Tuesday, September 02, 2008

USA blew children apart - large calibre guns

In one of the worst atrocities of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, as many as 90 civilians were massacred by an American air strike last Friday in the western province of Herat. At least 60 of those killed were children under the age of 15, according to Afghan government and military sources.

The slaughter was carried out by what is, for defenceless people on the ground, one of the most terrifying warplanes in the US arsenal, the AC-130 .Spooky. gunship. Equipped with a rapid-fire five-barrel 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm cannon and a 105mm howitzer, it is designed to lay waste to exposed targets with a torrent of bullets and artillery shells.

The victims were part of a large crowd that had gathered in the village of Azizabad.a community near the government airfield at Shindand, some 120 kilometres south of the city of Herat.for a customary commemoration of the 40th day after the death of a local leader. Many of the men in the village work as security guards at the airfield.

How they came to be targeted by US aircraft is still shrouded in a fog of contradictory reports. According to the US military, an operation was underway against an insurgent group led by a man named Mullah Siddiq. Afghan government troops were allegedly ambushed on their way to intercept Siddiq. They reportedly fought off and then pursued their assailants to Azizabad, where they called in the AC-130 to devastate the village.

The initial reports released by the US military boasted that it had successfully attacked a meeting of Taliban militants in Herat province, killing at least 30. The truth emerged as Herat district officials, Afghan military personnel, aid workers, journalists and, eventually, a senior minister in the government of President Hamid Karzai, visited the scene.

On Friday evening, the Afghan interior ministry issued a statement declaring that .76 people, all civilians and most of them women and children were martyred... 19 women, 7 men and the rest children all under 15 years of age.. Karzai, who has repeatedly protested against indiscriminate US air strikes, issued his own statement, condemning the occupation forces for .martyring at least 70 people, most of them women and children..

Raouf Ahmedi, a spokesman for the Afghan army, told the Washington Post that officials who travelled to Azizabad on Saturday had counted 60 children and 19 women among the dead. .We couldn.t and we haven.t found any identification showing they are Taliban,. he said. An Associated Press cameraman reported that he had seen some 20 destroyed houses and had counted 20 newly dug graves, including some that contained multiple corpses.

People from throughout the district demonstrated on Saturday in Azizabad, carrying a banner .Death to America.. They reportedly set a police car ablaze and threw stones at government troops attempting to distribute food and clothing to the survivors. Police allegedly fired into the crowd to disperse it, wounding at least eight people.

Ghulam Azrat, the principal of the local school, told Associated Press: .The people were very angry. They told the soldiers .We don.t need your food. We don.t need your clothes. We want our children. We want our relatives. Can you give it to us? You cannot, so go away...

By Sunday, the death toll from the air strike had been revised upward. Islamic Affairs Minister Nematullah Shahrani told Agence France Presse: .We went to the area and found out that the bombardment was very heavy, lots of houses have been damaged and more than 90 non-combatants, including women, children and elderly people have died. Most are women and children. They [the US military] have claimed that Taliban were there. They must prove it. So far, it is not clear for us why the coalition conducted the air strikes..

As word of the massacre spread across Afghanistan, Karzai attempted to stem the outpouring of opposition toward the US occupation by sacking the top military commander in western Afghanistan and the commander of the commando unit that called in the air strike. Referring to the false claims that Taliban had been killed, Karzai declared the two had been dismissed for .negligence and concealing facts..

A spokesman for the Bush administration, Tony Fratto, issued a statement on Sunday that still refused to acknowledge that the US military had slaughtered civilians. Fratto declared: .These reports are being investigated and we.ll look for the results of that investigation.. In words dripping with cynicism, he stated: .Coalition forces take precautions to prevent the loss of civilians, unlike the Taliban and militants who target civilians and place civilians in harms way..

A press release from US military headquarters in Afghanistan simply noted that it .was aware of allegations that the engagement in Shindand district of Herat province Friday may have resulted in civilian deaths..

