America Training Death Squads in Afghanistan

Glenn GreenwaldOn Sunday, I reported on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s allegations of American military torture and murder of civilians in that country. My article mostly discussed the assumption of Americans that Karzai had to be posturing because of course Americans never do anything like that. Since then there has been more reporting. Now it looks like these acts may have been perpetrated by clandestine militias. According to Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times, the US military and CIA have been training these “death squads” for years. And they are doing just what we taught them to do.

But it is still possible it is American forces. Glenn Greenwald directs us to an incident from 2010 when the military killed a bunch of innocents and then tried to cover it up:

As but one illustrative example: in 2010, as I wrote at the time, US forces in the Paktia Province, after surrounding a home where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two male civilians (government officials) who exited the house in order to inquire why they had been surrounded, and then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager). When local villagers loudly complained, the Pentagon lied about what happened, claiming that the dead males were “insurgents” or terrorists; the bodies of the three women had been found by US forces bound and gagged inside the home, and suggested that the women had already been killed by the time the US had arrived, likely the victim of “honor killings” by the Taliban militants killed in the attack. US media outlets, needless to say, mindlessly recited the US government’s claims (CNN: “Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan ‘honor killing'”), but the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that its Special Forces had killed the women and then covered-up and lied about what happened.

Once again: my intent here is not to blame the United States, although even under the best case scenario, it seems that we are quite culpable. And this has nothing at all to do with making our government or military look bad. It is just that I’ve noticed that the only way to grow as a person is to admit when you are wrong. If you can’t admit this, you just keep doing the same bad things over and over. The same is true of the United States. We still haven’t really admitted that we spent much of the last ten years torturing people in our custody. And now we know that we are continuing to outsource this work to others. I have a three step plan:

  1. Admit what we did was wrong.
  2. Stop doing it.
  3. Move on.

We are not perfect. By admitting that, we can become more so. What’s going on in Afghanistan is heartbreaking. But it is also embarrassing.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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