Guardian Unlimited
Bloody evidence of US blunder
  Rory Carroll in Qalaye Niazi (if given)
January 7, 2002


Now that we have won our glorious victory in Afghanistan, the real fun has 
begun. Remember, historically Afghanistan has been one of the most chaotic 
countries in the world. It is full of different tribes, clans, and factions 
that continually compete with each other.

Traditionally, almost all is fair in this perpetual rivalry. These guys 
just don't play by the traditional Western rules of warfare. Alliances are 
forged and then betrayed, and warlords are always looking for a leg up on 
their neighbors. They change sides all the time, depending on who seems to 
be winning, or who offers more booty or bribes. There seems to be little 
hard feelings towards former enemies; in fact, the Afghans still talk about 
their former enemies the British with affection because (1) they were good 
fighters, and (2) when the fighting was over they could sit down, have tea 
with the other side, and let bygones be bygones. Of course, during the 
three Afghan wars, the British didn't do a whole lot of damage to 
noncombatants. If they had, their reputation might be a little different.

This cavalier approach to warfare has already resulted in some 
embarrassing moments for the Empire, when a large number of evil Taliban
and al-Qaeda fighters, cornered like rats in Tora Bora and other hideouts 
by the virtuous Northern Alliance, managed somehow to escape the ruthless 
hand of U.S. justice. Over the protests of U.S. officials, many Taliban 
fighters were allowed to change sides. On top of that, apparently leaders 
of the Northern Alliance were bribed, or made deals with higher-ranking 
enemies. This may be the reason that both the Evil Fiend, Osama bin Laden, 
and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, seem to have slipped through the 
net, along with a number of other high-ranking Al Qaeda and Taliban 

The latest reports are that the decrepit, one-eyed Omar escaped Tora Bora 
on a motorcycle, with three or four associates. The report didn't specify 
whether they were all riding the same motorcycle, but, in any case, there's 
more than a hint of Keystone Kops about the whole affair. I can just imagine 
the U.S. advisors shouting, "Hey, wait a minute!" as Northern Alliance 
warlords welcome defecting Taliban troops into their ranks.

Unfortunately, such shenanigans are not all that's happening. The United 
State is continuing to bomb, and civilian casualties, already estimated to 
be more than those resulting from the September 11 attacks, continue. And 
now the difficulty of nation-building in Afghanistan is beginning to reveal 
itself after a U.S. bombing raid on a village:

> The war on terrorism came no cleaner and Commander Matthew
> Klee, a spokesman at the US central command in Tampa,
> Florida, had reassuring news: "Follow-on reporting indicates that
> there was no collateral damage."
> Some of the things his follow-on reporters missed: bloodied
> children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of
> a woman with braided grey hair, butter toffees in red wrappers,
> wedding decorations.
> The charred meat sticking to rubble in black lumps could have
> been Osama bin Laden's henchmen but survivors said it was the
> remains of farmers, their wives and children, and wedding
> guests.
> They said more than 100 civilians died at this village in eastern
> Afghanistan.

Oops! Well, who cares; they're only dromedary jockies, after all. But 
here's the kicker:

> Survivors lacked the bewilderment common to those who have
> been bombed, because they had an explanation: a tribal rival
> had manipulated the Americans into attacking Qalaye Niazi to
> further his political ambitions in Paktia province.

How many times has this happened before? How many times have the Empire's 
best and brightest been played for fools by crafty Afghans? And how many 
other surprises will our forces find in a place they don't understand? It 
will be entertaining to watch how our rulers try to spin the mounting 
number of screw-ups:

> Tribal politics tend to confuse even Afghans and one US official
> in Kabul admitted it was impenetrable to outsiders, no matter
> how well briefed. "So sure, mistakes happen."

Oh, well. That's all right then.

The U.S. doesn't have bin Laden, our ostensible reason for going into 
Afghanistan in the first place. Even so, although the Afghans had nothing 
to do with the actual September 11 attacks, the United State killed more 
innocent civilians there than Osama killed here. And now our rulers are
finding out that trying to keep their allies in line is like herding
weasels. It's just getting better all the time.

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