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Afghan 'Crusaders' claim more lives

The election of Barack Obama has definitely made a difference to the lives of the people of Afghanistan – his administration will offer a public apology and an inquiry when dozens of civilians are indiscriminately killed by American warplanes. And that’s it.

Apart from sanctimonious words from Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, there is no essential difference from the policies pursued by George W. Bush. The spurious “war on terror” continues, with over 60,000 foreign troops in occupation of Afghanistan. Obama is rushing another 30,000 American soldiers to the country shortly.

Rohul Amin, governor of Western Farah province where the bombing took place during a battle on Monday and Tuesday, said he feared 100 civilians had been killed. Others said the death toll could be even higher. If confirmed, it could make the incident the single deadliest for Afghan civilians since the US invasion in 2001.

Jessica Barry, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, also sent a team which reached the scene of the air strikes yesterday. "There were women and there were children who were killed. It seemed they were trying to shelter in houses when they were hit," she said. The team saw houses destroyed and dozens of bodies. Barry said that among those killed was a first aid volunteer for Afghanistan's Red Crescent, who died along with 13 members of his family.

As for inquiries, they are ten a penny when it comes to atrocities like these, in Afghanistan, Iraq or even Occupied Palestine. The Israelis hold them into the brutal actions of their soldiers. The United Nations holds inquiries into Israeli war crimes in Gaza – and, of course, nothing happens, apart from the fact that the Israeli government rejects the findings out of hand. The killing goes on.

The Israelis will say that Palestinian civilians were used as human shields, as if this justified the use of banned phosphorous bombs and shooting civilians out of hand; the Americans will say that the Taleban were definitely in the vicinity when their brave pilots launched the air strikes. And the killing will go on.

And if civilians evade the bombs in Afghanistan, there is always a chance that latter-day Crusaders, aka the US army, will tell you that Islam is bad and that Christianity is good. Al Jazeera has broadcast a video showing US soldiers being instructed by the military’s top chaplain to “hunt people for Jesus” as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population.

The footage was shot by Brian Hughes, a documentary maker and former fighter pilot. In his report for Al Jazeera, Hughes revealed that soldiers had imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, Afghan languages. After the Pentagon disputed his account, he retorted: “[U.S. soldiers] weren’t talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons.” Hughes told Al Jazeera: “The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it … documenting it would be important.”

Today, Afghans staged an angry protest in the town of Farah, the provincial capital of the province where the bombing took place. They threw stones. Protesters were reportedly injured after shots were fired. The killing will go on.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
7 May 2009

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