August 09, 2007

The Massacre Meme That Just Won't Die

The Taliban claim that 200-300 civilians gathered at a market are killed in a NATO bombing. NATO investigated the claim and found that zero civilians were being treated at the nearest hospitals. I thought we had put this to rest, but the massacre narrative just keeps going.

Notice that this IWPR report (also reprinted here) is being written by a "trainee", which means a local. You'll also notice that every single person interviewed was a) male b) of fighting age.

The author attributes this to the Afghan tradition of keeping women home, especially in Taliban strongholds in the South. Give me a break. Who can forget these women at a local market under Taliban rule? Or a more recent photo?

The "massacre" as described by "eyewitnesses"

“The bombing by foreign forces started when all the villagers were gathered for the traditional mela, where they buy all their requirements for the week,” said Sultan Mohammad, a local man. “This mela is close to a holy shrine. At three in the afternoon, the planes came and dropped bombs on the people, killing more than 200 and injuring 150......

Gul Wali, 18, was also among the injured. “Bombs were falling from the sky into the trees, and I saw pieces of flesh and bone,” he said. “These were our villagers, they were innocent people. They had just come to the mela to buy food for their families. Instead, they ended up looking for their loved ones among piles of bodies.”.....

The injured were taken to various hospitals in the area. Some were transferred to Musa Qala, a Taleban stronghold about 100 kilometres from Bughni. Others were taken to Kandahar, about 150 kilometres away, and more still went to Lashkar Gah, over 200 kilometres from the scene of the bombing.”

The problem?
Over 100 kilometers away, they found a total of 19 adult males and one 8-year-old child wounded in Lashkar Gah hospital. Over night, three of the adult males died. And in Kandahar hospital, they found wounded 14 adult males and three 10-11 year old males. There were never any women admitted with injuries, and none are reported injured or killed at Lashkar Gah hospital or any other local hospitals in the area.
Remember, the Taliban claim is that this was a crowded market place. But, oddly, no women are there.

They also claim that the majority of the injured were taken to Lashkar Gah hospital, more so than any other hospital. But only 19 men and one child were there. All of whom could have easily been Taliban fighters or sympathizers.

Given what we know about the Taliban, it's not surprising to find young boys at the gathering. The Taliban are known to recruit children, and go so far as to use them in suicide bomb attacks. The now dead Mullah Dadullah, who's brother may have also been killed in the bombing, personally supervised a 12 year old Taliban boy beheading a "spy".

The same "civilians" who claim they were just hanging out at the market actually, later in the same article, admit that the Taliban were hanging "spies". They can't get there story straight as to how many spies were being hanged, though:

“Armed Taleban were hanging three people on charges of spying for foreign forces,” said one man, Khan Mohammad. “Then the planes came, so I ran away.” ....

Another man, who had come to Lashkar Gah with an injured relative, also told of the executions. Dressed in long traditional Afghan clothes, with eyes red from rage and grief, he was only too eager to open his heart to a reporter.

“We went to watch the execution at the mela place. The Taleban were hanging people. There were seven spies to be hanged, but after the first two, the bombing started.”

So, which is it: were they there innocently picking up some food for dinner or were they there to witness a Taliban execution? The "trainee" who wrote the article doesn't bother to ask.

The narrative cannot be said to be pro-Taliban, what it is is an equivalency piece. No one can be trusted in war. Here's the summation:

All parties – foreign forces, the Taleban, and civilians too - have an interest in advancing their point of view, leading to wildly conflicting claims of casualties.....

The dispute over basic facts is unlikely to be resolved, and all sides remain entrenched in their positions.

I thought resolving the basic dispute over facts was the journalist's job? Fact checking was what the media was supposed to be doing? But how is interviewing injured Taliban fact checking?

Americans or Taliban, they're all the same. 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. Or so I am told by the media. And that's just how they are training their new recruits.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:00 AM | Comments |