IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN: American casualties total 500,000, counting injury and disease.
Obama orders new Afghan surge
7 January 2011
The Obama administration’s decision to deploy another 1,400 US Marines in Afghanistan is the harbinger of a far bloodier war and a further indication that there will be no honoring of the president’s December 2009 pledge to begin drawing down US forces next July.
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U.S. PRESENTLY HAS 200,000 PERSONNEL IN AFGHANISTAN
“International forces now number 130,000 while the Afghan national security forces will reach 260,000 by the end of the year, exceeding their target size for 2010.
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Despite the superficial optimism that is the default mode of Gen. David Petraeus and the rest of the Pentagon command, the US military is mired in an intractable conflict with the people of Afghanistan, who refuse to accept foreign occupation and the semi-colonial subjugation of their country to the interests of US imperialism.
The response of the American ruling elite is to escalate the killing. The additional battalion of Marines is to be sent into the area around Kandahar within the next two weeks, according to a report published Thursday in theWall Street Journal. A city of 500,000 people, Kandahar has long been a stronghold of the Taliban.
In an attempt to quell the growing insurgency, the US military has razed to the ground entire villages surrounding the city on the grounds that they have been booby-trapped or contain Taliban firing positions. The residents of Kandahar itself have been subjected to a state of siege, surrounded by checkpoints and blast walls and faced with continuous armed intimidation.
In addition to the Marine deployment, the Pentagon is reportedly preparing to replace support units deployed in Afghanistan with combat infantry forces in order to increase what the US military refers to euphemistically as “kinetic activity.”
According to a report in USA Today, the Air Force has more than doubled the number of airmen deployed in Afghanistan as “joint terminal attack controllers.” These forces are used to coordinate air strikes with ground units.
The increase is in preparation for a sharp escalation in bombardments that will inevitably claim a growing number of Afghan lives. Last October, the US Air Force flew 1,000 sorties in which it bombed, rocketed or strafed Afghan targets, the largest number since the war began.
Despite this onslaught, the US military fears that its efforts will prove insufficient to quell the insurgency, which continues to grow and spread throughout Afghanistan.
The Pentagon is particularly concerned that with the arrival of spring, which, with the opening of snow-bound mountain passes traditionally sees a “surge” by the armed resistance, it will confront an even deeper crisis and rising casualties.
The last year proved the deadliest in the decade-old US intervention. While the US-led occupation forces suffered 711 killed over the course of 2010, the carnage inflicted upon the Afghan population was far greater. According to figures compiled by the AFP news agency, some 10,000 Afghans, including civilians, members of the US-trained puppet security forces and those listed as “insurgents” or “militants” lost their lives in the course of the last year.
Undoubtedly, this is a significant underestimation of the real death toll. And it is certain that many of those listed as “insurgents” killed in combat―based upon the self-serving testimony of the US military command—were innocent civilians slaughtered in air raids or night raids by special forces killing squads.
A similar escalation in bloodshed has taken place across the border in Pakistan, where 929 people, the great majority of them civilians, were killed in the course of 134 drone attacks, according to figures compiled by the Conflict Monitoring Centre.
Even as the Obama administration is sending more troops into Afghanistan, there are barely concealed discussions within the White House and the Pentagon about authorizing cross-border raids by special forces units into Pakistan.
The killing spree on both sides of the border has failed to have the desired effect of diminishing the scale of the resistance.
“As much as we are hammering them in the south and east, their numbers aren’t dwindling,” a senior US official admitted to the Wall Street Journal. “They have so many young men who are disenfranchised, who have nothing better to do.”
No doubt, the poverty and oppression confronting the vast majority of the Afghan population is a powerful wellspring of the armed resistance to a US-led occupation that is propping up a venal ruling elite represented by President Hamid Karzai and his cronies.
But it is also the “hammering” itself that creates countless new recruits for the insurgency. It is not a matter of young men with “nothing better to do,” as the US official contemptuously put it, but rather Afghan sons, brothers and fathers who are determined to exact revenge for the murder of their relatives.
A case in point was revealed when villagers from southern Ghazni province drove to the provincial capital with the dead bodies of three Afghan civilians killed in a US special operations night raid in the Nawar District.
The villagers said that the US forces swooped in on helicopters, cordoned off the area and attacked a religious school in the village of Qala-i-Naw.
