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March 04, 2011

How to Burn Children and Live With Yourself

Do you want to inflict horrible burns on a bunch of kids yet sleep soundly at night? Of course you do! So I've got good news: history holds valuable lessons on how to make this happen.

David Petraeus:

KABUL - To the shock of President Hamid Karzai's aides, Gen. David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday...that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting...

Karzai's office placed the civilian death toll at 50....

Wahidi, the provincial governor, sent a three-person fact-finding team up the valley to the village of Helgal. They returned with seven injured people, including a woman and a man, both 22 years old, and five boys and girls 16 or younger [with] burns and shrapnel wounds...

"[Petraeus] claimed that in the midst of the [operation] some pro-Taliban parents in contact with a government official decided to create a civilian casualty claim to pressure international forces to cease the [operation]. They burned hands and legs of some of their children and sent them to the hospital," a second participant said...

Richard Nixon:

In a wide-ranging conversation with aide H.R. Haldeman on June 12, 1972, Haldeman brought up the subject of the "napalm thing."

The [famous] photograph had been taken earlier that month, and was contributing to growing anti-war sentiment among the U.S. public.

"I wonder if that was a fix," Nixon responded to Haldeman.

"Could have been," Haldeman said..."Napalm bothers people. You get a picture of a little girl with her clothes burnt off," Haldeman said

"I wondered about that," came Nixon's reply.

Luckily for David Petraeus, there don't seem to be any pictures of this particular child-burning episode. Note the number of wounded Afghan boys and girls described in the above story, and the number of children in this photograph:

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 4, 2011 07:55 PM

what "this photograph"?

Posted by: jawad at March 4, 2011 10:28 PM

That was the picture that helped end the Vietnam War. There were many others but this one is perhaps the most infamous. It's funny but when the Vietnam War ended I thought at the time that Americans had learned something but I was never so wrong in my life as we had learned something alright only it wasn't what I imagined at the time. I was young then.

Posted by: Rob Payne at March 4, 2011 10:35 PM

I especially liked this part of the article:

The anger greeting this message showed the political challenges inherent in dealing with allegations of civilian casualties, particularly in remote and dangerous areas where investigations prove difficult.

Remember: it's always and only about us, not about them. How are we going to deal with the political challenges inherent in dealing with allegations of civilian casualties? If only the Afghanistanis would think of someone besides themselves now and then!

Posted by: Duncan at March 5, 2011 12:05 AM

Really, though, I don't think a photograph in this case would cause Petraeus any problems. Been there, seen that. Isn't X-Factor on tonight?

That photograph from Viet Nam was from a time when some people could still be shocked, and still gave a damn.

Different time, different country.

Posted by: NomadUK at March 5, 2011 02:03 AM

Our current wars' shocking photo evidence was the collateral murder video, a mall blip, if that, on most screens.

Posted by: Butch in Waukegan at March 5, 2011 06:33 AM

I was in college then. Here's a joke I heard:

What's funnier than a bucket full of vietnamese ears?

A truckload of dead vietnamese with their ears cut off.

Killing groups of people is nothing new - the things that you're liable to read in the Bible, they ain't necessarily so - but the accounts of genocide seem very plausible.

It's just the way things are. Deal with it.

Posted by: geezer at March 5, 2011 07:40 AM

It's just the way things are. Deal with it.

I'd rather not, thanks all the same.

Posted by: NomadUK at March 5, 2011 08:21 AM

What the government learned was not to allow the news to show these types of pictures, and to embed reporters with our little bands of snotty nosed killers to ensure that they wouldn’t report anything untoward. The ever patriotic news media is of course only too happy to oblige by bombarding the public with propaganda regarding our humanitarian efforts. The great public in their turn are only too happy to believe this absurd picture of our rapacious wars because it is more palatable.

Posted by: Rob Payne at March 5, 2011 08:40 AM

"World domination goes better with coke!"

I actually have a t-shirt that says this.-Tony

Posted by: tony at March 5, 2011 10:09 AM

"It's just the way things are. So get to work on changing it."

Fixed your typo.

Posted by: willf at March 5, 2011 04:21 PM

Video just isn't that shocking anymore. People pay good money to watch grotesque violence.

Posted by: N E at March 5, 2011 06:11 PM

Empire, torture, and variations on a theme...or: smug son-of-a-bitch Forwardlooking allows the torture of Bradley Manning in plain sight--ably assisted by corporate media lapdogs, like Couric, Kroft, Williams, Sawyer, Keller, MSNBC, News Corp., etc. To withhold SOME information relevant to the issue at hand: this is TO LIE

The handwringing in the Beltway--within and without--over just how gosh, darn AWFUL it is that people died today in, e.g., Kabul, is just that: a media tapdance that plays well, not only in Peoria, but in any TV-gazing household in God-bless-America. Recall, e.g., Bush's rant--his betrayal, really--to Néstor Kirchner vis a vis the dire necessity of ongoing militarism in order to...cultivate our capitalist blood garden:

"President George W. Bush argued in 2004 that the best way to grow the U.S. economy was by waging war, according to former Argentine Prime Minister Néstor Kirchner.