The massacre in Azizabad is only a particularly graphic incident in the frequent killing and maiming of Afghan civilians by American and NATO. Despite the propaganda claims of taking .precautions. and observing stringent rules of engagement, the occupation forces respond to insurgent attacks in populated areas with overwhelming firepower and rely heavily on air strikes to disrupt Taliban movements in rural areas.

As larger areas of Afghanistan fall under the sway of the Taliban, the air strikes become more indiscriminate. Any large group of people moving in the countryside or assembling in a village is treated as suspicious by the targeters who sit in secure bases and scour satellite images for potential targets for the pilots stalking the skies of Afghanistan. Wedding parties have been attacked repeatedly over the past six years.the most recent being the July 6 bombing of a wedding in Nangarhar, in which 47 people were killed, including the bride.

As many as 1,000 civilians have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan, of which close to 400 can be directly attributed to occupation forces. The rest are blamed by the UN on suicide attacks, bombings and other actions carried out by the Taliban.

The true number of civilian fatalities is likely to be far higher. In areas heavily bombed during major US or NATO offensives, some deaths are almost certainly not reported. There are also good grounds to suspect that some of the several thousand alleged insurgents killed this year were actually non-combatants caught up in the fighting.

Deepening quagmire

The sensitivity of figures like Hamid Karzai stems from their recognition that every report of innocent deaths fuels the general hatred felt by millions of Afghans toward the US-led occupation. Moreover, it heightens the opposition toward the Kabul government, which is widely regarded as a corrupt and ineffective US puppet regime.

With growing popular sympathy and support, the Taliban and other anti-occupation militia based in the ethnic Pashtun tribal border region of Pakistan have re-established influence and control over large swathes of the Pashtun-populated southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan.

Casualties among the occupation forces are climbing as the insurgency intensifies in size and scope. The tally of US and NATO deaths in 2008.currently 194.is already the second-highest annual figure of the war and, based on current trends, will exceed the record 232 deaths last year.

The more poorly-equipped Afghan army and police are taking casualties at a far greater rate. The Interior Ministry reported in early August that 600 police had been killed and over 800 wounded in the preceding four months. There is no comparable figure concerning the casualties suffered by the Army, but the deaths of 10 to 20 Afghan troops are reported most weeks.

Currently, there are 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan, along with 30,000 troops from other NATO countries and US allies. The Afghan Army consists of 65,000 troops but the bulk of its units are incapable of operating without air power, fire support, logistics and intelligence provided by the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In response, the Bush administration, with the bipartisan support of the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate Barack Obama, is preparing to deploy an additional 12,000 US combat troops, beginning with a brigade, possibly as early as November. The British government is reportedly preparing to send an additional 4,500 troops, boosting its troop numbers in Afghanistan to over 12,000. Other European powers are being pressured by Washington to send more forces.

Strategic and military analysts are warning, however, that more troops in Afghanistan will not end the armed insurgency if the guerrillas can continue to use Pakistan.s tribal region as a safe haven.

The Pakistani government is under pressure from the Bush administration to crack down on these tribal sanctuaries. It has ordered a savage campaign of air strikes against Pashtun villages in the districts of Bajaur and Mohmand. As many as 300,000 tribal people have been forced to flee for their lives. Over the weekend, clashes and bombardments also reportedly took place in South Waziristan.the area believed to be the main base of the Afghan Taliban.

To fully control the border area, however, the Pakistani military would be compelled to deploy tens of thousands of troops into the autonomous Federally Administrated Tribal Agencies (FATA). There is no popular support in Pakistan for such a step. A poll conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow and cited in USA Today on August 22 found that 55 percent of respondents blame the US for the violence in the tribal frontier. Just 6 percent blamed the Islamist militants. In another poll by the International Republican Institute, 71 percent said they opposed Pakistan.s cooperation with the US war in Afghanistan.

