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WikiLeak Shows Human Rights Violations in Afghanistan

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A milestone was reached on June 7, 2010, when the war in Afghanistan became the longest military conflict in Unites States history. For years the media was saturated with reports of civilians in deplorable living conditions, atrocities committed by the Taliban, and inadvertent civilian casualties. The endless media coverage caused many to become desensitized to war’s inherent barbarity. But thanks to the efforts of the government watchdog site WikiLeaks, America has been reminded about the extent of the inhumanity which war begets.

On Sunday WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of secret military documents in a leak comparable to the infamous Pentagon Papers that helped end the Vietnam War. The leak, also known as the “Afghan War Diaries”, gives a vivid picture of just how commonplace human rights violations have been for the past six years.

In one of the leaked documents, on Feb. 14, 2008, soldiers in the field reported sub-standard living conditions for Afghan civilians in the village of Kotgay. The report states that the village needed “electricity for 300+ homes, several more wells and a clinic.” The report also said that the village elders “seemed particularly concerned about the clinic – the main issue being pregnant women having to rear their children in less than ideal settings.” This is just one of many reports in which soldiers observe Afghan civilians barely surviving with what little aid the NATO military can provide for them.

Other documents show Afghan civilians being intimidated by enemy combatants. In one report a school was set on fire by 30 armed men. In another soldiers traveled to a village where they had previously been attacked. When they arrived they found a group of people standing over the decapitated body of Mohamad Zahir Khan. The victim’s uncle told the soldiers that “he was killed by the Taliban late at night on March 26, 2007. Two letters left with the victim said that the victim was killed due to his sympathetic views for coalition forces. The other letter said that if anyone moved the body they would meet the same fate. Despite the military’s efforts, the sheer amount of leaked documents documenting these instances shows how coalition forces have failed to put an emphasis on ensuring the security of Afghan people.

The most controversial factor in this story are the documents chronicling the civilian murders at the hands of military personal, and the subsequent cover-ups by their commanding officers. The Afghan government released a statement yesterday, in which they accuse coalition forces of killing 52 civilians when a rocket struck a village in southern Afghanistan. Although NATO officials deny this claim, many reports found in the War Diaries lend credibility to  the Afghan government’s accusation. According to the founder of WikiLeaks, several incidents involving the coalition military forces could be investigated for war crimes. In many of the reports soldiers mistook civilians for enemy combatants and shot them. When this happens the military covers up the incident by calling the victims insurgents instead of civilians.

As a result of WikiLeaks posting the documents the American government has decided to launch an investigation into the site. Despite the criticism of the site’s actions, these reports only reinforce the fact that coalition forces must make a greater effort to protect the human rights of the Afghan people.

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About Dean Stephens

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    “Coalition forces,” you write, “must make a greater effort to protect the human rights of the Afghan people.” Wouldn’t the best way be simply to get the hell out and let the Afghanis sort things? We’ve been trying to “protect” them for nine years and have made a royal screaming pain-in-the-ass mess of it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    As an afterthought, it occurs to me that someone who advocates human rights in a war zone is like a crossing guard holding up a STOP sign at an intersection in Pamplona during the festival of Sanfermines. Just as she ushers her kiddies into the middle of the road, hundreds of goddamn bulls come stampeding through in full bellowing fury, trampling grades K-6 into the dust. Do-gooders are by definition naive.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Is that your way of saying that war zones are best left to the grown-ups, Alan? That the meddling do-gooders should look elsewhere to provide for such trivialities as “human rights?”

    Yes, the best way is to simply “get the hell out.” But that doesn’t mean that other avenues of protecting and ensuring human rights, yes even in “war zones,” ought to be ignored.

  • http://www.fourthestatepost.com/ Dean Stephens

    Alan Kurtz. Just because war by definition is a human rights violation, doesn’t mean human rights should be ignored.

  • Bunchie Carter

    Alan your statement makes little to no sense. Apathy is far more dangerous than ignorance consider it

  • John Wilson

    It appears that the USA Military is incapable of actually winning a war (loss string goes back to 1949) but is capable of creating a lot of mayhem and distress among the natives.

    Maybe we should just stay out of foreign countries wars.

  • Cannonshop

    Wow, next someone’s going to allege that there’s a WAR going on out there…how shocking!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    A Pashtun colleague of mine and I were discussing these leaks a couple of days ago. This fellow has seen the war in Central Asia up close and personal and was nearly killed by the Taliban.