"Kirchner, in a meeting with Bush, suggested that the United States replicate the successful nation-building strategy it implemented at the end of World War II.

"'And he stood up from his chair and got angry. He told me, 'A Marshall plan! No! That's a crazy idea from the Democrats. What needs to be done here, and the best way to revitalize the economy is -- the United States has grown based on wars,' he told me. That's what he told me," Kirchner recounted.

"Bush added, said Kirchner, that 'all the economic growth that the U.S. had had, had been based on the different wars it had waged.'"

So, here it is, dears: THERE IS A FUCKING WAR GOING ON HERE.

But the war is NOT about ideologies, the war is NOT about party politics, the war is NOT about "better legislation," the war is NOT--in its most essential guise--about racism, sexism, religious contempt, etc.

From 24 February 1948--call it a Rosetta Stone of sorts, i.e., the then-director of the State Department's "think tank"--the Policy Planning Staff's George Kennan, who had then codified what was to become Bush's "ethic" (declassified 1974):

"We must be very careful when we speak of exercising 'leadership' in Asia. We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have answers to the problems, which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3 of its population.... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction.... We should dispense with the aspiration to 'be liked' or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better [George Kennan, PPS/23; 24 February 1948].

To illustrate further: the oft heard plaint during the sixties--while immersed in the SE Asian atrocities of our own design--was of "those godless Commies, those Godless Commies," etc., the corporate-endorsed mantra of the day.

Problem: it is not--nor was it ever the case as far as DC was concerned--that Communism was bad for the Good Lordy Lordy.

No. It was not that Communism was bad for Jesus.

Communism was bad for WALL STREET.

Kennan's caveat has, of course, since been thoroughly internalized--it's just not mentioned in DC polite society. That is, it's just so...common for the State/investor class to openly discuss...m-o-n-e-y...

And, America's own Madame Nhu bemoans the losing media battle Empire now faces (in order to prolong what appears to be the unraveling of the bottom rungs of this 235-year old Ponzi pyramid) as more of the globe--both here and abroad--turn to alternate information outlets (WikiLeaks, anyone?)

The video is worth a glance*--if only to witness the now-haggard Madame in what may be a state of low-level panic (quem dii volunt perdere dementant prius…). Notice, too, the profound (read: stomach-heaving) ironies in Kerry's opening Litany of Pure Bullshit.

As it stands, working-class Americans need to visit, e.g., an oncologist this week, or need to visit a cardiologist this week, or internist, etc., to address symptoms that are all-too-real. This is not going to happen. That is, instead of a civilized State ensuring that Mom has ready access to a mammograph--and, if necessary, ongoing, quality health care to pre-empt metastasizing--or that Dad can get his blood sugar monitored, they will, in fact, just die. This year. Forty-five thousand of us. And, that's just too fucking, darn bad.

There's nothing left to protect; there's nothing left to safeguard. All that remains is this last-minute looting of the world's coffers by the investor class. Blood--working class, both here at home as well as abroad--is being spilled for that opportunity alone. Repeat: there is nothing left to protect; there is nothing left to safeguard.

[*q.v., Cockburn's fine article on same:]

Posted by: Dean taylor at March 6, 2011 05:51 AM

What's with the spambots?

Posted by: NomadUK at March 6, 2011 08:56 AM

Operation Baghdad Pups

U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan befriend local animals as a way to help cope with the emotional hardships they endure every day while deployed in a war zone. The Operation Baghdad Pups program provides veterinary care and coordinates complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these beloved pets with their service men and women back in the U.S. These important animals not only help our heroes in the war zone, but they also help them readjust to life back home after combat.

www dot spcai dot org slash baghdad-pups dot html


U.S. Marines Rescue Kittens

by Kristen Seymour

We'll admit it: men in uniform make us swoon. And, as you know, adorable baby animals turn us to mush. So naturally, when you put the two together, we simply can't look away!

Three US Marines stationed in Afghanistan have taken it upon themselves to help out the kitties that captured their hearts. Brian Chambers, Chris Berry and Aaron Shaw, with help from generous cat lovers and Nowzad Dogs Charity, have sent two of their beloved feline friends home to the States.

The once lost but now lucky ginger cats, Kiki and Keykey, have both been through quite a bit in their young lives. Both kittens had to be nursed back to heath for various issues while in Afghanistan, but now that they're in their new, loving stateside homes (Kiki in Houston, Texas with Chamber's parents and Keykey in Detroit, Mich. with Berry's folks), they should be able to live out the rest of their nine lives in comfort, cuddles and kibble.

Posted by: mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at March 6, 2011 09:42 AM

In summary, another quote from Alex Cockburn:

"March 2 was a busy day. The Army filed 22 new charges against PFC Bradley Manning, suspected of passing classified information to the WikiLeaks website. The charges include "aiding the enemy," -- a capital offense. These charges coincided with Gen. Petraeus apologizing, also on March 2, to Afghanistan’s puppet leader Karzai for the deaths, via machine-gun from Apache attack helicopters, of 9 children, killed as they gathered firewood in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan. A 10th child was injured. The general said he was really, really sorry, and that it seemed that "regrettably, there appears to have been an error in the handoff between identifying the location of the insurgents and the attack helicopters that carried out subsequent operations."

