An American soldier in Afghanistan murdered at least 16 civilians, including nine children, in a killing spree President Hamid Karzai called an “assassination” that “cannot be forgiven.”
Some reports claim there were multiple U.S. soldiers involved, who witnesses said were laughing throughout the massacre and appeared drunk. One Afghan father whose children were killed in the incident accused the soldiers of later burning the bodies.
The soldiers entered a number of homes in two villages in southern Kandahar during the night, killing 16 and wounding nine, although there have been differing reports of the number of casualties. The victims included women, elderly men, and children, one of whom was just two years old.
On Sunday the mother of the two-year-old, Gul Bashra, told the Associated Press: “They (Americans) killed a child, who was two-years-old. Was this child a Taliban (member)? Believe me, I have not seen a two-year-old Taliban (member) yet. There is no Taliban here. They (America) are always threatening us with dogs and helicopters during night raids.”
The shooter has been taken into custody at a NATO base and U.S. officials tritely vowed to hold those responsible for the crime “fully accountable.”
“I am absolutely dedicated to making sure that anyone who is found to have committed wrong-doing is held fully accountable,” said General John Allen. Isaf Deputy Commander Lt Gen Adrian Bradshaw said: “I wish to convey my profound regrets and dismay at the actions apparently taken by one coalition member in Kandahar province. I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts, but they were in no way part of authorised Isaf military activity.”
But U.S. soldiers have gotten off easy for such crimes in the past. Eight of the nine U.S. soldiers charged with the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqi men, women, and children in Haditha, Iraq were not convicted. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was charged with leading the slaughter, was convicted in a plea bargain of a single count of “dereliction of duty”. He was demoted to the rank of private and will serve no jail time.
The “Kill Team” in Afghanistan, the army unit that planned and committed executions of multiple innocent, unarmed Afghan civilians, framing the dead as having been a threat, and mutilating their corpses as trophies received light sentences as well. All but the ringleader of the Kill Team received reduced sentences and are eligible for parole in a handful of years. Even the ringleader, described as evil by one of the other defendants, was sentenced to life in prison, but could be eligible for parole in less than 10 years.
A State Department diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed last year that U.S. forces committed a heinous war crime during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed. Not a single American soldier was prosecuted.
In one notable and comparable incident in February of 2010, U.S. Special Operations Forces surrounded a house in a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. Two civilian men exited the home to ask why they had been surrounded and were shot and killed. U.S. forces then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager).
U.S. troops, realizing their mistake, lied and tampered with the evidence at the scene. The initial claim, which was corroborated by the Pentagon, was that the two men were insurgents who had “engaged” the troops, and the three murdered women were simply found by U.S. soldiers, in what they described as an apparent honor killing. Investigations into the incident eventually forced the Pentagon to retract its initial story and issue an apology, but none of the soldiers were charged with a crime.
This latest incident occurs as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan appears to be slipping out of control. Unrest has been acute and widespread since U.S. soldiers were found to have burned Muslim holy books in a fire pit, and now that news of this latest killing spree has come out, insurgents are expected to take revenge.
Part of the reason the war has been seemingly unending is because of incidents like this, coupled with the daily suffering that war and occupation brings the ordinary population. The insurgency is impossible to quell because the U.S. has been creating more enemies every day.
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