Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Stain On U.S. Honor

By Cernig

A U.S. Army spokesman has apologized for the massacre in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, in March. U.S. Marines had fired indiscriminately on Afghan civilians along a 10 mile stretch of road, in what has been determined by military investigators was "excessive use of force", after their convoy caim under attack. Reparations of $2,000 each have been paid to the families of 19 dead.

Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division told Pentagon reporters by live link:
``I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people,''...``We are filled with grief and sadness at the death of any Afghan, but the death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hand of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people,"

...Nicholson declined to say anything more about the incident Tuesday, saying only that it is under investigation.

``This was a terrible, terrible mistake,'' the statement to the families said. ``And my nation grieves with you for your loss and suffering...We humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness,'' it ended
The BBC adds that journalists who witnessed the attacks said at the time that US troops confiscated their photos and video footage of the aftermath of the violence.
Correspondents say that military killings of civilians have eroded Afghan support for international forces and have put the Western-backed government in Kabul under pressure.

On Thursday, Nato forces vowed to improve co-ordination with the Afghan authorities to avoid civilian deaths.

Their pledge follows the reported deaths of about 50 civilians last week in fighting in western Afghanistan between US-led troops and militants.

In recent days there have been protests by Afghans in different parts of the country - including Jalalabad - over civilian killings.

The bloodshed has returned to levels not seen since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, and a quarter of more than 4,000 people killed last year were believed to have been civilians.
Hearts and minds, this isn't.

But for me the big question is - did U.S. commanders in Afghanistan know back in November about the Pentagon's ethics study, the public release of which was deliberately delayed until this week for political reasons? That study was actually completed - and seen by the then commander in Iraq Gen. George W. Casey Jr. - back in November.

And if so did they, like Gen. Petreaus in Iraq, do nothing with that knowledge for FIVE MONTHS until public outcry forced their hands?

Such dereliction of duty is a true stain on the U.S. military's honor. There is a prima facie case that Petreaus and others with knowledge of this report who delayed taking action on it should be charged with dereliction of duty. At the very least, Congress should be demanding to know which military commanders had knowledge of how bad things were and did nothing with it for months.

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