Among the material that Manning is accused of handing on to Wikileaks is footage of Apache helicopter assaults in Baghdad. The worldwide web was transfixed on April 5, 2010, when Wikileaks put up on YouTube a 38-minute video, a 17-minute edited version, taken from a U.S. Army Apache helicopter, one of two firing on a group of Iraqis in Baghdad at a street corner in July of 2007. Twelve civilians died, including a Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a Reuters driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.

Two lethal helicopter assaults, two different outcomes for those divulging them. Petraeus gets a pat on the back for his swift effort at damage control; Manning gets charges that carry the death penalty."

Posted by: Paul Avery at March 6, 2011 01:35 PM

Paul Avery: Well, Petraeus IS the general, after all. The situation between The General and The Private makes PERFECT sense to me. I was a Private once, BUT because of my LACK of social skills, no moral compass, and a strong back, I fell into favor of a group of officers.(getting to know them is NOT getting to love them and because I did not love them they did not love me as it turned out.) Its good to see that NOTHING has changed in the past 34 years to that August Old Institution, The U.S. Army.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2011 02:53 PM

I read where Karzai found the general's "I'm Sorry" unacceptable. Must be a loose string on the puppet. They should look into that.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2011 11:03 PM


Don't assume that apparent public rifts are necessarily real.


I've been ruminating every so often on this post. Has anyone seen video or heard non-military audio of these drones in the sky and/or the resulting damage? I've seen a couple of videos released by the military over the years, using infrared as I recall, but no real audio or video. This strikes me as odd. Just about every damn cell phone has a camera now, so where is the video (and audio) of these attacks? Does no one bother to give it to US media outlets, or do they just not broadcast it? Do Al Jazeera and other foreign entities broadcast that sort of footage? Anybody know?

Posted by: N E at March 7, 2011 08:26 AM

Just about every damn cell phone has a camera now, so where is the video (and audio) of these attacks?

a) I have a cell phone, but not one with a camera. I would guess that cell phones, with or without cameras, are uncommon among targets of drone attacks.

b) The drone is said to be at an altitude of 25,000 feet - so even when it is right above you it is five miles away.

Posted by: mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at March 7, 2011 10:06 AM

"YouTube videos of US unmanned drone attacks in Afghanistan- RT 100105"


Posted by: Rupa Shah at March 7, 2011 11:20 AM

Mistah Charley

I wasn't doubting at all that the attacks happen, and happen regularly. Far from it, I think it's a much bigger part of the life of those who live in these regions than people realize. But I do suspect without knowing that lots of people in the region have cameras and camcorders, including cameras on cell phones. Getting cameras is presumably easier than getting weapons. So I really wonder where the video is. (BTW, according to one excellent article I read some time ago written by a NYT reporter kidnapped by the Taliban for a while, the drones are loud even from that great height. That writer described them as a ubiquitous presence hovering overhead.)


I know those "shock and awe" videos exist showing our amazing military power, but as far as I've seen, not so many videos of mutilated bodies and weeping children. I wonder where those are. I suppose that kind of footage doesn't get broadcast in the US because it's considered unpatriotic, and I was wondering if it gets broadcast abroad. I really don't know if it shows up a lot on Al Jazeera and other foreign outlets.

Posted by: N E at March 7, 2011 01:53 PM

NE - most third-world cell phones are bare bones, especially in a rural region like this. They're not using a 3G iphone with video on it. And, these are probably the poorest places in Pakistan, itself a pretty poor country. It's not highly likely that the people in that village had cell phones with cameras on them.

Posted by: saurabh at March 7, 2011 08:21 PM

This is Poor People in a warzone. Where are they going to get a cell phone for every occasion?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 7, 2011 08:40 PM

Cell phone communication is cheaper than land lines and a man can make a small business being the guy with the one cell phone in a remote and poor village. So I'd think there would be cell phones where the US is bombing.

Posted by: DavidByron at March 8, 2011 02:57 PM

Cell phones use tower networks. Towers have a range of about 50 miles and they vulnerable in remote or rural locations in and out of war zones.

Satellite phones are something different some might be thinking of here, but they aren't nearly as common or inexpensive as a cell.

In the specific case of Helgal, it appears to be just outside the cell coverage indicated on these maps:

Posted by: lg at March 8, 2011 05:34 PM

These comments are making me think that maybe I don't know that much about life in that part of Asia, all the rest of Asia, Africa, and pretty much everywhere else.

Posted by: N E at March 8, 2011 11:10 PM

"How to Burn Children and Live With Yourself"

The only time I had any qualms was when they were so charred as to be inedible.

Posted by: RedPhillip at March 9, 2011 10:03 AM

okay, my bro-in-law who has been and almost lived everywhere in africa and traveled in recent years in india and southeast asia says cells with cameras are common now, so I don't know why they wouldn't be up in central asia too and still don't get why the video doesn't show up on broadcasts.

i gotta think such video would show up on the teevee if somebody really wanted it too, because I can't believe it doesn't exist

Posted by: N E at March 9, 2011 10:28 AM