BY JEREMY KUZMAROV
On Saturday, March 17, two days after the 50-year anniversary of the My Lai massacre, Afghan intelligence officers backed up by U.S. helicopters gunned down seven innocent farmers in Nangarhar Province, the same province which the Trump Administration had dropped the Mother Of All Bombs.
Mohamed Israr, whose brother was killed in Manno, one of the villages attacked, told the New York Times that “it was 4 a.m. My two brothers were out to channel the water and we had informed the security post that we would be watering our post. I was upstream and the helicopters came and fired at my brothers. They were killed shovel in hand.”
According to the Times report, the victims ranged in age from 14 to 40 years old and included Atiqullah, aged 20, who had just gotten married three months ago.
The crop the farmers were irrigating was opium, which the authorities have tolerated in spite of an $8 billion American effort to curb the industry.
A few kilometres away in Idyakhel village, five farmers were inside a mosque when security forces barged in and starting firing, witnesses told Al Jazeera.
“The security forces were probably tipped off that there were fighters hiding in the mosque,” said Mohammed, a witness who requested to withhold his last name. He told Al Jazeera that 27 people were arrested in the raid and several people were killed including civilians.
These latest attacks, which some sources reported were overseen by U.S.-NATO advisers, underscored the heavy human cost of America’s long war in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump has sent more U.S. troops into the country and vowed to bring victory, though what that victory would look like he does not say.
The Taliban have been getting stronger every year, and been able to capitalize on the population’s war weariness and aversion towards foreign occupation.
With bin Laden and Al Qaeda long gone from the country, a main motive for perpetuating the war at this point appears to be accessing Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth and preventing it from being exploited by the Chinese.
Speaking to employees of the CIA after his inauguration, Trump said the United States had erred in withdrawing troops from Iraq without holding on to its oil. “The old expression ‘To the victor belong the spoils,’” Trump declared. “You remember?”
In Yemen, where the U.S. has been backing Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthi, the spoils is access to the Socotra Island which the U.S. covets as a potential site for a military base.
Since 2015, the United States had provided the Saudis with air-to air refueling, intelligence assessments and military advice along with sophisticated weaponry that has been used to target Houthi rebels.
Raytheon Corporation, the major defense contractor, is currently lobbying the State Department and Congress to allow it to sell 60,000 precision guided missiles which in the past were used in air strikes that killed civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has urged Congress that restrictions on military aid would increase civilian casualties and reduce American influence with the Saudis, whom the United States has long relied on for cheap oil [and to trade its oil in U.S. dollars], military bases and as a hedge against Iran.
The media has long been fixated with the abuses of Syrian Prime Minister Bashir al-Assad and destructive consequence of Russian air strikes there; however, American actions in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are deserving of equal condemnation and attention.
For too long, we have so dehumanized Arab and Middle Eastern people that few appear to care about those whose lives have been destroyed by errant night raids and bombing strikes and arms supplies.
This is a moral disgrace and also dangerous to our security given the prospect for blowback.
Jeremy Kuzmarov is author of numerous books on U.S. foreign policy including The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce [New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018].