Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan project has been following the story about a night raid in Gardez by U.S. and Afghan forces (see the video below), and today those forces made a major admission about their responsibility for civilian deaths. In a press release issued on Easter (gee, I wonder if they hoped people would be distracted today), the U.S. and allied forces under General Chrystal's command, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), admitted they killed three innocent Afghan women, two of whom were pregnant.
KABUL, Afghanistan (Apr. 4) - A thorough joint investigation into the events that occurred in the Gardez district of Paktiya Province Feb. 12, has determined that international forces were responsible for the deaths of three women who were in the same compound where two men were killed by the joint Afghan-international patrol searching for a Taliban insurgent.
The two men, who were later determined not to be insurgents, were shot and killed by the joint patrol after they showed what appeared to be hostile intent by being armed. While investigators could not conclusively determine how or when the women died, due to lack of forensic evidence, they concluded that the women were accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men.
ISAF had already admitted they killed the two innocent men.
"The women, I'm not sure anyone will ever know how they died." He added, however, "I don't know that there are any forensics that show bullet penetrations of the women or blood from the women." He said they showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife, and appeared to have died several hours before the arrival of the assault force. In respect for Afghan customs, autopsies are not carried out on civilian victims, he said.
Now wait just a minute. NATO has strenuously denied any cover-up in this incident while smearing journalists who challenged their initial, untrue story. Yet somehow, we've gone from knowing enough about the condition of the bodies to say that there were puncture and slashing wounds from a knife to conclusions "that the women were accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men." NATO then expects you to believe that all the bad information in this story was due to "a lack of cultural understanding by the joint force and the chain of command."
Someone please explain to me the cultural misunderstanding responsible for Smith's implication that women were killed by knife wounds when they were in fact killed by gunfire.
These are not errors of cultural understanding. They are intentional lies meant to allow someone to escape responsibility for killing three women, two of them pregnant. Smith was lying before when describing the bodies or repeating lies he was told. ISAF was perpetrating a cover-up, and Smith participated in it, either willingly or unwillingly. Until ISAF admits that they did, in fact, attempt to perpetrate a cover-up, they are still lying to you.
Starkey's reporting and ISAF's reaction to it shows that their natural inclination to escape accountability remains strong and operative when they think they can get away with violent mistakes under the cover of darkness.
This incident shows why it's important to push back against the ISAF/Pentagon message machine. If you want to help, a good way to start is to become a fan of Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook.
UPDATE: I want us all to do some thinking about the timeline here. According to both Jerome Starkey (who's primarily responsible for initially blowing up NATO's official story on this), and to the New York Times' Richard Oppel, someone tampered with the evidence at the scene, most likely the special operations forces conducting the raid. The tampering ranged from digging bullets out of walls to digging bullets out of people and then washing the wounds with alcohol.
Remember that survivors of the raid said that the special operations forces denied the wounded medical treatment and prevented survivors from going to get medical help for an extended period of time, during which one of the women and one of the men who were mortally wounded died.
That means special operations forces were busy digging bullets out of walls and/or people to cover their asses while the innocent people they shot bled to death.
Heads. Roll. Now. Please.
UPDATE II: In the above, I asked how ISAF went from talking about "knife wounds" to knowing about deaths from gunfire. Alive in Afghanistan's Brian Conley just emailed me with an observation that makes this all snap into place: You know what you use to dig out a bullet? A knife. Think about that for a second. While Conley thinks this shows only "the likelihood that ISAF did a sloppy job reviewing the events," I think it shows a great deal more. In light of the accusations of special operations forces digging bullets out of the bodies, somebody needs to ask Smith, on camera, who told him about knife wounds on the corpses.
Follow Derrick Crowe on Twitter: www.twitter.com/derrickcrowe