For weeks, the U.S. military has denied charges that its Aug. 22 attack on Azizabad, Afghanistan killed scores of civilians, despite the fact that Afghan witnesses, the United Nations, and other human rights and international officials all say roughly 90 villagers were killed. Yesterday, the military reversed course and requested an investigation into the strike in light of “emerging evidence.” Part of that evidence is cellphone images showing “at least 11 dead children,” according to the New York Times.
The US military said that its findings were corroborated by an independent journalist embedded with the US force. He was named as the Fox News correspondent Oliver North, who came to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, when he was an army colonel.
Relying on North for a “fair and balanced” view is a major mistake. Even leaving aside his past as a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal under President Reagan, North routinely makes biased and unsourced claims:
– “There is no such thing as an Islamic moderate.” [LINK]
— “Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry Is the next president of the United States.” [LINK]
— Politicians who raise the issue of Abu Ghraib “have blood on their hands.” [LINK]
— Abuse of Iraqi prisoners is “the kind of thing that you might find on any college campus.” [LINK]
Dismissing accounts about the attack from witnesses, such as a village doctor who “said he counted 50 to 60 bodies of civilians, most of them women and children,” the U.S. military repeatedly “accused the villagers of spreading Taliban propaganda.”
Today, Human Rights Watch warned that by continuing air strikes and killing civilians, the U.S. risked a public backlash in Afghanistan. Seeming to codify the report, Azizabad’s district chief told the Times, “If they continue like this, they will lose the people’s confidence in the government and the coalition forces.”