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Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Forever Wall for Our Forever Wars

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In the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, among the many things barely mentioned or already long forgotten (if ever even noticed), were the wedding parties U.S. air power took out there. Since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by al-Qaeda's four-plane air force in September 2001, the U.S. military has returned the favor in the distant lands where it's fought its "war on terror." In those years, that military proved to be, all too literally, a wedding crasher of the first order. Yes, American air power repeatedly wiped out weddings in Afghanistan and at least one each in Iraq and Yemen (where Rupert Murdoch's New York Post headlined the story, ever-so-charmingly, "Bride and Boom!").

From 2008 on, I tried to cover the slaughter of such wedding parties at TomDispatch. By 2013, I had counted eight such massacres in which brides, grooms, celebrants, even wedding musicians had been killed, sometimes en masse. In one of those Afghan slaughters, among 102 guests, only two women reportedly survived. In 2018, I noted a ninth wedding that had been devastated, also in Afghanistan, and suggested that when the U.S. finally departed from such wars we would leave behind "the equivalent of unending 'towers' of dead women and children in the Greater Middle East." And there can be little question that I missed more such disasters.

As far as I could tell, however, few in this country gave a damn about such massacres. (Imagine the coverage and outrage if even one such event had ever happened here!) Nor, by the way, did our military high command bother to apologize for almost all of them and those slaughters were often barely noted in the news here. I don't believe that any other media outlet even tried to keep track of them, though each was a kind of grim 9/11 for those involved.

So many passing mistakes, so many thousands of miles away, and here's the sad truth of it: when Joe Biden finally withdrew those last American troops from Afghanistan (against the recommendations of his closest military advisers), even I had more or less forgotten about this country's wedding slaughters and the record I had tried to keep of them. Fortunately, TomDispatch managing editor Nick Turse, in his latest one-of-a-kind piece, brought them all-too-sadly to my mind again.

You'll see just why and if what he's written doesn't take your breath away, well, join the crew in Washington. Despite CENTCOM commander General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.'s recent pathetic and rare apology for our final drone assassination of seven Afghan children in Kabul, few in Washington have ever displayed the slightest sense of sorrow or remorse when it came to the staggering death toll this country caused in so many distant lands in response to one horror that befell us. That wedding record alone should have (but hasn't) given "payback" new meaning. Tom

The Names You'll Never Know
A Blue Kia and a Wall of Carnage on the Washington Mall


As a parting shot, on its way out of Afghanistan, the United States military launched a drone attack that the Pentagon called a "righteous strike." The final missile fired during 20 years of occupation, that August 29th airstrike averted an Islamic State car-bomb attack on the last American troops at Kabul's airport. At least, that's what the Pentagon told the world.

Within two weeks, a New York Times investigation would dismantle that official narrative. Seven days later, even the Pentagon admitted it. Instead of killing an ISIS suicide bomber, the United States had slaughtered 10 civilians: Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group; three of his children, Zamir, 20, Faisal, 16, and Farzad, 10; Ahmadi's cousin Naser, 30; three children of Ahmadi's brother Romal, Arwin, 7, Benyamin, 6, and Hayat, 2; and two 3-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya.

The names of the dead from the Kabul strike are as important as they are rare. So many civilians have been obliterated, incinerated, or as in the August 29th attack "shredded" in America's forever wars. Who in the United States remembers them? Who here ever knew of them in the first place? Twenty years after 9/11, with the Afghan War declared over, combat in Iraq set to conclude, and President Joe Biden announcing the end of "an era of major military operations to remake other countries," who will give their deaths another thought?

Americans have been killing civilians since before there was a United States. At home and abroad, civilians Pequots, African Americans, Cheyenne and Arapaho, Filipinos, Haitians, Japanese, Germans, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Somalis, among others have been shot, burned, and bombed to death. The slaughter at Sand Creek, the Bud Dajo massacre, the firebombing of Dresden, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the My Lai massacre the United States has done what it can to sweep it all under the rug through denial, cover-ups, and the most effective means of all: forgetting.

There's little hope of Americans ever truly coming to terms with the Pequot or Haitian or Vietnamese blood on their hands. But before the forever wars slip from the news and the dead slide into the memory hole that holds several centuries worth of corpses, it's worth spending a few minutes thinking about Zemari Ahmadi, Benyamin, Hayat, Malika, Somaya, and all the civilians who were going about their lives until the U.S. military ended them.

Names Remembered and Names Forgotten

Over the last 20 years, the United States has conducted more than 93,300 air strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen that killed between 22,679 and 48,308 civilians, according to figures recently released by Airwars, a U.K.-based airstrike monitoring group. The total number of civilians who have died from direct violence in America's wars since 9/11 tops out at 364,000 to 387,000, according to Brown University's Costs of War Project.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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