If the unstable government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani orders large-scale troop deployments in the FATA, it will face large-scale unrest as well as possible mutinies in the armed forces.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst from the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), has set out the conclusions that are being widely reached in American ruling circles regarding the Afghan war.

Cordesman wrote in an August 21 report: .The Afghan-Pakistan war is a two-country war that cannot be won in Afghanistan alone. At this point in time, US-NATO/ISAF-Afghan forces are simply too weak to deal with a multi-faceted insurgency with a de-facto sanctuary along the entire Afghan-Pakistan border... It seems likely that the Afghan-Pakistan war will play out over a decade or more, and be a major problem for the entire term of office for the next Presidents of both the US and Pakistan....

Directly echoing Obama.s campaign speeches, Cordesman asserted: .The US and its allies have no choice other than to try and force Pakistan.s new government to take a far firmer and aggressive stand... Decisions to take decisive action will be Pakistani, but the US should make it openly clear that the US cannot wait for Pakistan to make such decisions and will have to treat Pakistani territory as a combat zone if Pakistan does not act..

The next US administration, whether headed by Barack Obama or John McCain, appears set to extend US operations in what was once referred to as the .forgotten war. over the border into Pakistan. Friday.s massacre in the village of Azizabad is a warning of what happens in areas the US military treats as a .combat zone..

The Real Drug Lords: A brief history of CIA involvement in the Drug Trade

by William Blum

1947 to 1951, FRANCE

According to Alfred W. McCoy in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, CIA arms, money, and disinformation enabled Corsican criminal syndicates in Marseille to wrestle control of labor unions from the Communist Party. The Corsicans gained political influence and control over the docks . ideal conditions for cementing a long-term partnership with mafia drug distributors, which turned Marseille into the postwar heroin capital of the Western world. Marseille.s first heroin laboratones were opened in 1951, only months after the Corsicans took over the waterfront.


The Nationalist Chinese army, organized by the CIA to wage war against Communist China, became the opium barons of The Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, Thailand and Laos), the world.s largest source of opium and heroin. Air America, the ClA.s principal airline proprietary, flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia. (See Christopher Robbins, Air America, Avon Books, 1985, chapter 9)

1950s to early 1970s, INDOCHINA During U.S. military involvement in Laos and other parts of Indochina, Air America flew opium and heroin throughout the area. Many Gl.s in Vietnam became addicts. A laboratory built at CIA headquarters in northern Laos was used to refine heroin. After a decade of American military intervention, Southeast Asia had become the source of 70 percent of the world.s illicit opium and the major supplier of raw materials for America.s booming heroin market.

1973-80, AUSTRALIA

The Nugan Hand Bank of Sydney was a CIA bank in all but name. Among its officers were a network of US generals, admirals and CIA men, including fommer CIA Director William Colby, who was also one of its lawyers. With branches in Saudi Arabia, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America and the U.S., Nugan Hand Bank financed drug trafficking, money laundering and international arms dealings. In 1980, amidst several mysterious deaths, the bank collapsed, $50 million in debt. (See Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA, W.W. Norton & Co., 1 987.)

1970s and 1980s, PANAMA

For more than a decade, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was a highly paid CIA asset and collaborator, despite knowledge by U.S. drug authorities as early as 1971 that the general was heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Noriega facilitated .guns-for-drugs. flights for the contras, providing protection and pilots, as well as safe havens for drug cartel otficials, and discreet banking facilities. U.S. officials, including then-ClA Director William Webster and several DEA officers, sent Noriega letters of praise for efforts to thwart drug trafficking (albeit only against competitors of his Medellin Cartel patrons). The U.S. government only turned against Noriega, invading Panama in December 1989 and kidnapping the general once they discovered he was providing intelligence and services to the Cubans and Sandinistas. Ironically drug trafficking through Panama increased after the US invasion. (John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, Random House, 1991; National Security Archive Documentation Packet The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations.)


