Friday, September 4, 2009

NATO Kills Afghans Pilfering Fuel: War Isn't Nice

War isn't nice. Things get broken and people die.

A case in point:
"A NATO jet blasted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, setting off a huge fireball Friday that killed up to 90 people, including dozens of civilians, Afghan officials said.

"The NATO command said a 'large number of insurgents' were killed or injured in the pre-dawn attack near the village of Omar Khel in the once-calm province of Kunduz. In Brussels, the alliance's chief said it was possible civilians died...."
The same event, as reported by The New York Times:
"A NATO airstrike before dawn on Friday killed 80 people or more, at least some of them civilians, in a once-calm region of northern Afghanistan that has recently slipped under control of insurgents, Afghan officials said.

"NATO officials acknowledged that coalition aircraft had destroyed two hijacked fuel tankers in the tiny village of Omar Kheil, 15 miles south of Kunduz. They said they were investigating reports of civilian deaths, but stressed that the attack was aimed at Taliban militants...."
Yet again, from The Age in Australia:
"...Mahbubullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the Government in the Kunduz province, said about 90 people were killed - mostly militants.

"The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the strike killed a 'large number' of militants, and it was investigating reports of civilian casualties.

"ISAF said two fuel trucks were stolen and spotted several hours later on the banks of the Kunduz river. 'After assessing that only insurgents were in the area, the local ISAF commander ordered an air strike, which destroyed the fuel trucks, and a large number of insurgents were killed and injured,' a spokeswoman said...." (The Age)
It's almost certain that some number of people were killed. Differences in the numbers published is par for the course after an incident like this: everyone except reporters is more likely to be treating the wounded, putting out fires, cleaning up the mess and dealing with bodies: and less likely to be doing a methodical head count.

NATO and Afghanistan's Kunduz province government says many or most of the dead were with the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid says 'were not!' I doubt he put it quite that way: but that's the gist.

'No Man is an Island' Had a Point

John Donne's "No Man is an Island" - a little excerpt plucked from a greater whole1 - points out that: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." Like the song says: "we're all in this together."
A Short Digression
That bit from Donne was repeated with variations over and over again in the sixties: but what Donne wrote some 385 years ago goes 'way beyond that period's groovy feelings planting seeds of friendship.

My religious beliefs require me to be "involved in mankind" - although I find it easier to care for people who are more-or-less like me. Like the folks living in Ziarat.

I can't see 'real Americans' as actual people; and foreigners as, well, foreigners. And, I can't be 'relevant,' or whatever it's called these days, and regard people and institutions as valuable and correct to the extent that they're not American.

I'm required to care about people.
Whew! That's Over: Back to Taliban, Medium Rare
From the news, I gather that the events went like this:
  • Two trucks carrying fuel from Tajikistan to NATO forces in Kabul were hijacked by Taliban fighters (insurgents, whatever)
    • And the drivers killed
  • The Taliban
    • Mired their prizes in mud, trying to cross the Kunduz River
    • Then
      • Dumped some of the fuel to lighten the load
      • Called people from Omar Kheil over to get free fuel
      • Some combination of the above
    • NATO aircraft fired on the trucks
      • Resulting in quite a few deaths
    • By the time German soldiers came to investigate the scene, Afghan soldiers had removed the bodies
I appreciate the tidiness of the Afghan military - and the feelings of people who may have lost loved ones in the attack. But removing evidence like that makes figuring out what happened more difficult.

Let the Blame Games Begin

I'm pretty sure that partisans from most sides will say that the other guy is to blame. I've got an opinion, myself.

Someone who's rather closer to the mess had a few words to say:
"...Mohammad Daud, 32, said the Taliban were trying to move the tankers across a river when one got stuck.