    Colleague:
    In most of the Pashtun areas there was no Pakistani law for quite a long time and in Tribal areas of Pakistan, there is no law, no police, no courts at all – these areas are governed by our old tradition of Pakhtunwali, but now, Taliban are everywhere in Tribal areas, so now it is Shariah law that is stronger, due to the fact that Taliban are stronger and they do it with the power of gun and bombs.

    All this is happening with the help of ISI. ISI is providing all the training, finances and logistics for these Talibans and the people who defy them are killed by Talibans with the help of ISI.

    Me:
    This is one of the things you told me a long time ago that the Wikileaks have confirmed….

    Colleague:
    In my area there is a strong presence of Talibans. I used to see helicopters providing food and all logistics to them in in accessable mountains – security forces use to bombard those tribes who killed Talibans, and so on. There are many examples.

    The whole Taliban leadership first was in Quetta and now in Karachi and all this due to the help of ISI, which is playing double and triple games with the world and even with Pakistanis…..

    Now the Pashtun majority is fed up with the Taliban. They want to preserve their traditions. The present government in KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) is secular and is fighting Taliban with great vigour….

    I would like to tell you that they have the blood of Pashtuns on their hands and Pashtuns never forget their killers.

    Even when the Taliban brought peace in the beginning, I thought that they were better than Mujahedeen and in one of my articles I even backed them, but now my family and I are their sworn enemy…..

    I have been saying all this for a long time and these leakages have proved it right…. We have a very strong memory. We especially do not forget our enemies.

    Something to think about. What’s my angle? Why should I give a damn? The Pashtun are Children of Israel, the “Lost Tribes” exiled by the Assyrians 2,830 years or so. And they are being persecuted by the same forces of evil that persecute us in Israel, and are being victimized in a far crueler way than we Jews are.

    The situation is far more complex than it appears at first blush, and these exposures of war crimes of various kinds by Wikileaks do not tell the whole story by any means. However, evil resents the light of truth shown upon it, and flees to its dark lairs. Consider this article in the Pakistan Daily.

    Were it written by some Pakistani government hack paid by the ISI, one could just nod one’s head and say “consider the source”. But it comes from none other than Wayne Madsen, an American writer who runs a pay per subscription news service. Until today, I was willing to consider it as such, and as a source of alternative information that one would not find in the lame brain media that feeds the sheeple their little “news” pellets. I was rudely awakened.

    Briefly, Mr. Madsen and his sources allege that Wikileaks is a joint project of the CIA, George Soros, and the Mossad. That’s like mixing petroleum, water and manure and claiming you have chocolate pudding. Claiming that Obama was not born in the States has some meat to it, as much as millions – well now, thousands – of the Zero’s admirers would like to deny it. And arguing that 9/11 benefited some Jews – even Israelis – has a little meat on it as well – though one would be hard put to blame a non-sovereign felafel régime like the Israeli government for the destruction of the World Trade Center. Barry Chamish made a credible case for that argument some time ago. But George Soros hates Israel and wants to see it destroyed. And he is supposed to be working hand in hand with the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, and the CIA? He doesn’t need them! He’s rich enough to buy them all out! The only people who are richer than Soros are the Communist Chinese. And guess who is pointing the finger at Soros?

    Chopsticks in one!!

    I’d say there is only one really accurate couple of lines in this whole article, pulled from one of the e-mails it quotes:

    “Btw, I suggest we be careful with Wayne Madsen too. He seems to be another case of someone who was fantastic a few years ago, but recently has started to see conspiracies everywhere.”

    Nobody considering this can afford idiotic imaginings of cloud-cuckoo conspiracy theories. The realities on the ground are gruesome enough without them.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    …though one would be hard put to blame a non-sovereign felafel régime like the Israeli government for the destruction of the World Trade Center.

    Ruvy, I’m a bit puzzled by this statement. The Israeli government is a sovereign “regime”, and recognised as such by most of the international community – as illegitimate as you may personally regard it to be.

