Monday, June 29, 2009

Porter and Kaufmann

Gareth Porter has an excellent analysis of the Pentagon's recent claim that just 26 civilians died in May's bombing in Farah province, in contrast to the Afghan government which claimed the attack killed 140 civilians.

Pentagon 'rewrites' airstrike atrocity
By Gareth Porter - Jun 27

The version of the official military investigation into the disastrous May 4 airstrike in Farah province made public last week by the Central Command was carefully edited to save the United States command in Afghanistan the embarrassment of having to admit that earlier claims blaming the massive civilian deaths on the "Taliban" were fraudulent...

The report gave no explanation for continuing to assert such a figure, and virtually admitted that it is not a serious claim by also suggesting that the actual number of civilian deaths in the incident "may never be known".

The report also claimed that "at least 78 Taliban fighters" were killed. The independent human-rights organization had said in its May 26 report that at most 25 to 30 insurgents had been killed, though not necessarily in the airstrike.

A closer reading of the paragraph in the report on Taliban casualties reveals, however, that the number does not actually refer to deaths from the airstrike at all. The paragraph refers twice to "the engagement" as well as to "the fighting" and "the firefight", indicating that the vast majority of the Taliban who died were all killed in ground fighting, not by the US airstrike.

An analysis of the report's detailed descriptions of the three separate airstrikes also shows that the details in question could not have been omitted except by a deliberate decision to cover up the most damaging facts about the incident...

The report reveals that two 1,100-kilogram bombs and two 4,400-kg bombs were dropped on the target, not only destroying the building being targeted but three other nearby houses as well...

Again the report offers no evidence suggesting that there were any "Taliban" killed in the strike, in contrast to the first airstrike.

By these signal omissions, aimed at avoiding the most damaging facts in the incident, the report confirms that no insurgent fighters were killed in the airstrikes which killed very large numbers of civilians...

The central contradiction between the report and the US military's "human shields" argument was allowed to pass unnoticed in the extremely low-key news media coverage of the report...

None of the news media reporting on the highly expurgated version of the investigation pointed out that it had confirmed, in effect, the version of the event that had been put forward by residents of the bombed villages.

As reported by the New York Times on May 6, one of the residents interviewed by phone said six houses had been completely destroyed and that the victims of the bombing "were rushing to go to their relative's houses where they believed they would be safe, but they were hit on the way". (link)
And some commentary from the Calgary Sun's Bill Kaufmann. Thanks to Sid Shniad for this one:
Arms business growing force
By Bill Kaufmann - June 26
Calgary Sun

... following in the faltering footsteps of our southern neighbour, it's clear we've become a more militarized country, whether it's in the steady diet of propaganda for the Afghan occupation, increased "defence" spending or greater deference to all things martial...

This week, the Calgary branch of U.S. defence giant Raytheon was revelling in a $155-million contract to refurbish the Phalanx weapons system for use on Canadian warships.

That would be fine if the equipment was being used soley to defend the country in missions like coastal patrols. But Canada's increasingly taken on an auxilliary role for U.S. military adventurism around the globe.

Raytheon's Calgary workers also produce optics for a light armoured vehicle deployed in Afghanistan.

It's a weapon used to support a warlord-ridden Afghan government whose brutality and corruption is oxygen for the Taliban insurgency, perpetuating a cycle of conflict and profits for weapons merchants...

Israel, despite its gruesome human rights record and illegal occupation, has received Canadian arms and a little-discussed security deal inked with that nation last year raises concerns of a busier weapons pipeline.

But a Canadian arms industry watchdog insists the main issue remains our country's enabling the world's biggest exporter of weapons and war -- the U.S.

"That we are selling them into unsavoury hands elsewhere is a distraction," says Richard Sanders of the group Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT).

"Three quarters of the weapons we sell go to the U.S. and they are the ones really waging wars and killing people." And 90% of the defence components leaving Canada are bound for countries at war, he says. (link)

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