CounterPunch, November 14, 2013
A War Without End: US Atrocities in Afghanistan
Vital homeland needs go begging. Targeted countries are ravaged and destroyed. Imperial lawlessness operates this way
by Stephen Lendman
US drones murder Afghan civilian men, women and children. American grounds forces do it up close and personal.
US inflicted death, torture and other atrocities reflect daily life. Ordinary Afghans suffer most. They struggle to survive. American aggression is one of history’s greatest crimes.
War criminals remain unpunished. Accountability is denied. Conflict persists. It’s Washington’s longest war. It’s longer than WW I and II combined. It shows no signs of ending.
Trillions of dollars go mass slaughter and destruction. They’re spent for unchallenged global dominance.
Vital homeland needs go begging. Targeted countries are ravaged and destroyed. Imperial lawlessness operates this way.
Its appetite is insatiable. It ignores rule of law principles. It does whatever it wants. It does it where, when, by what means, and under whatever pretexts it contrives.
It does so unapologetically. It targets one country at a time or in multiples. It wages direct and proxy wars. It does so without justification. It lies claiming otherwise.
Atrocities are virtually de rigueur. All US wars are dirty. In March 2012, 20 US forces murdered 16 Afghan men, women, and nine children aged two to 12.
Children were massacred while they slept. Two women were raped before soldiers killed them. Pentagon officials and media scoundrels whitewashed what happened.
One soldier was blamed for crimes 20 US forces committed. Nineteen got off scot-free. Cold blooded murder and other atrocities persist. They do so with disturbing regularity.
On November 12, Reuters headlined ” ‘Lack of US Cooperation halts Afghan probe into civilian killings,” saying:
“Afghanistan’s intelligence service has abandoned its investigation into the murder of a group of civilians after being refused access to US special forces soldiers suspected of involvement, according to a document obtained by Reuters.”
War crimes were committed. US forces raided Wardak province. They did so from October 2012 to February 2013.
Cartoon: Carlos Latuff
Seventeen Afghan men were detained. They disappeared. Residents found 10 buried in shallow graves. They were several hundred meters from where US forces are based.
“In the report authored by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, investigators said they had asked the United States for access to three US Green Berets and four Afghan translators working with them but were rebuffed,” said Reuters.
On September 23, NDS published its report. “Despite many requests (it made, America hasn’t) cooperated,” it said. “Without (its) cooperation, this process cannot be completed.”
Pentagon officials routinely whitewash serious war crimes. So do US commanders on the ground. Doing so is longstanding US policy. Rare exceptions prove the rule.
Under a decade long military agreement, Afghan officials can’t charge US forces with war crimes. Whatever they do, they’re immune.
Zakeria Kandahari is an Afghan translator. He works with US Green Berets. He’s done so for nine years.
Documents Reuters obtained explained how US interrogations are conducted. Kandahari witnessed Sayid Mohammed’s treatment.
He was murdered. Kandahari named three US Special Forces responsible. He kicked Mohammed,” he said. He beat him. He threatened him.
“I handed him over to Mr. Dave and Mr. Hagen, but later I saw his body in a black body bag,” he said.
Wardak residents accuse US forces of abducting Afghan men and boys. Interrogations involving torture follows.
Karzai is a US installed stooge. He’s done nothing to stop what’s persisted throughout his tenure. Failure to act responsibly reflects complicity.
Russia Today interviewed journalist Matthieu Aikins. He spent five months investigating the Wardak incident.
Local residents bore testimony. They supplied credible evidence. War crimes were committed. According to Aikins:
“The special forces team was deployed to an isolated valley west of Kabul, where the Taliban and other insurgents groups have a very heavy presence.”
“Over last winter, the locals started complaining that the forces team and their translators were murdering people, abducting them, trotting them, and disappearing them.”
“Just extraordinary allegations that at the time were essentially unproven.”
In November 2012, residents first complained about a so-called Special Forces ODA 3124 unit.
When it withdrew in April, human remains were discovered near America’s Nerkh district base.
Local authorities determined that ODA 3124 operations bore full responsibility.
Survivor testimonies confirmed it. Victims described being severely beaten and tortured.
ICRC representatives obtained more evidence. Because of an alleged US investigation, details weren’t disclosed.
According to Aikins:
“In the five months that I spent reporting this story, not a single one of the witnesses that I spoke to had ever been contacted by the US military investigator.”
“So it does really beg the question whether these investigators are actually going to be able to establish any sort of accountability of what happened.”
It bears repeating. Pentagon officials routinely whitewash serious war crimes. So do US commanders on the ground.
Unaccountability is standard practice. US forces guilty of rape, torture and murder go unpunished.
On November 6, Aitkins headlined his Rolling Stone article “The A-Team Killings.”
“Last spring,” he said, “the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a US Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?”
Six months after US Special Forces arrived in Wardak province, allegations of torture and murder surfaced.
Locals said 10 civilians were abducted. They disappeared. US Special Forces were responsible.
They killed another eight Afghans during their operations. Perhaps more bodies remain to be discovered.
On February 16, “a student named Nasratullah was found under a bridge with his throat slit,” said Aikins.
Family members said US Green Berets abducted him. Other bodies were found. In July, Col. Jane Crichton lied, saying: ”After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) or US forces.”