    And 9/11 was blamed on a non-sovereign entity.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    DD,

    Considering that what you make a fuss over is ancillary to the issues I’ve discussed – and considering that you’ve ignored those issues entirely – why bother with enlightening you out of your puzzlement? The game seems hardly worth the candle.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    It’s interesting. The first part of your article actually highlights something which people are missing in this controversy, that a lot of what’s documented in these leaked documents is the general bad conditions in Afghanistan resulting from internal conflicts which have very little to do with the US presence and which US forces do their best to try to remedy

    The truth is that Afghanistan is a mess and would be a mess with or without our presence, and all we do by being there is create opportunities to screw up and take blame on ourselves through no real ill intentions.

    Dave

  • Oliver Douglas, Esq.

    what about the human rights violations before the U.S./NATO forces there? If the Afghan people are going to accept whoever the biggest bully is, what hope do they have no matter who is trying to help them?

  • zingzing

    #10, masterful technique there, ruvy.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Mr. Douglas,

    In looking at all of this, you may want to consider three important points. The first is that the Afghan kingdom, ruled by Pashtuns, was broken up by the Soviet Union. The second is that the fight goes beyond the borders of Aghanistan into the Pashtun inhabited areas of Pakistan as well. Finally, you might want to consider that the Pashtun, who originally formed much of what you know as the Taliban, are getting sick and tired of the Taliban shoving Sharia down their throats.

    Ask any Russian veteran of Afghanistan (I have). They’ll tell you the last thing you want is some Pashtun angry at you.

    In considering the atrocities committed before the arrival of NATO, bear in mind the following. According to my Pashtun colleague, the Russians have learned a lesson – a hard one. They have learned to stay out of Afghanistan. My Russian friends here in Israel say the same thing.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Not making a fuss or playing a game, Ruvy, just asking.

    Sometimes things really are that simple.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    It appears that the USA Military is incapable of actually winning a war (loss string goes back to 1949)

    Really? I would regard Grenada, Panama and both wars against Saddam’s Iraq as decisive military victories, whatever your opinion of the underlying politics.

    Can’t argue with the rest of your thesis though.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    Grenada and Panama as decisive military victories! Once, while wearing combat boots, I stomped on a small anthill. (Forgive me, PETA). By your reckoning, that was a decisive military victory, too.

  • Arch Conservative

    “It appears that the USA Military is incapable of actually winning a war (loss string goes back to 1949)”

    It is interesting to note that most view the last major War the US fought and actually won as being WW2 given how it ended, two atomic bombs being dropped on the Japanese people. A terrible thing to do to your fellow human beings, but effective. Many historians point out that it was these bombs that broke the will of the Japanese and that prior to them being dropped, the Allies were planning an attack on mainland Japan which the Japanese would have resisted, costing many more total lives than the bombs.

    The origianl quote is in large part due to the pussification of America by the PC left….which is quite ironic when one considers that most American leftists are not indeed true pacifists nor do they actually care about civilian casualties in some far away land. Their true allegiance is to their uber leftist state mandated utopian view of the world and most of them would have zero compunction in ruining the lives of others to realize that goal.

    But war is hell, it’s not a tea party and if you want to “win” whatever that means you can’t have politicians and public sentiment hamstringing your forces every step of the way.

    There’s no doubt that the US military could kill every man, woman, child and goat in Afghanistan 4 times over if that is what we wanted them to do. But what would we have won? What is our current strategy going to win for us?

    My answer is nothing worst the price we paid.

  • Cannonshop

    I find it funny that the left is handwringing about human-rights violations in a zone where human rights have NEVER been acknowledged in HISTORY, where there’s a war going on, and where the guys the Americans/West are fighting violate the UN Charter on Human rights three times before breakfast-even when it isn’t of any remote military or political value.

    Gotta wonder about the logic of that. Seriously. The employment and reliance on a double-standard wrt “Human Rights” effectively undermines the entire discussion of the topic, because it becomes a matter of political football, where one side is expected to follow the rules, and the other is given a free pass.

    The left gives butchers who stone little girls for being raped a pass, who routinely kill people for being the WRONG KIND OF MUSLIM (in addition to routinely killing non-muslims, often in fascinating and creative ways…) Guys who bomb schools with IED’s and blow up markets for kicks are just fine-it’s the soldiers who’re shooting them who’re going to be pursued? whut???

    Sorry, kids, it’s not a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie out there, shit happens, soldiers screw up, that’s war. The only real difference is that the side that has rules that it tries to follow in alignment with UNCHR gets pasted with shit like this, and the side that gleefully kills civilians for kicks on a regular basis gets a pass.