NATO now admits that it was responsible for the deaths of three Afghan women during a night raid in Kabul on 12 February 2010. Jerome Starkey of the London Times reported that the families of the dead civilians told him they felt that their dead bodies had been violated and the troops dug the bullets out of them, bound and gagged the women to make them look like ‘honor killings’ (7:17):

Jason Ditz at Antiwar News writes:

Nearly two months after the high profile night raid in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province and after several official denials, NATO has finally admitted to killing all five civilians, including two Afghan government employees.

Jerome Starkey reported at the London Times, 13 Mar 2010, that the February raid which led to the deaths of two pregnant women—one, a mother of ten and the other of six—and a teenage girl were “carried out by U.S. and Afghan gunmen”, noting the raid came two weeks after “after the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan [General Stanley McChrystal] issued new guidelines designed to limit the use of night raids” after having “been criticised for night raids based on dubious or false intelligence leading to civilian casualties”.

Today, Mr. Starkey reported that Afghan investigators found that the forces staged the scene as an ‘honor killing‘. “U.S. special forces [S.O.F.] 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”.

Mr. Starkey wrote at Nieman Watchdog, shortly after his report appeared at the Times:

The militants weren’t militants, they were loyal government officials.  The women, according to dozens of interviews with witnesses at the scene, were killed by the raiders. Two of them were pregnant, one was engaged to be married.

The only way I found out NATO had lied — deliberately or otherwise — 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….

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.

There are a handful of truly fearless reporters in Afghanistan constantly trying to break the military’s monopoly on access to the front. But far too many of our colleagues accept the spin-laden press releases churned out of the Kabul headquarters. Suicide bombers are “cowards,” NATO attacks on civilians are “tragic accidents,” intelligence is foolproof and only militants get arrested...

This self-censorship is compounded by the “embed culture,” which encourages journalists to visit the frontlines with NATO soldiers, who provide them food, shelter, security and ultimately with stories. British troops will only accept journalists who let military censors approve their stories before they are filed. Ostensibly, this is to stop sensitive information reaching the insurgents. In my three and a half years in Afghanistan, the British invariably use it as an opportunity to editorialize….

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.

Dave Lindorff, author of The Case for Impeachment (2006) who recently made the case for the impeachment of President Barack Obama, discussed the details of covering this raid up as ‘honor killings’ further with RT, Gen. McChrystal’s “death squad” and the blowback potential of U.S. policy (5:25, segment begins at the 0:58 mark):

Kathy Kelly, who recently included Mr. Starkey ‘exposing this deception’ by the U.S.-led coalition to display how the U.S. government “pacifies” society to cover up its crimes against humanity, discussed: the cover-up; the recent admission by NATO; and the deliberate, ‘collaborative’ war crimes constantly being committed, as well (4:38):

The pacification of the American public was focused on by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, today. He begins with the CNN article with a headline that “states as fact that the women were dead as the result of an ‘honor killing'”, though the entire article “does nothing but repeat what an ‘unnamed senior military official said’ about the incident”.

He added how, “similarily”, The New York Times “also passed along the Pentagon’s false version of events with no questioning” and “simply ignored entirely the claims of the residents of the village—notwithstanding the fact that serious conflicts about what actually took place were known from the very beginning” (emphasis by Mr. Greenwald):

All of this is a chronic problem, not an isolated one, with war reporting generally and events in Afghanistan specifically.  Just consider what happened when the U.S. military was forced in 2008 to retract its claims about a brutal air raid in Azizabad.  The Pentagon had vehemently denied the villagers’ claim that close to 100 civilians had been killed and that no Taliban were in the vicinity:  until a video emerged proving the villagers’ claims were true and the Pentagon’s false.  Last week, TPM highlighted a recent, largely overlooked statement from Gen. McChrystal, where he admitted, regarding U.S. killings of Afghans at check points:  “to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, 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. . . . 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.”  And as I documented before, the U.S. media constantly repeats false Pentagon claims about American air attacks around the world in order to create the false impression that Key Terrorists were killed while no civilians were….

Amazingly, [Starkey’s] Nieman piece was written three weeks ago, and recounted in detail:  (a) how clearly the U.S.-led forces had lied about what happened in Paktia; and (b) the reasons why the U.S. media continuously spews false government propaganda about the war….

Illustratively, in response to Starkey’s March 13 article detailing what really happened at Paktia and the cover-up that ensued, NATO issued a formal statement singling him out and accusing him of publishing an article that was “categorically false.” As recently as that mid-March statement, NATO was still claiming — falsely — that the women in Paktia were killed prior to the arrival of American troops, and they were impugning the integrity of the reporter (Starkey) who was proving otherwise…

[F]ar more often, Americans are completely misled about events in Afghanistan by the combination of false official claims and mindless stenographic American “journalism.”  And no matter how many times this process is exposed—from Jessica Lynch’s heroic firefight to Pat Tillman’s death by Al Qeada—this relentless propaganda machine never seems to diminish.

Gareth Porter reported at Inter Press Services, last week, “Since he took over as top commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal has not only refused to curb those raids but has increased them dramatically… Two moves by McChrystal last year reveal his strong commitment to night raids as a tactic. After becoming commander of NATO and U.S. forces last May, he approved a more than fourfold increase in those operations, from 20 in May to 90 in November… Then, McChrystal deliberately protected night raids from political pressures to reduce or even stop them altogether. In his “initial assessment” last August, he devoted an entire annex to the subject of civilian casualties and collateral damage, but made no mention night raids as a problem in that regard.”

The result: “civilian deaths from night raids have spiked” causing “more than half of the nearly 600 civilian deaths attributable to coalition forces in 2009”, according to U.N. and Afghan government estimates.

Afghan Special Forces and other Afghan military personnel have accompanied S.O.F., “but that has not prevented the continued killing of civilians”.

Mr. Starkey reports that an Afghan government official exited the house during the February 12 raid and the women exited as well. “The S.O.F. community had long asserted that anyone who comes out of their house during a raid must be an insurgent and can therefore be killed,”—Dr. Porter reports. Though the night raid  was “obviously carried out without informing local officials, not only blundered into a family celebration and killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl, but also provoked others in the vicinity to come out of their houses with guns to see who had intruded on their neighbors”.

The significance of the S.O.F. community’s ‘long-time assertions’ and the deliberate procedural red-tape of receiving authorization for engagement in the videotaped massacre released by WikiLeaks is that neither of these are freak occurrences. Indiscriminate murder by the U.S. government has become acceptable to the point it’s become procedure.

  1. […] first point is that what occurred in the video and what’s been discovered of U.S. special forces staging their massacre of pregnant Afghan women as ‘honor killings’ are not isolated […]

  2. […] Ditz writes at Antiwar News. “The release comes at a particularly inopportune time, as the U.S. military is still scrambling to explain away the killings of several civilians (including pregn…. In that case as well, the military lied about a “firefight” which never happened, and even […]

  3. […] reports. (h/t: Glenn Greenwald) Mr. Tahir lost his 18-year-old daughter and two sisters-in-law in a February massacre by ISAF troops for which NATO has claimed responsibility for the deaths of the Afghan government officials with two pregnant women and the teenage girl […]

  4. […] Starkey recently reported that Afghan investigators found that the forces staged the scene as an ‘honor killing‘. […]

  5. […] resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a co…, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing […]

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