Recently by David Lindorff: The Shame and Folly of Obama’s AfghanWar
The Taliban suicide attack that killed a group of CIA agents in Afghanistan on a base that was directing US drone aircraft used to attack Taliban leaders was big news in the US over the past week, with the airwaves and front pages filled with sympathetic stories referring to the fact that the female station chief, who was among those killed, was the mother of three children.
But the apparent mass murder of Afghan school children, including one as young as 11-years-old, by a US-led group of troops, was pretty much blacked out in the American media. Especially blacked out was word from UN investigators that the students had not just been killed but executed, many of them after having first been rousted from their bedroom and handcuffed.
Here is the excellent report on the incident that ran in the Times of London (like Fox News, a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication) on Dec. 31:
Western troops accused of executing 10 Afghan civilians, including children
By Jerome Starkey in Kabul
American-led troops were accused yesterday of dragging innocent children from their beds and shooting them during a night raid that left ten people dead.
Afghan government investigators said that eight schoolchildren were killed, all but one of them from the same family. Locals said that some victims were handcuffed before being killed.
Western military sources said that the dead were all part of an Afghan terrorist cell responsible for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have claimed the lives of countless soldiers and civilians.
This was a joint operation that was conducted against an IED cell that Afghan and US officials had been developing information against for some time, said a senior Nato insider. But he admitted that the facts about what actually went down are in dispute.
The article goes on to say:
In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster [of the local school] said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. Seven students were in one room, said Rahman Jan Ehsas. A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.
First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. Thats why his wife wasnt killed.
A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. I saw their school books covered in blood, he said.
The investigation found that eight of the victims were aged from 11 to 17. The guest was a shepherd boy, 12, called Samar Gul, the headmaster said. He said that six of the students were at high school and two were at primary school. He said that all the students were his nephews.
Compare this article to the one mention of the incident which appeared in the New York Times, one of the few American news outlets to even mention the incident. The Times, on Dec. 28, focusing entirely on the difficulty civilian killings cause for the US war effort, and not on the allegation of a serious war crime having been committed, wrote:
Attack Puts Afghan Leader and NATO at Odds
By Alissa J. Rubin and Abdul Waheed Wafa
KABUL, Afghanistan The killing of at least nine men in a remote valley of eastern Afghanistan by a joint operation of Afghan and American forces put President Hamid Karzai and senior NATO officials at odds on Monday over whether those killed had been civilians or Taliban insurgents.
In a statement e-mailed to the news media, Mr. Karzai condemned the weekend attack and said the dead had been civilians, eight of them schoolboys. He called for an investigation.
Local officials, including the governor and members of Parliament from Kunar Province, where the deaths occurred, confirmed the reports. But the Kunar police chief, Khalilullah Ziayee, cautioned that his office was still investigating the killings and that outstanding questions remained, including why the eight young men had been in the same house at the time.
There are still questions to be answered, like why these students were together and what they were doing on that night, Mr. Ziayee said.
A senior NATO official with knowledge of the operation said that the raid had been carried out by a joint Afghan-American force and that its target was a group of men who were known Taliban members and smugglers of homemade bombs, which the American and NATO forces call improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s.
According to the NATO official, nine men were killed. These were people who had a well-established network, they were I.E.D. smugglers and also were responsible for direct attacks on Afghan security and coalition forces in those areas, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue.
When the raid took place they were armed and had material for making I.E.D.s, the official added.
While the article in the New York Times eventually mentions the allegation that the victims were children, not u201Cmen,u201D it nonetheless begins with the unchallenged assertion in the lead that they were u201Cmen.u201D There is no mention of the equally serious allegation that the victims had been handcuffed before being executed, and the story leaves the impression, made by NATO sources, that they were armed and had died fighting. There is no indication in the Times story that the reporters made any effort, as the more enterprising and skeptical London Times reporter did, to get local, non-official, sources of information. Moreover, the information claiming that the victims had been making bombs was attributed by Rubin and Wafa, with no objections from their editors in New York, to an anonymous NATO source, though there was no legitimate reason for the anonymity (u201Cbecause of the delicacy of the situationu201D was the lame excuse offered) indeed the use of an anonymous source here would appear to violate the Times' own standards.
January 4, 2010