Socialist Worker

...more deaths than in World Trade Centre

by Paul McGarr
Issue No. 1780

George W Bush and Tony Blair have murdered more innocent civilians in Afghanistan than were killed in the 11 September attack on the World Trade Centre. That fact is the stark conclusion of an authoritative investigation by US professor Marc Herold.

The study on the civilian death toll came as the bombing continued at the start of this week, and as new reports of US and British forces committing war crimes emerged. Marc Herold is based in the US University of New Hampshire's School of Business and Economics.

He has meticulously investigated reports of civilian casualties of US bombing in Afghanistan. He writes, 'Afghanistan has been subjected to a barbarous air bombardment which has killed an average of 62 civilians per day since Sunday 7 October. When the sun set on 6 December at least 3,767 Afghan civilians had died in US bombing attacks.'

The detailed cataloguing of each incident, and the zealous caution with which Herold treats figures, make his report all the more convincing. All deaths after 6 December are excluded, as are any reports which Herold has not been able to corroborate.

He says, 'Our tabulation represents a serious underestimate of actual civilian casualties.' Professor Herold's account shatters all US and British claims about careful targeting and precision bombing.

'In the incident where four nightwatchmen died when the offices of a United Nations de-mining agency in Kabul was bombed,' he writes, 'the Pentagon said it was near a military radio tower. UN officials said the tower was a defunct, abandoned medium and short wave radio station that hadn't been in operation for over a decade and was situated 900 feet away from the bombed UN building.'

A few examples illustrate how, day by day, incident by incident, Herold builds up a picture of the civilian death toll caused by US bombing.

11 October: 'The farming village of 450 persons of Karam, west of Jalalabad in Nangharhar province, is repeatedly bombed, 45 of the 60 mud houses destroyed, killing at least 160 civilians.'

18 October: 'The central marketplace, Sarai Shamali in the Madad district of

Kandahar is bombed, killing 47 civilians.'

25 October: 'A US bomb hits a fully loaded city bus in Kabul Gate in Kandahar, incinerating ten to 20 passengers.'

27 November: 'Attracted by the lights of a vehicle, US bombers hit a hamlet of five houses between Kandahar airport and the city, killing Mohammed Khan's entire family of five, and ten others.'

Herold also documents the lengths to which the US and Britain have gone to cover up their murder of Afghan civilians. The US bombed the Kabul offices of the Al Jazeera TV station, which was broadcasting reports on the impact of US bombing.

The US also 'bought up all commercial satellite imagery', a decision taken 'on 11 October after reports of heavy civilian casualties from overnight bombing of Darunia near Jalalabad. The Pentagon bought exclusive rights to all Ikonos satellite pictures from the Denver-based Space Imaging Inc.'

Not a single mainstream British newspaper has seen fit to report Professor Herold's study.

Full report ('A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting') is available at http://pubpa ges.unh.edu/~mwherold/


'Trying to cover up the slaughter'

Journalist Justin Haggler this week accused the US of covering up a war crime in Afghanistan. Haggler's reports on the war for the Independent newspaper have been generally reliable and excellent.

'The Americans and their Afghan allies', he wrote last Saturday, 'appear to be trying to cover up the slaughter of around 280 foreign Taliban fighters.' The alleged massacre of the prisoners came as the US and its allies took control of Kandahar airport last week.

Huggler reports, 'One of the Afghan soldiers who took part in the fighting said that he was ordered to report a day after it was captured, where he says he helped bury the bodies of about 280 mostly Arab fighters. 'Two other witnesses, Abdul Basir and Abdul Kadim, said they saw two bulldozers dumping earth into what they believe was a mass grave at the airport.'

Huggler reports witnesses to specific cases of captured prisoners who have since disappeared. 'Mr Ahmad Gul said he handed over two ethnic Arab prisoners of war he helped to capture to some Americans, presumably members of the CIA, who interrogated them on the spot then took them away. There has been no word on them since.'

Huggler tried to investigate further the claim of a massacre, but 'the Americans have sealed off the entire airport site, making it impossible to reach the alleged grave.' The allegations of a massacre came as Amnesty International renewed its call for an inquiry into the killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

'By blocking an inquiry,' says Amnesty, 'the UK government and others are adding to a suspicion that something seriously untoward took place.' Hundreds of prisoners were killed in the incident, when US bombers were called in to support Northern Alliance forces. They wanted to stamp out a rebellion by the prisoners, who feared they were going to be executed.

Channel 4 News last week showed new video footage which underlined British forces' involvement in the Mazar massacre. It showed British troops firing machine-guns at targets in the fort, and one British sniper shooting at targets indicated by a Northern Alliance fighter.


Patients pile up in hospital

The glint in the sand caught seven year old Ali Mohammed's eye. He picked up the shiny metallic object to show it to his brother and sister. But when he hit his new-found toy with a rock, it exploded, blowing his hand off, ripping his brother's leg apart, and tearing a hole in his sister's abdomen.

That is what Ali Mohammed said, according to the Reuters news agency. The three children now lie in the Chinese Hospital in Kandahar. In what passes for an emergency room nurses change the dressing over the bloody stump where Ali's hand used to be, and fumble to find a vein to inject his sister, four year old Gul Bibi, with painkillers. The children's chances of survival are slim.

The hospital, one of Kandahar's best, lacks proper equipment and medicine to treat the 60-70 patients who arrive every week with injuries from bombings and gunshot wounds.

The US military has dropped thousands of the BLU-97 cluster bombs, made by the Aerojet and Honeywell multinationals in Afghanistan. The bombs scatter 202 bright yellow bomblets across an area. Those that don't explode are left lying like landmines.

United Nations mine clearing officials in Afghanistan estimate that up to 30 percent of the bomblets have not exploded and are scattered around. Yet Tony Blair and his international development secretary Clare Short defend the use of these cluster bombs.


Deadly prison

The Red Cross is investigating reports that captured Taliban soldiers were suffocated to death in shipping containers in northern Afghanistan. The Red Cross is interviewing some of the 3,000 prisoners being held at the Shibarghan detention centre.

The New York Times reported Northern Alliance commander General Jurabek in charge of the Shibarghan centre saying that 43 prisoners suffocated while being held in a container.


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News
Sat 22 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1780
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