From My Lai to Bala Baluk
Obama Takes Over Where Bush Left Off
By Mike Whitney
May 17, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- Barack Obama is aggressively stepping up the war in Afghanistan. He's intensified the cross-border bombing of Pakistan and he is doubling the number of U.S. troops to 68,000 by 2010. He's also a strong proponent of pilotless drones even though hundreds of civilians have been killed in bombing raid blunders.
On May 4, 2009, 143 civilians were killed in a bombing raid in Bala Baluk, a remote area south of Herat. Obama brushed off the incident with terse apology never intimating that the US policy for aerial bombardment would be reviewed to avoid future mishaps. Patrick Cockburn gave a summary of the incident:
US military spokesmen denied the news reports and concocted a wacky story about Taliban militants rampaging through the village hurling grenades into buildings. It was a ridiculous narrative that no one believed. The facts have since been verified by senior government officials, high-ranking members of the Afghan military and representatives of the Red Cross. The United States military killed 143 unarmed villagers and then they tried to cover it up with a lie. None of the victims were fighters. After the bombing, the villagers loaded body parts onto carts and took them to the office of the regional governor who confirmed the deaths. The photos of grief-stricken Afghans burying their dead have been widely circulated on the Internet.
Neither Obama nor anyone in his administration has acknowledged that 93 children were killed by American bombs.
Military operations in Afghanistan have increased under Obama especially in the south where the Taliban are most heavily concentrated. The fighting has spread into Pakistan where President Asif Ali Zardari has been pressured into deploying his troops the Swat Valley to fight militants despite growing public disapproval. Nearly 850,000 people have been forced from their homes in the last few weeks to seek shelter in the south. For the most part, the humanitarian crisis has gone unreported in the western media, but Obama knows what is going on and is sticking with the same policy. Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in tent cities without food or clean water because of the escalation in the violence. It's a disaster.
OBAMA PICKS A GENERAL: Enter the assassination squads
This week, General David McKiernan was replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. Here's how the Washington Post summarized McChrystal's qualifications for the job:
Obama chose McChrystal because of his "black ops" pedigree, which suggests that the conflict in Afghanistan is about to take a very ugly turn. According to Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, McChrystal ran the "executive assassination wing" of the military's joint special-operations command. (JSOC) The experts believe that he will breeze through congressional confirmation hearings because many Senators believe that his counterinsurgency theories helped the surge in Iraq to succeed. There's some truth to this, too. But it would be more accurate to say that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad helped to reduce the violence. That is the truth about the surge; it's a public relations moniker for ethnic cleansing.
McChrystal's appointment suggests that Obama supports the idea that hunter-killer units and targeted assassinations are an acceptable means of achieving US foreign policy objectives. Obama supporters should pay close attention; this is a continuation of the Rumsfeld policy with one slight difference, a more persuasive and charismatic pitchman promoting the policy. Other than that, there's no difference.
Obama knows of McChrystal's involvement in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad's Camp Nama, just as he knows of his role in the cover-up in the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman. None of this matters to Obama. What matters is winning; not principle, ideals, human rights or civilian casualties. Just winning.
FROM MY LAI TO BALA BALUK
On March 16, 1968, the US military was involved in a similar incident which soured the public on Vietnam and eventually helped bring the war to a close. Barack Obama was only seven years old when Charlie Company--led by platoon leader second Lieutenant William Calley--entered the small hamlet of My Lai and proceeded to slaughter 347 unarmed civilians. This is Sam Harris's account of what took place on that day 40 years ago:
The only difference between My Lai and Bala Baluk is the degree of savagery. In both cases the guilt can be traced directly back to the White House.
Obama believes that civilian casualties are an unavoidable part of achieving one's policy goals. The end justifies the means. He has strengthened the Bush policy, not repudiated it. So much for "change".