Sunday, March 28, 2010

NATO's M.O.: Killing pregnant women, smearing journalists

In recent months, Times reporter Jerome Starkey has exposed two incidents of Afghan civilians killed by foreign forces and their Afghan protegees. In December a night raid in eastern Kunar province killed eight boys. This was followed in February by another house raid which killed an attorney and his police officer brother and which involved the strange assertion that the raiding forces had found the bodies of two women who had apparently been murdered.

Here's Newshoggers with more:

In the first case, NATO officials told [Starkey] they no longer believed that the raid would have been justified if they'd known what they now know, but no official would consent to direct attribution for this admission.

In the second case, NATO initially made sensational claims that they'd discovered during the raid the bodies of pregnant women that had been bound, gagged and executed. Starkey's reporting forcefully rebutted this claim. Instead of simply retracting their story, NATO went so far as to attempt to damage Starkey's credibility by telling other Kabul-based journalists that they had proof he'd misquoted ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith. When Starkey demanded a copy of the recording, NATO initially ignored him and eventually admitted that no recording existed. NATO only admitted their story was false in a retraction buried several paragraphs deep in a press release that led with an attack on Starkey's credibility.
While the title of this blog post asserts that these are NATO's actions in question, I am playing a little fast and loose with the facts, mostly to have a snappy title to draw in readers. However, I am following both Newshoggers and, surprisingly, journalist Jerome Starkey in this regard. In his original articles Starkey rather ambiguously relates statements of NATO officials. So while it is NATO which is communicating with Starkey in his original dispatches, in all likelihood neither of the deadly raids in question were NATO-run operations. In general, night raids like the ones described tend to be performed by American-led special forces teams which have Afghans along for translating and training and which are outside NATO command. This according to the admittedly thin evidence on the matter. So, a more accurate, and more clunky title for this posting would be: 'USA's M.O.: Killing pregnant women; NATO's M.O.: smearing journalists'.

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