The world really is a battlefield
By Omar Dahir (writer for Harar24)
“Dirty Wars”, the documentary film based on Jeremy Scahill’s book by the same name, I had heard of it yet I was never intrigued to watch it until it was recommended to me by others.
The documentary focuses on often overlooked atrocities committed by Americans in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. In Afghanistan the viewer is taken to the police headquarters in Jalalabad where Jeremy Scahill speaks to the police commander of the district who discloses that the Americans have carried out several raids and admits that all killed in those raids were innocent people. Strangely the police commander complains that even the NATO don’t know anything about the reoccurring raids. The viewer is left wondering who could be behind such raids or if this could even be remotely true, surely there must be some sort of evidence, some proof?
Eagerly wanting to confirm such incidents, Scahill goes to Gardez in the province of Paktia to visit a family who claim that members of their family had been killed in a US night raid. The family tells their tragic story of how a night of joy turned into one of sorrow. They explain how “special forces with beards” arrived between 3.00 to 4.00 am to carry out the raid which resulted in the killings of five members of the household, three women of whom two were pregnant and two men, one who is later disclosed to be an Afghan police commander. According to Mohammed Daoud’s (the killed police commander) father the Americans claimed they had information that fifty Taliban fighters were present in the house. Now, this family was hosting a celebration late into the night which included music and dance, which are all acts contrary to Taliban practices and a leading member of the household was a police commander himself, so how could these people could have been Taliban?
Funnily in the beginning of the documentary Scahill says that we are always told that the “battle of hearts and minds” is being won, a complete absurd claim. An angry Afghan elder can be seen in the documentary saying: “If the Americans do this again (referring the killing of innocent Afghans) we are ready to shed our blood fighting them. We would rather die than sit by and do nothing.” How can the “battle of hearts and minds” be won the brother of Mohammed Daoud exclaims: “I wanted to wear a suicide jacket and blow myself up among the Americans. I wanted jihad against the Americans.” Or when his other brother said: “We call them American Taliban.”
Hearing about “green-on-blue attack” should not come as a surprise when innocent Afghans are killed along with those who considered allies. A “green-on-blue attack” could very well be the result of anger building up amongst Afghan police or soldiers for losing relatives at the hands of Americans and then ultimately taking it out on them by killing them for revenge. Sure, some might collaborate with the Taliban in such attacks, but to believe all are is an absurd assertion. For every Gardez-like raid that occurred there will be someone who will be like Mohammed Daoud’s brother, who will want “to wear a suicde vest and blow themselves up among Americans”, however not every time will there be someone to prevent the likes of Mohammed Daoud’s brother from fulfilling their thoughts. And what’s for sure is that hundreds of Gardez-like raids have occurred.
What was more bitter than the Americans trying to hide this crime (including by means of digging bullets of the victims by knife and preventing them from going to hospital) was the response of General Hugh Shelton, former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff when asked what if a case like Gardez occurred, how would something like that be handled to which he replied “that they got killed in a wrong place at the wrong time” and that he thinks it ought not to be investigated, as he put it “it’s one of those things, acts of war”. Mr. Shelton further tried to justify that “women just die as men do, if they shoot us”, as incoherent as it sounds, where in Gardez did women shoot firearms?
NATO & America had been trying to discredit the incident after it was published in an article and discredit the journalist who reported the story. However leak after leak, the story came out and America was forced to the truth about the Gardez incident; the killed weren’t Taliban and they were wrong. A goat was offered to be slaughtered for the family at the place of where the soldiers had been when the raid was occurring to placate them, however Mohammed Daoud’s father who said: “I would not trade my sons for the entire kingdom of the United States”, knew that nothing could compensate for the loss of his sons, most certainly not a goat.