" 'So they [the Taliban] told villagers to come and take the diesel. Villagers rushed to the fuel tanker with any available container that they had, including water buckets and pots for cooking oil,' Mr Daud said. 'This was when they were bombed. Everyone around the fuel tanker died.'..."
(The Age)
Like I said, there are plenty of places to put blame:
  • American imperialism
  • Big Oil
  • President Bush
    • Either one
  • Failure to legalize marijuana
    • Blame doesn't have to make sense, I've learned
  • Islam, because
    • It isn't 'American'
    • It's an evil death cult
    • Muslims look funny
  • The Afghan people, for
    • Not being American
    • Letting the Taliban take over their country recently
  • NATO, for being puppets of Western imperialism
  • People in Omar Kheil who decided to carry fuel in open containers
  • The Taliban
Assuming that civilians were killed - and that isn't at all unlikely - NATO does bear some responsibility for their deaths.

Common Sense, Trustworthiness, and Carrying Petrol in a Pot

On the other hand, I rather doubt that the people living in Omar Kheil were "natives" in the old sense: none-too-bright nitwits with barely enough sense to come in out of the rain. Or, in this case, not carry volatile, explosive, liquids in open containers. With a really good chance that an air strike would happen before they got away. Of course, again assuming that some of the dead were civilians, they may not have been aware that there's a war on - or had an unwarranted level of confidence in the Taliban's trustworthiness.

Much of the responsibility, I'm inclined to think, belongs to the Taliban. They're the ones who hijacked the trucks, killed the drivers, and then - according to one account - called people over to get 'free fuel.'

NATO? I'm nowhere near 'sophisticated' enough to assume that they would deliberately kill innocent (if lethally imprudent) civilians. Considering the sort of criticism that brings, it just isn't good sense.

Although there may be mitigating circumstances, I'm inclined to blame the civilians a little: for being wildly incautious.

In a way, what happened is like those news items you see now and then, about a hapless burglar getting stuck in a chimney, or hurt when he falls through a skylight. Sure, you feel sorry for the cluck: but I don't get upset with the householder for having a narrow chimney, or the business owner for not providing safety rails and a ladder in the skylight.

Generations ago, the phrase 'poor but honest' became a cliche: and may have been a reaction to a notion that poor people were intrinsically dishonest.

For decades, some American subcultures have - to hear their claims - assumed that poor people are just natural thieves. And, that it's okay because they're oppressed. Me? I don't buy that.

Bottom Line: Lots of People Dead, and It'll Happen Again

One thing is sure: lots of people died, and more are wounded. I'm sorry about the deaths, and the suffering of survivors. Taliban, careless civilian: they're people.

On the other hand, I don't think that NATO should withdraw because people got hurt and killed. The Taliban didn't treat Afghans very well when they were running the country, and there's no reason to think they've changed.

Given time, and no resistance, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and like-minded outfits would see to it that men were given the choice of not wearing trousers or being shot; women allowed to live, unless a male relative had a snit; and anything not sufficiently Islamic was destroyed. I wouldn't like that. Not one bit.

War isn't nice. It's nasty. But, sometimes, it's necessary.

As for what's happening in Afghanistan? Yes, I think it's necessary: to keep the Taliban from reclaiming that country.

Of course, I'm one of those people who don't think 9/11 was an inside job, or that "high-level government officers had allowed the Sept. 11 attacks to occur." (AP) But that's a whole different topic.

Related posts: In the news:
1 "No Man is an Island" is a little excerpt from the acres and acres of John Donne's "Devotions."

"No Man is an Island" was really big in the sixties. Hollywood made a movie of it - sort of; Joan Baez sang it - again, sort of; until the changes had been rung. Over and over again. One of the songs actually used more than the first five words of the standard excerpt.

Here's that "No man is an island ... it tolls for thee" bit that you see in textbooks: with some of what comes before and after.
"...The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction...."
(Excerpt from XVII. Meditation. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, John Donne: from a copy of Ann Arbor Paperbacks, the University of Michigan Press 1959 / Project Gutenberg)
That stuff about God wasn't considered 'relevant' in the sixties - and wouldn't have fit the lesson plan for some of the classes I took, back in the day.

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.