Since the appearance of a March 27th article by sociology professor James Petras on numerous websites (see The Afghan 17 and the Obama Cover-up), I have been closely following the dispute between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration over the number of shooters in the March 11th massacre in southern Kandahar. I’ve come to the conclusion that 1) Karzai and the Afghan parliament fact finding mission are most likely telling the truth and 2) in attempting to pin the deed on a lone nut (Staff Sergeant Robert Bales), Obama and the Pentagon are engaged in a massive cover-up. I also agree with Petras’ assessment that it could cost him the November election.
The fact finding mission which reported to the Afghan parliament on March 16th quoted witnesses claiming that between 15-20 Americans were involved in the attack and that they had helicopter cover. The Pentagon dismisses their findings, based on 1) a videotaped confession from Bales, which Obama refuses to turn over to Karzai for authentication, and 2) a claim that none of the witnesses actually saw more than one gunman. The latter clearly contradicts testimony one of the survivors gave in a March 17th hearing conducted by Karzai and his deputies (see March 17 hearing). In it a woman clearly describes three GIs entering her home, as well as their specific actions.
What About the Helicopters and Rapes?
The Pentagon disclaimer says nothing about the US helicopters several witnesses observed at the time of the massacre. There are also troublesome logistical issues. The fact finding mission reports that two women were raped prior to being shot. I’m trying to visualize exactly how a man can enter a house of three to four adults and rape one or more women without putting down his assault rifle (and being overpowered by the other adults). Karzai also points out the logistical difficulty of a single man killing family members in four different rooms and dragging them into a single room to set fire to them.
The Obama administration has already changed the official version of events once, owing to the extreme implausibility of a single gunmen raping, shooting and setting fire to seventeen victims in two geographically separate villages in the space of a few hours. According to the revised version, Bales committed the first massacre in the early morning hours of March 11, walked back to base for breakfast and lunch and went out to murder more victims in the second village. He then returned to base and turned himself into his commander, who made sure to catch his surrender and confession on video.
Other Inconvenient Details
A few other relevant details of the case are frequently omitted from the mainstream coverage:
- According to Karzai, the scenario described by witnesses is typical of hundreds of night “pacification” raids conducted on Afghan villages every year. Karzai has been campaigning to halt these raids, which nearly always produce civilian deaths, for nearly a year. See Civilian deaths in night raids.
- Villagers claim that the March 11 pacification raids occurred in retaliation for a roadside IED explosion that injured several GIs on March 7th. Immediately after the explosion, all the men in Mokoyan village were lined up against the wall at gunpoint. A GI then informed them, through a translator, “I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it – you and your children will pay for this” (see Villagers told they would pay).
- The US has made no effort to conduct a ballistic investigation of the massacre sites, which is the most reliable way to ascertain the number of weapons and GIs involved (see Why no site investigation?).