The San Jose Mercury News series documents just one thread of the interwoven operations linking the CIA, the contras and the cocaine cartels. Obsessed with overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Reagan administration officials tolerated drug trafficking as long as the traffickers gave support to the contras. In 1989, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations (the Kerry committee) concluded a three-year investigation by stating:

.There was substantial evidence of drug smuggling through the war zones on the part of individual Contras, Contra suppliers, Contra pilots mercenaries who worked with the Contras, and Contra supporters throughout the region.. U.S. officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war efforts against Nicaragua.. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. govemment had intormation regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter.. Senior U S policy makers were nit immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras. funding problems.. (Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, a Report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and Intemational Operations, 1989)

In Costa Rica, which served as the .Southern Front. for the contras (Honduras being the Northern Front), there were several different ClA-contra networks involved in drug trafficking. In addition to those servicing the Meneses-Blandon operation detailed by the Mercury News, and Noriega.s operation, there was CIA operative John Hull, whose farms along Costa Rica.s border with Nicaragua were the main staging area for the contras. Hull and other ClA-connected contra supporters and pilots teamed up with George Morales, a major Miami-based Colombian drug trafficker who later admitted to giving $3 million in cash and several planes to contra leaders. In 1989, after the Costa Rica government indicted Hull for drug trafficking, a DEA-hired plane clandestinely and illegally flew the CIA operative to Miami, via Haiti. The US repeatedly thwarted Costa Rican efforts to extradite Hull back to Costa Rica to stand trial. Another Costa Rican-based drug ring involved a group of Cuban Amencans whom the CIA had hired as military trainers for the contras. Many had long been involved with the CIA and drug trafficking They used contra planes and a Costa Rican-based shnmp company, which laundered money for the CIA, to move cocaine to the U.S. Costa Rica was not the only route. Guatemala, whose military intelligence service . closely associated with the CIA . harbored many drug traffickers, according to the DEA, was another way station along the cocaine highway.

Additionally, the Medellin Cartel.s Miami accountant, Ramon Milian Rodriguez, testified that he funneled nearly $10 million to Nicaraguan contras through long-time CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, who was based at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador. The contras provided both protection and infrastructure (planes, pilots, airstrips, warehouses, front companies and banks) to these ClA-linked drug networks. At least four transport companies under investigation for drug trafficking received US govemment contracts to carry non-lethal supplies to the contras. Southern Air Transport, .formerly. ClA-owned, and later under Pentagon contract, was involved in the drug running as well. Cocaine-laden planes flew to Florida, Texas, Louisiana and other locations, including several militarv bases Designated as .Contra Craft,. these shipments were not to be inspected. When some authority wasn.t clued in and made an arrest, powerful strings were pulled on behalf of dropping the case, acquittal, reduced sentence, or deportation.

1980s to early 1990s, AFGHANISTAN

ClA-supported Moujahedeen rebels engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting against the Soviet-supported govemment and its plans to reform the very backward Afghan society. The Agency.s principal client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the leading druglords and leading heroin refiner. CIA supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, were used to transport opium to laboratories along the Afghan Pakistan border. The output provided up to one half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe. US officials admitted in 1990 that they had failed to investigate or take action against the drug operabon because of a desire not to offend their Pakistani and Afghan allies. In 1993, an official of the DEA called Afghanistan the new Colombia of the drug world.

MlD-1980s to early 199Os, HAITI

While working to keep key Haitian military and political leaders in power, the CIA turned a blind eye to their clients. drug trafficking. In 1986, the Agency added some more names to its payroll by creating a new Haitian organization, the National Intelligence Service (SIN). SIN was purportedly created to fight the cocaine trade, though SIN officers themselves engaged in the trafficking, a trade aided and abetted by some of the Haitian military and political leaders.

William Blum is author of Killing Hope: U.S Military and CIA Interventions Since World War ll available from Common Courage Press, P.O. Box 702, Monroe, Maine, 04951

Bookmark and Share
posted by u2r2h at 6:03 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home