Hundreds of Afghans surrounded the bodies chanting “death to America.” Ghulam Ali Akhlaqi, a resident of the village and teacher at the school which was attacked, brought with him a copy of the Quran that was riddled with bullets.
“There are no Taliban or insurgents in our area,” he said, “but innocent people were killed on the basis of wrong information that resulted in the desecration of our holy book.”
Such raids, repeated day after day, create an inexhaustible pool of recruits for the armed resistance.
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The failure of repression to produce the desired results has created a palpable sense of frustration in the US military command, reflected in a column published in Newsweek magazine by Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and Pentagon consultant. West voices the usual complaints about Taliban “sanctuaries” across the Pakistan border―an echo of the US military’s attempts to blame its Vietnam debacle on National Liberation Front safe havens in Cambodia and Laos―and “Afghanistan’s wretched leadership.”
His main concern, however, is that the US military has not been sufficiently focused on killing Afghans, whom he compares to the Apaches of the 19th century American West. The problem, he says, is “the emphasis America’s senior officers have placed on winning hearts and minds as an end in itself, rather than as a means to identifying and killing insurgents. This policy has sapped the warrior ethos and fostered risk aversion.”
Such fascistic ravings make clear that what is being prepared are war crimes on an even more horrific scale than those already inflicted upon the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
American troops are killing and dying in Afghanistan not to fight terrorism―even the US military and intelligence agencies acknowledge that Al Qaeda is virtually non-existent in the country. Rather, they have been sent to secure the interests of a US financial elite that is determined to use military force to offset the decline of American capitalism by imposing US hegemony over Central Asia and its vast energy reserves.
Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to sustain this criminal war, along with the continuing occupation of Iraq, as working people at home face mass unemployment and the demand for ever more draconian cuts in public education, health care and essential social services.
While the majority of the American people oppose the war, the Obama administration, supported by the Republicans, is determined to continue and escalate it to secure the aims of the financial aristocracy.
Only the revival of a genuine movement against war, based upon the working class and united with a struggle to defend jobs and living standards against the attacks of big business and its government, can bring an end to the killing.
Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die
On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men’s and women’s wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters.
Genghis Khan could not hold onto Afghanistan. Neither will the United States. Photo from Mongol: The Rise Of Genghis Khan.
Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident “not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between nongovernmental organizations and international forces.
Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.
Impeding operations at medical facilities in Afghanistan directly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency vehicles and the obstruction of medical operations during wartime.
Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a public affairs officer for the US Navy, confirmed the raid, and told The Associated Press, “Complaints like this are rare.”
Despite Sidenstricker’s claim that “complaints like this” are rare in Afghanistan, they are, in fact, common. Just as they are in Iraq, the other occupation. A desperate conventional military, when losing a guerilla war, tends to toss international law out the window. Yet even more so when the entire occupation itself is a violation of international law.
Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and also a Truthout contributor, is very clear about the overall illegality of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.
“The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of US law,” Cohn, who is also a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and recently co-authored the book “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” said, “Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves.
Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men – 15 from Saudi Arabia – did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is illegal.”
Thus, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, along with the ongoing slaughter of Afghan civilians and raiding hospitals, are in violation of international law as well as the US Constitution.
And of course the same applies for Iraq.
Let us recall when the US military launched its siege of Fallujah. The first thing done by the US military was to invade and occupy Fallujah General Hospital. Then, too, like this recent incident in Afghanistan, doctors, patients and visitors alike had their hands tied and they were laid on the ground, oftentimes face down, and held at gunpoint.
During my first four trips to Iraq, I commonly encountered hospital staff who reported US military raids on their facilities. US soldiers regularly entered hospitals to search for wounded resistance fighters.
Doctors from Fallujah General Hospital, as well as others who worked in clinics throughout the city during both US sieges of Fallujah, reported that US Marines obstructed their services and that US snipers intentionally targeted their clinics and ambulances.
“The Marines have said they didn’t close the hospital, but essentially they did,” Dr. Abdulla, an orthopedic surgeon at Fallujah General Hospital who spoke on condition of using a different name, told Truthout of his experiences in the hospital. “They closed the bridge which connects us to the city [and] closed our road … the area in front of our hospital was full of their soldiers and vehicles.”
