The Independent, June 22, 2009
Occupation, BBC1 Dispatches: Afghanistan’s Dirty War
The British experience in Basra made harrowing drama, but a documentary about Afghanistan was worse
Reviewed by Tim Walker
Children from the village of Aziz Abad talk about the friends and family they have lost.
Watch a selection of clips from Afghanistan's Dirty War on Channel 4 ( )
Some still think of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan as a "good" war. They may change their minds after watching the latest Dispatches, Afghanistan's Dirty War. Last August, US troops went looking for Taliban insurgents in Aziz Abad, a small village 400 miles west of Kabul. After a brief firefight, they called in an air strike, whereupon an AC-130 gunship tore the village apart.
Immediately following the attack, the Americans claimed to have engaged the Taliban with no civilian casualties. Dispatches's investigation told a different story: about 90 civilians died in the raid, with the local police chief estimating that at least 50 of them were children. Subsequent American inquiries dismissed the casualty estimates of the UN and the Red Cross, exonerating US troops and insisting that Taliban fighters were among the dead.
It later emerged, however, that their intelligence had been murky at best, and probably provided by the leader of a rival clan from another village, who was keen to see his own cohorts employed at the local US airbase – and willing to eliminate the competition by any means necessary. Even more troubling was the tale of another local man, arrested by US personnel and taken to the base, only to turn up four hours later, having been tortured to death.
The documentary, unlike US investigators, gave credence to the compelling first-hand testimony of villagers. President Obama's imminent troop surge, it suggested, will count for nothing if civilians continue to die and the coalition forces lose the support of the Afghan people. The most moving interview was with six-year-old Karzai, whose parents named him after the Afghan president as a mark of their hopes for their country. That was before Karzai lost his father and brother – in an American air strike.
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