The claim by the US government that the latest massacre of Afghan civilians by a “lone gunman” may have some credibility gaps. The current version is:
An American soldier walked off his base in a remote southern Afghan village shortly before dawn Sunday and opened fire on civilians inside their homes, killing at least 16, including nine children, Afghan officials said. [..]
Officials shed no light on the motive or state of mind of the staff sergeant who was taken into custody shortly after the alleged massacre.
“It appears he walked off post and later returned and turned himself in,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Williams, a military spokesman.
U.S. military officials stressed that the shooting was carried out by a lone, rogue soldier, differentiating it from past instances of civilians killed accidentally during military operations.
Witnesses told Reuters that they observed a group of laughing, drunk American soldiers in the village around 2 AM:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 11 (Reuters) – Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.
One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.
Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire. [..]
Haji Samad said 11 of his relatives were killed in one house, including his children. Pictures showed blood-splattered walls where the children were killed.
“They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,” a weeping Samad told Reuters at the scene.
“I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren,” said Samad, who had left the home a day earlier.
Neighbours said they awoke to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, whom they described as laughing and drunk.
“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” said neighbour Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where the incident took place. “Their bodies were riddled with bullets.”
Most villagers expressed scepticism that this was simply the work of a soldier who had lost control. One woman described how she was woken at 02:00 by the sound of helicopters. Others spoke of seeing computerised equipment in the area.
Whatever the true chronology of events, this incident is being seen as yet another black mark in the catalogue of deadly Nato operations.
“I saw one person come to our home, I told my son: ‘You have to be quiet and calm because maybe this is a night raid’,” said one woman.
An hour after gunfire erupted, she went to her brother’s home and saw that corpses from his family had been set ablaze. She screamed for help.
Lambert Strether writing at naked capitalism asks:
What do we know now that we didn’t know in 2011, 2010, or 2009? And remind me who was President in 2011, 2010, and 2009? Was it that same guy who courageously opposed “dumb wars” back in 2008?
Of course, the military is rejecting these accounts and sticking with their story. The whole issue will be “handled” by the military in the same way they “handled” the 2006 Haitha massacre in Iraq, six years from now everyone involved, including those who covered up the real story, will walk off free and without any serious penalty. Not exactly the way to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.