STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
US Kill Teams Target Afghan Civilians as Trophies
By Staff News & Analysis - March 22, 2011

Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed. Senior officials at Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world. – UK Guardian

Dominant Social Theme: Mistakes happen. (Over and over.)

Free-Market Analysis: How long shall this agony continue? Bestial acts are being committed (see article excerpt above) but the US is not disengaging from Afghanistan anytime soon. The Pentagon brain-trust now projects 2014 as the year in which US forces (some of them) will depart Afghan in earnest, turning the job of nation-building over to a 400,000-strong military and civilian police force.

Additionally, there is always the possibility that the Afghan government will want the US to have a further presence. Thus it is very possible that US forces will construct bases to share with Afghan troops, guaranteeing some level of additional availability in Afghanistan. The US has withdrawn from Iraq, but still maintains a rump force of some 50,000 at various bases throughout that country.

The longer these wars continue, the worse it gets. Young men, taught to kill with industrial efficiency (itself an unnatural act) may eventually exhibit psychopathologies that come with the ongoing pressures of "winning hearts and minds." In truth, there is very little possibility of winning over the Pashtuns and their Taliban fighting forces at this late date. These are people who regularly blow themselves up as they attempt to fight back against what they consider to be an occupying force.

Perhaps the decade-long war would be more tolerable to participants and the American public alike if someone could verbalize exactly what the troops are fighting for. Initially, it was acknowledged that the Taliban were not a terrorist threat, even though – according to the official American story – the Taliban sheltered Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But having driven the Taliban from power some nine years ago, the US did not withdraw.

The longer the war continues, unfortunately, the more opportunity there is for young soldiers to behave badly and even brutally. In Iraq there was the Abu Ghraib scandal, where US troops humiliated and even tortured incarcerated opponents of the US occupation. And now there is the Afghan "Kill Team" scandal in which rogue US troops apparently murdered civilians and then posed next to their carcasses, as if the dead were big game trophies.

To its credit, the US Army has acted. Twelve men are currently being tried for their roles in killing three civilians as part of these activities. But the problem is apparently bigger than this as Germany's Der Spiegel magazine has reportedly obtained more than FOUR THOUSAND Kill Team photos, many apparently showing Americans posing with dead Afghans. Der Spiegel, so far, plans on publishing no more than three photos; the popular news site Drudge.com has posted them as well, in today's "lede." Top US brass has been in full damage-control mode for over 100 days, according to media reports.

Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks, the UK Guardian informs us. "Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted. The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut ‘trophies' from the bodies of the people they killed."

Such stories, along with photographs, have caused massive allied paranoia. In Kabul, foreign offices are on "lockdown," including the United Nations, which has restricted staff to its compound. There are worries about demonstrations and fears that the Taliban may exploit heightened tensions by launching attacks.

NATO and Pentagon officials are also worried about what the mercurial Afghan president Hamid Karzai might say about the emerging news regarding US Kill Teams. Karzai is supposed to make a speech about which parts of Afghanistan should be placed under home rule in upcoming months, and the fear is that he will bring up the latest incidents. Karzai wants US bombing sorties and nighttime raids to stop.

Tension in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is already heightened because of the shooting by a CIA contractor of two Pakistanis that were supposedly trying to rob him. The contractor has now been flown back to the US but there have been ongoing demonstrations over the affair that were further heightened last week by a drone attack that killed some 40 Pashtun elders.

The US and NATO approach such incidents serially, apologizing as necessary and explaining or denying when possible. But the larger picture is continually more questionable, and even discouraging. As we've pointed out many times (along with many other alternative news publications) both Iraq and Afghanistan have been poisoned with radioactive dust from depleted uranium weapons that have given rise to numerous babies with birth defects and also a considerable increase in cancer. Meanwhile, escalating US attacks are under General David Petraeus are causing numerous civilian casualties; most recently nine boys collecting firewood were blasted into pieces by US bomb-pilots who mistook them for Taliban fighters.

It is highly doubtful at this point that the US and NATO can win the hearts and minds of 40 million Pashtuns located in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The solution has been to build up non-Pashtun military and civilian forces that are supposed to number in excess of 400,000 before the final allied drawdown. Since there is considerable ethnic tension between the populations from which these forces are drawn and the Pashtuns themselves, what the US is actually creating in Afghanistan is a recipe for civil war.

Meanwhile, the poisoning of Afghanistan via depleted uranium weapons will continue, along with the drone attacks, mounting civilian deaths and on occasion the brutal eruptions evidenced by these Kill Team incidents.

We have long suggested that the real reason for the war is to subdue the tribal Pashtuns that have proven a problem for Anglo-American elites for over a century now. The British tried to subdue the Pashtuns 100 years ago and were forced to withdraw. The Russians tried to do the same thing 25 years ago and it cost them their empire. Now the Americans and NATO are taking their turns in this poor, bloody, riven land.

Afghanistan is a "graveyard of empires" for a reason. The Pashtuns have occupied the same land for perhaps 2,000 years; the Pakistan Punjabis may be an equally ancient tribe. The Pashtuns especially tend to defend their lands aggressively, maybe because they've been invaded so many times. The Anglosphere elites are just one more challenge, though certainly a persistent one. London's City in our view wants to crush these tribal presences once and for all to ensure that the upcoming, planned one-world order will not be upended by an independent Near Asia. It is impossible to have world government when a fairly large territory remains unpacified.

But given what is occurring and the length of time for which this war has already been prosecuted the likelihood that the Pashtuns shall give in seems less and less feasible. The longer the occupation continues, the more opportunity there is for atrocities to occur. These are not anomalous incidents but predictable ones. It would seem a fairly futile battle at this point. With the US facing a budgetary meltdown and a new war in Libya, one wonders how long it is realistically possible to pursue Afghan hostilities. Tensions with Pakistan are rising, not falling, and this means that Pakistan safe havens will continue to be available to Taliban fighters.

After Thoughts

What is needed is a new approach. One hoped that when Barack Obama took office, hostilities would wind down; instead they have ratcheted up, but seemingly without any additional success, no matter what the Pentagon claims. Instead of resolutely continuing, NATO and American forces should call a halt and let the killing cease.

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