According to Aikins:
“(O)ver the past five months, Rolling Stone has interviewed more than two dozen eyewitnesses and victims’ families who’ve provided consistent and detailed allegations of the involvement of American forces in the disappearance of the 10 men, and has talked to Afghan and Western officials who were familiar with confidential Afghan-government, UN and Red Cross investigations that found the allegations credible.”
“In July, a UN report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan warned: ‘The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture – if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict – may amount to war crimes.”
Aikins recounted Gul Rahim’s killing. He spoke to three of his neighbors. They saw US Special Forces arrive.
They heard gun shots. When they left. They saw Rahim’s “bullet-ridden body lying among the apple trees, his skull shattered.”
A man identified only as Omar was targeted. He witnessed Rahim’s killing. He survived.
He was taken to America’s Nerkh base. He was put in a plywood cell. Interrogations began the next morning.
His hands were bound above his head. He was suspended and beaten. Afghan translator Zakeria Kandahari was involved.
A Royal Marine was found guilty of murdering an injured Afghan insurgent by a military court. The judge released stills from the footage they inadvertantly took of the incident but not the footage itself.
Two Americans interrogated him. He said he knew nothing about Rahim and local Taliban commanders.
Beatings intensified. Sessions lasted for two days. “At one point,” said Aikins, “Kandahari held a pistol to Omar’s head and told him that he would kill him as easily as he had killed his friend.”
He was certain he’d die. At night, he was shackled in his plywood cell. Americans handed him over to Afghan forces. He realized he was being freed.
” ‘I promised that I would kill you,’ he says Kandahari told him, ‘and I don’t know how you’re getting away alive.”
Wardak is an intense battleground. It’s “littered with bomb craters and burned-out tanker trucks,” said Aikins.
Many disappeared Afghans “were rounded up by the Americans in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses.”
Aikins obtained credible testimonies. Mohammad Hazrat Janan is deputy head of Wardak’s provincial council.
US forces terrorize people, he said. They do it “because they could not defeat the insurgents.”
People abducted weren’t Taliban, he explained. “(B)ut even if they were, no one is allowed to just kill them in this way.”
Nerkh district feels besieged, said Aikins. It’s a “hotbed of guerrilla resistance.” It’s close to Kabul. It’s a “staging ground for suicide attacks on the capital.”
US forces are stationed at Combat Outpost Nerkh. Green Beret units are called Operational Detachment Alpha, ODA, or A-Team. The Nerkha-based one is called ODA 3124.
It’s involved in counterinsurgency operations. They part of what’s known as “white” Special Forces. So-called “black” ones launch night raids.
CIA elements are involved in local operations. Insurgents control Nerkh rural areas. US forces are vulnerable to ambushes or roadside blasts.
Nerkh incidents didn’t occur in a vacuum, said Aikins. “Over the past 10 years human rights groups, the UN and Congress have repeatedly documented the recurring abuse of detainees in the custody of the US military, the CIA and their Afghan allies.”
According to Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director John Sifton:
“The US military has a poor track record of holding its forces responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes.”
“There are some cases of detainee deaths 11 years ago that resulted in no punishments.”
Aikins said a former ODA 3124 interpreter named Farooq said he “routinely witnessed abusive interrogations during his time with the A-Team, involving physical beatings with fists, feet, cables and the use of devices similar to Tasers.”
When Obama begins drawing down US forces, Green Berets and CIA will remain. According to Aikins, they’ll be even less oversight than now.
Based on what he’s seen and gotten from witnesses, “the fight in Afghanistan may get even dirtier.”
Covert war may continue interminably. Afghans have enjoyed rare times of peace. They’ve had none for over three decades. Future prospects look grim.
For centuries, Afghans experienced what few can imagine. Marauding armies besieged cities. They slaughtered thousands. They caused vast destruction.
Imperial Britain and Czarist Russia vied for control. Local warlords exerted their own dominance. When Soviet Russia withdrew in 1989, a ravaged country remained.
Living Afghans can’t remember peace, stability and tranquility. Endless conflicts persist.
Post-9/11, America’s attack, invasion and occupation followed. Millions died. Countless others suffer horrifically.
It bears repeating. Nothing ahead looks promising. America came to stay. Permanent occupation is planned.
Afghanistan is strategically important. It straddles the Middle East, South and Central Asia. It’s in the heart of Eurasia.
Occupation projects America’s military might. It targets Russia, China, Iran, and other oil-rich Middle East states.
It furthers Washington’s imperium. It prioritizes unchallenged global dominance. It seeks control over Afghan’s untapped natural gas, oil and other mineral resources.
In June 2010, The New York Times headlined “US Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan,” saying:
They’re worth an estimated $1 trillion. Estimates are notoriously inaccurate.
Whatever they’re worth, they include “huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium – are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.”
An internal Pentagon memo calls Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It’s a key material needed to produce “batteries, laptops and BlackBerrys.”
Years of development are needed. Huge potential exists. Heavy investment is likely. An economic bonanza awaits profiteers.
Don’t expect ordinary Afghans to benefit. Surviving concerns them most. Violence continues unabated.
Living conditions are deplorable. Vital services are lacking. Millions have little or no access to clean water.
Many don’t get enough food. Life expectancy is one of the world’s lowest. Infant mortality is one of the highest.
Extreme poverty, unemployment, human misery, and constant fear reflect daily life. Washington prioritizes conquest, colonization, plunder and dominance.
War without end rages. Human needs go begging. Wherever America shows up, death and destruction follow. So does unrelieved dystopian harshness. No end in sight looms.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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