. war effort has failed. “Even a cursory observation of key classified reports and metrics,” Davis concludes, “leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion that over the past two years, despite the surge of 30,000 American Soldiers, the insurgent force has gained strength….”
Davis is also scathing in his assessment of the Afghan army and police who have been described as constantly improving and on their way to taking responsibility for fighting the insurgents.
“What I saw first-hand, in virtually every circumstance,” writes Davis, “was a barely functioning organization – often cooperating with the insurgent enemy….”
Both in his longer report and in an article for Armed Forces Journal published online February 5, Davis recounts his experience at an Afghan National Police station in Kunar province in January 2011. Arriving two hours after a Taliban attack on the station, Davis asked the police captain whether he had sent out patrols to find the insurgents.
After the question had been conveyed by the interpreter, Davis recalls, “The captain’s head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.”
“No! We don’t go after them,” he quotes the captain as saying. “That would be dangerous!”
According to Davis, U.S. troops who work with Afghan policemen in that province say they “rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints”, allowing the Taliban to “literally run free”.
Describing the overall situation, Davis writes, “(I)n a number of high profile mission opportunities over the past 11 months the ANA (Afghan National Army) and ANP (Afghan National Police) have numerous times run from the battle, run from rumors, or made secret deals with the Taliban.”
The draft posted online notes after that statement that the classified version of the paper has been “redacted”, indicating that Davis provides further details about those “secret deals” in the classified version.
The Army dissenter calls on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to “conduct a bi-partisan investigation into the various charges of deception or dishonesty in this report….” He urges that such a hearing include testimony not only from senior military officials but from mid- and senior-level intelligence analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies.
Both Senate and House Armed Services Committees have exhibited little or no interest in probing behind the official claims of success in Afghanistan. That passive role reflects what many political observers, including some members of Congress, see as cozy relationships among most committee members, military leaders, Pentagon officials and major military contractors.
It remains to be seen whether Davis’s success in raising the issue of misleading claims of success in a front-page New York Times story February 6 and in subsequent television appearances will bring pressure on those committees from other members to hold hearings on whether senior military officials are telling the truth about the situation in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military leadership in Afghanistan is brushing off Davis’s critique as having no importance. During a briefing in which he claimed continued steady progress in Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, dismissed the Davis report as “one person’s view of this”.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.