After much speculation the viewer finds out that the Gardez atrocity was committed by JSOC, one of the most covert military units and the only unit that reported back directly to the White House. According to Scahill “a series of secret presidential orders had given JSOC unprecedented authority the battlefield was expanded and JSOC could hit well in countries beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In December 17 2009, five strikes in Yemen which lead to deaths of more than 150 people were initially claimed by the Yemeni government, albeit it later became clear to people that the United States were behind the attacks. What really was nonsensical was the Yemeni government claiming the attacks and further claiming that dozens of Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in the attacks, when in reality the only victims of the attack were innocent Yemeni people. This fallacy did not hold water for long when independent Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shayeh quickly arrived at the scene of the Majalah strikes, where he quickly discovered that the strikes were carried out by the United States. When Shayeh made his story public he was arrested, at the behest of the United States, when former Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh wanted to pardon him, he was convinced not to, this time by the American President Barrack Obama himself.
Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, the leader of the Al-Awlak tribe (the same tribe that Anwar al-Awlaki belongs to) describes the scene of the attack: “When we went there we saw what happened. I mean, if somebody’s got a weak a heart, I think he will collapse. You see goats and sheep all over, see the heads of those who were killed here and there, you see children and you can’t tell if this flesh belongs to human beings or animals. There are no stores, there are no fields for training, there’s nobody, except a very poor tribe, one of the poorest tribes in the south.”
Again, how could the United States claim they are winning the “battle of hearts and minds” when yet another angry person, this Yemeni says: “If they kill innocent children and call them Al-Qaeda, then we are all Al-Qaeda. If the children are terrorists then we are terrorists.” Al-Majalah & the other strikes that occurred were like Scahill put it: “The echoes of Gardez were everywhere, so many of the details were repeating themselves.”
Back in the States, Scahill received a call from an operator from JSOC calls him to arrange a meeting, which Scahill accepted. The operator chooses to be anonymous, but spills all the beans. He admits that over time JSOC “perverted into doing things far outside of its mandate”. He admits that JSOC carries out airstrikes and targeted killings in Yemen. Targeted killings like that of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed by his own government. What really was horrendous was the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s 16-year old son, who had no affiliation or ties to al-Qaeda whatsoever, yet the United States, killed him in a drone strike while having dinner with some of his relatives. The United States promptly tried to cover up the incident by lying about Abdulrahman’s age and claiming he was an Al-Qaeda operative, however AbdulRahman’s family released his birth certificate and documents to the public, proving he was just a child, and an American citizen. No explanation was offered surrounding the circumstances of the strike, and most certainly not an apology.
Scahill makes a very interesting point; John Walker Lindh who picked up arms and fought alongside the Taliban was given a trial in America, while there are no clear reports indicative of Al-Awlaki actively fighting, yet he was still targeted and killed.
Somalia, a country that had been ravaged by civil war for over two decades. The fragile government was and still is battling the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab movement. For years warlords had been ruling much of the country including the capital, Mogadishu. Suddenly in 2006 these same notorious warlords popped up under the guise of the “Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism” and were being backed and funded by the United States. The ARPCT were known for their abuses towards the Somali people, attacking, kidnapping and handing over innocent Somalis to the CIA convincing them that the “arrested” individual was a “high value target”.
Now these same warlords and others like Yusuf Mohammed “Indha Ade”, who seems more like a paid mercenary than an army general, have been integrated into the government and the army. Upon being asked by Scahill if he executes foreign fighters caught on the battlefield, Indha Ade answers: “Yes, so that other foreigners expect no mercy”.
Among those warlords who were backed by the United States whom Scahill managed to meet an interview was the infamous Mohamed Qanyare. Qanyare’s appointment to be Minister of Security at one point of time and , despite his notoriety for being a warlord, really sheds some light on how skewed Somali politics and politicians can be. Despite him being dismissed from his position of Minister of Security, he continued to be a member of parliament until recently, when he took leave from parliament due to “health reasons”, his son however, continues to be a member of parliament. “You know when you are fighting the enemy, any option is open, no mercy” Qanyare told Scahill, I suppose that’s how Qanyare justifies all the innocent Somalis that were killed as while he was a leading member of the ARPCT. Perhaps ashamed of his crimes against the Somali people, Qanyare when asked about the people Americans requested him to track down said: “No, I don’t to talk about that.”
After watching the film, I realized that it just confirmed that which our world had turned into, “the world really is a battlefield”.