Monday, March 21, 2011


The Final Temptation in the Desert
Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters
[NYT, March 2, 2011 headline] [1]

Of the 120,000 foreign soldiers occupying Afghanistan 100,000 are U.S. troops. Afghanis know who NATO really is. We are, at 10 years, engaged in an older war than the Russians’ failed attempt of a few years ago. It has been the news release practice for some time now, esp. since the U.S. surge, to attribute tragic civilian deaths there caused by foreign warriors, to “NATO”. No one in Afghanistan is fooled. Even our own soldier casualties often at first receive a “NATO” designation, later sometimes revised to indicate country of origin-- most often ours. Few, who pay any attention, in our country are taken in either.

Blackhawk helicopter gunships

As the media frequently point out, the majority of civilians killed in Afghanistan, in these advanced years of the war, are victims of Taliban attacks, often suicide bombs and IEDs. Their violence increases the longer this war drags on-- directed at rivals, military and police recruits and government institutions in public areas. But everyone understands that the Taliban, ex-mujaheddin warlords, and many Afghan politicians themselves have as their ultimate goal the ousting of another outside occupying force—this time the USA. They, and their common citizens, feel shamed and enraged by our presence. Is this an unspoken reason for our still being there—to persistently create new supplies of enemies? The killing continues to escalate, on their part and ours, until our warriors leave.

What was this killing of the nine boys like? [No photos available in any account I could find—on the ground coverage becomes more dangerous, and unwanted by all sides, as this war prolongs.]

ere are excerpts from the NYT article, March 2,2011 [1]
“The attack on the boys occurred high in the mountains outside Nanglam in the Pech Valley of Kunar Province. American troops are preparing to close their bases in the valley in the next several weeks, in part because their presence has vexed the villagers, who would prefer to be left alone. The area is poor, and the only major road was built to service Forward Operating Base Blessing, according to local residents”.
“The only survivor, Hemad, 11, said his mother had told him to go out with other boys to collect firewood because “the weather is very cold now.”
They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”
The tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”

t how close a range was this massacre? Close enough for individual target practice. War is hell, and forward operating bases are not a “blessing”. Enemy rockets had been fired at that base the day before, and this was the retaliation.

What has been our progress in Afghanistan? An attack that left 9 children dead in Ghazni province on Dec. 6, 2003 echoes a stunning similarity to this more recent incident above. We are not learning, but repetitively committing these lethal mistakes. Civilian deaths reverberate through every day of the past decade, and number in the tens of thousands, though no one’s really counting.
NYT photo--Afghan girls walk past the graves of nine children killed in a U.S. air strike, at a local cemetery in village Hutala, in eastern Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2003. A U.S. warplane in pursuit of a 'known terrorist' attacked a village in eastern Afghanistan, Saturday, killing nine children. Clothes of the children are seen placed on graves

Excerpts from the NYT story, Afghan Villagers Torn by Grief After U.S. Raid Kills 9 Children. [2]
Villagers said the dead boys, who were 8 to 12 years old, had been in front of a house, and the girls, 9 and 10, had been fetching water from a stream alongside it when two American A-10 attack jets firing rockets and machine guns struck at 10:45 a.m.
"The boys were playing marbles," said one villager, thrusting forward a gnarled hand with three chipped glass marbles he said he had retrieved from the dust.
The rockets made 30 to 40 small craters in the ground around where the children had died. The 10th victim, an uncle of the two girls, rushed toward the stream after the first plane struck and was cut down beside them, said a woman who identified herself as the man's mother and the dead girls' grandmother.

Same graves in Hutula, different view
[There were a few photos at this early stage of war.]

What does an A-10 Warthog with its gun look like?

Our soldiers have been given an impossible job. Secure a country you don’t understand, in which you don’t speak the language. Demonstrate by our firepower that they must convert to our way of thinking.

The AN-GAU-8a 30mm Avenger seven-barrel gatling gun, only on the A-10 attack jet, is a 30mm, 7 barrel gatling gun used primarily in the air to ground role as a soft target killer and tank buster---fires 3900 high-explosive and depleted uranium rounds per minute.

We should all take a clear steady look at the face of collateral damage, the inherent loss of innocent life, in war. The imperative to kill or be killed is for the Christian taking part in the Devil’s bargain. He offered Christ in the desert all the kingdoms of the world if he would only take part in the power that kills for them. Jesus rejected Satan. Later He went on to say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And, “If the grain of wheat dies, it rises up one hundred fold.”

This Lent’s examination of conscience must include, “How do I participate in institutionalized innocent death—in the war industry, the abortion insurance network? “ [More on this connection next week.] Turn away from pointing the finger towards the soldier, the unwed mother. Reflect instead on your payment of federal income taxes, that year after year go predominantly for war, and your employer-paid, tax-subsidized private health insurance with companies that provide [more than the government plans] the major support for the abortion industry.

Lord we believe, help our unbelief. Give us the courage to strengthen our non-cooperation with evil. Bless us with the conversion of heart to offer the first fruits of our society for the common good.


"A systematic independent study has been carried out into civilian casualties in Afghanistan by Marc Herold, a US economics professor at the University of New Hampshire. Based on corroborated reports from aid agencies, the UN, eyewitnesses, TV stations, newspapers and news agencies around the world, Herold estimates that at least 3,767 civilians were killed by US bombs between October 7 and December 10. That is an average of 62 innocent deaths a day - and an even higher figure than the 3,234 now thought to have been killed in New York and Washington on September 11." -- The Guardian, Dec.20, 2001

"A Guardian report in February [2002] estimated these casualties at between 1,300 and 8,000 deaths. A Guardian investigation into the "indirect victims" now confirms the belief of many aid agencies that they exceeded the number who died of direct hits. As many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention. They too belong in any tally of the dead." -- The Guardian, May 20, 2002

What is the count of innocent deaths nine years later? The policy makers are not counting, and do not care for us to know.

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

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