He added that this prevented countless patients who desperately needed medical care from receiving medical care. “Who knows how many of them died that we could have saved,” said Dr. Abdulla. He also blamed the military for shooting at civilian ambulances, as well as shooting near the clinic at which he worked. “Some days we couldn’t leave, or even go near the door because of the snipers,” he said, “They were shooting at the front door of the clinic!”
Dr. Abdulla also said that US snipers shot and killed one of the ambulance drivers of the clinic where he worked during the fighting.
Dr. Ahmed, who also asked that only his first name be used because he feared US military reprisals, said, “The Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital. They prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and we quickly began to run out of supplies and much-needed medications.” He also stated that several times Marines kept the physicians in the residence building, thereby intentionally prohibiting them from entering the hospital to treat patients.
“All the time they came in, searched rooms and wandered around,” said Dr. Ahmed, while explaining how US troops often entered the hospital in order to search for resistance fighters. Both he and Dr. Abdulla said the US troops never offered any medicine or supplies to assist the hospital when they carried out their incursions. Describing a situation that has occurred in other hospitals, he added, “Most of our patients left the hospital because they were afraid.”
Dr. Abdulla said that one of their ambulance drivers was shot and killed by US snipers while he was attempting to collect the wounded near another clinic inside the city.
“The major problem we found were the American snipers,” said Dr. Rashid, who worked at another clinic in the Jumaria Quarter of Falluja. “We saw them on top of the buildings near the mayor’s office.”
Dr. Rashid told of another incident in which a US sniper shot an ambulance driver in the leg. The ambulance driver survived, but a man who came to his rescue was shot by a US sniper and died on the operating table after Dr. Rashid and others had worked to save him. “He was a volunteer working on the ambulance to help collect the wounded,” Dr. Rashid said sadly.
During Truthout’s visit to the hospital, two ambulances in the parking lot sat with bullet holes in their windshields, while others had bullet holes in their back doors and sides.
“I remember once we sent an ambulance to evacuate a family that was bombed by an aircraft,” said Dr. Abdulla while continuing to speak about the US snipers, “The ambulance was sniped – one of the family died, and three were injured by the firing.”
Neither Dr. Abdulla nor Dr. Rashid said they knew of any medical aid being provided to their hospital or clinics by the US military. On this topic, Dr. Rashid said flatly, “They send only bombs, not medicine.”
Chuwader General Hospital in Sadr City also reported similar findings to Truthout, as did other hospitals throughout Baghdad.
Dr. Abdul Ali, the ex-chief surgeon at Al-Noman Hospital, admitted that US soldiers had come to the hospital asking for information about resistance fighters. To this he said, “My policy is not to give my patients to the Americans. I deny information for the sake of the patient.”
During an interview, he admitted this intrusion occurred fairly regularly and interfered with patients receiving medical treatment. He noted, “Ten days ago this happened – this occurred after people began to come in from Fallujah, even though most of them were children, women and elderly.”
A doctor at Al-Kerkh Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared a similar experience of the problem that appears to be rampant throughout much of the country: “We hear of Americans removing wounded Iraqis from hospitals. They are always coming here and asking us if we have injured fighters.”
Speaking about the US military raid of the hospital in Afghanistan, UN spokesman Aleem Siddique said he was not aware of the details of the particular incident, but that international law requires the military to avoid operations in medical facilities.
“The rules are that medical facilities are not combat areas. It’s unacceptable for a medical facility to become an area of active combat operations,” he said. “The only exception to that under the Geneva Conventions is if a risk is being posed to people.”
“There is the Hippocratic oath,” Fange added, “If anyone is wounded, sick or in need of treatment … if they are a human being, then they are received and treated as they should be by international law.”
These are all indications of a US Empire in decline. Another recent sign of US desperation in Afghanistan was the bombing of two fuel tanker trucks that the Taliban had captured from NATO. US warplanes bombed the vehicles, from which impoverished local villagers were taking free gas, incinerating as many as 150 civilians, according to reports from villagers.
The United States Empire is following a long line of empires and conquerors that have met their end in Afghanistan. The Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, Turks, Mongols, British and Soviets all met the end of their ambitions in Afghanistan.
And today, the US Empire is on the fast track of its demise. A recent article by Tom Englehardt provides us more key indicators of this:
Genghis Khan could not hold onto Afghanistan.
Neither will the United States, particularly when in its desperation to continue its illegal occupation, it tosses aside international law, along with its own Constitution.
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