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Tom Englehardt examines the massacre at Azizabad, Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai cites the work of

Ahmad Nader Nadery, commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, similarly reported that one of the group's researchers had "found that 88 people had been killed, including 20 women." The U.N. mission in Afghanistan then dispatched its own investigative team from Herat to interview survivors. Its investigation "found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men." (The 60 children were reportedly "3 months old to 16 years old, all killed as they slept.")

The American military strongly disagreed, at first citing a casualty count of

...exactly 30 Taliban "militants"... ("Insurgents engaged the soldiers from multiple points within the compound using small-arms and RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. The joint forces responded with small-arms fire and an air strike killing 30 militants.")
 
Later, the American military was pushed into agreeing that yes, indeed, some civilians did indeed perish. The story contains a very chilling description of the way that American forces view real-time information and air power:

That night, a combined party of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan army troops attacked the village. They claimed they were "ambushed" and came under "intense fire." What we know is that they called in repeated air strikes.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway explained:

"You know, air power is the premiere asymmetric advantage that we hold over both the Taliban and, for that matter, the al Qaeda in Iraq… And when we find that you're up against hardened people in a hardened type of compound, before we throw our Marines or soldiers against that, we're going to take advantage of our asymmetric advantage… You don't always know what's in that compound, unfortunately. And sometimes we think there's been overt efforts on the part of the Taliban, in particular, to surround themselves with civilians so as to, at a minimum, reap an IO [information operations] advantage if civilians are killed."

It's just very difficult to believe that the Special Forces really had on-the-ground, real-time, close-up human observers to inform the aircraft that their target was a memorial service. Tactical, close-in air support is of course, vitally important and needed if US troops are to win engagements. But it's really not clear that there was any "hardened compound" involved or that there even was any return fire. The NY Times piece cited in the story refers to "eight bomb-damaged houses," but the only mention of any "compound" is:

In the compound next to his, he said, four entire families, including those of his two brothers, were killed.

In other words, not a "hardened" compound at all, certainly nothing resembling a military bunker. There's no talk in the piece about captured weapons. And as to the "fire" reportedly received from the village:


The villagers and the relatives of some of the people killed in the raid insisted that none of them were Taliban and that there were no Taliban present in the village.

and

The villagers say they oppose the Taliban and would not let them in the village.

The real question is then, were the Special Forces anywhere near the village to begin with? Were they observing from a distance, through scopes, or were they even that close? Did they simply hear or did their devices detect a large gathering? This is an inherent problem with airpower and guerrilla wars. Airpower is necessarily a very blunt and clumsy instrument to use against an enemy that slips around barely detectable, mostly unobserved and in the shadows. As stated earlier, close-up air support is vitally important while conducting tactical operations, but planes flying around and bombing targets without any human observers on the ground to confirm that the planes are indeed striking legitimate military targets do counterinsurgency forces far more harm than good.

Problem is, how on Earth can we reconcile military tactics that President Bush has approved with his allegedly "pro-life" stance? In his desire to be seen as a defender of the sanctity of life, he insisted back in 2001 that stem cells could used for medical research, but only under very strict conditions. He also made it clear during the 2000 campaign that he really didn't like abortions and wanted to reduce their incidence. He also favored, in July 2008, a sort-of conscience clause for hospitals that would allow employees to refuse to provide contraceptive services.

Can a human being really be that "Ahh, who gives a $%#@!" when it comes to casualties from an air strike, yet tenderly concerned and solicitous when it comes to decisions involving the unborn? It's not like the Afghan villagers of Azizabad were guilty of anything. Killing them was like killing the drivers and passengers in other cars when one is driving drunk. They were simply slaughtered at a distance. Their "guilt" was not an issue at all as there is no apparent evidence they were even in the vicinity of a legitimate military target.

As Christy Hardin Smith of FDL makes clear, women must have control over their bodies and their reproductive functions if they're to be full human beings and citizens.

Why tell you something so personal? Especially when it is no one's business but ours?

Because it is no one's business but ours how we made the decision, what medical issues were at stake, and what choices we made together. Which is the point of choice. No one but the people involved in the individual circumstances can truly know why the decision is made -- to terminate, to keep, to risk. [emphasis in original]

As Bush himself says about the Bristol Palin pregnancy:

President Bush "believes that this is a private family matter," says White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. The talking points circulated at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., are in remarkable concurrence: "This is a very personal matter for the family," a suggested script distributed to delegates and leaked to the press says.

Well...exactly! That's precisely what pro-choicers have been saying all these many years! How a woman, how a family, deals with a problem pregnancy or with an unwanted pregnancy is their business and should be their choice.

Anti-abortion activists promote a policy of official meddling — yes, by government bureaucrats — into the private lives of millions of American women, and the lives of their husbands and boyfriends.

"Pro-lifers" are nothing of the kind. They're people who want to deny choice and to force people to do things that people really don't want to do.

 

http://www.prawnworks.net/

PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001. Done a number of clerical-type jobs. Computer "power user," my desktop is a Windows machine, but my laptop is an Ubuntu Linux. Articles usually cross-posted at http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com Personal details at (more...)
 

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Sociopaths want too many weak babies to produce th... by John Hanks on Sunday, Sep 14, 2008 at 5:08:58 PM
Pro life is the wrong term. It should be pro profi... by arlen custer on Monday, Sep 15, 2008 at 10:15:07 AM