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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Jason Bournes

Hajji Sharaf Udin holding money he's refused for American gunmen killing his two sons, two daughters, at least two grandchildren and a daughter in law on February 12th 2010.

Like a porno film that gives you the money shot right off, I'll start off with this money shot, a paragraph in yesterday's New York Times that immediately got my attention:
All the survivors interviewed insisted that Americans, who they said were not in uniform, conducted the raid and the killings, and entered the compound before Afghan forces. Among the witnesses was Sayid Mohammed Mal, vice chancellor of Gardez University, whose son’s fiancée, Gulalai, was killed. “They were killed by the Americans,” he said. “If the government doesn’t listen to us, I have 50 family members, I’ll bring them all to Gardez roundabout and we’ll pour petrol on ourselves and burn ourselves to death.”

Something about this Rod Nordland/Richard Oppel article, entitled "U.S. Is Reining In Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan", tickled the back of my mind and I wondered what it was until I went back to another article, this one published the day before (March 14th) by Dexter Filkens and Mark Mazzetti entitled, "Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants."

Now, for some context. The wrongful death shootings alluded to in the quote above occurred in the village of Gardez in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on February 12th. The official story is that American special forces were working in conjunction with Afghani special police looking for militants. They descended on the home of Hajji Sharaf Udin. Mr. Udin's family was assembled in the house to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild.

After the celebration, men with guns were seen outside the house. Mohammed Daoud, Mr. Udin's son, went out to investigate. He was carrying an AK47 Kalashnikov and was immediately killed. Another son of Mr. Udin, Mohammed Zahir, went out to investigate the shooting because he spoke English and he, too, was immediately shot dead.

The story would be bad enough if we were to stop there, especially after learning these two men were a local police chief and a prosecutor. However, that was only the beginning of the bloodbath. Three of the women went out to see why there was gunfire and all three were gunned down. Two of them were Mr. Udin's daughters, one of whom was a pregnant mother of ten. The other pregnant woman was Mr. Udin's daughter in law, who was a mother of six.

The account given by Mr. Udin, who lost four children, at least two grandchildren and a daughter in law in the blink of an eye to American gunmen, heads this article. Mr. Mohammed Mal and dozens of other witnesses maintains the Americans were not wearing uniforms and had arrived before the Afghan police (who perhaps were not there for a night raid with the Americans but perhaps in response to, oh, I dunno, a police chief and a prosecutor getting slaughtered in their jurisdiction). We tried to buy his silence and he has refused our money.

So what does this have to do with the article of March 14th?

Well, it doesn't take a genius to immediately suspect Blackwater-type mercs when one reads an account of an eyewitness who claims much of his family was slaughtered by Americans with guns but without uniforms. A privatized American spy operation that was either under the aegis of DoD commanders or a rogue one, was run out of a small office in Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas by Michael D. Furlong. Furlong is now the focus of a Department of Defense criminal investigation.

Furlong hired several mercenary outfits for the intent of gathering intelligence on militants in Afghanistan, intelligence to be given to proper military authorities for possible lethal response. Among the mercenaries Furlong hired were former CIA employees at the periphery of the Iran Contra scandal. Privately, Furlong is also quoted as proudly referring to his mercenaries as "my Jason Bournes." Jason Bourne was the fictional assassin from the Robert Ludlum novels/Matt Damon movies.

Furlong is also accused of hoarding and misappropriating money, some $15,000,000, that was originally earmarked for a news website named Afpax that was partly the brainchild of former CNN news chief Eason Jordan.

If the murders in Gardez on February 12th were indeed the work of US mercenaries, it wouldn't be the first time. Last May, Jeremy Scahill wrote about a Xe/Blackwater offshoot called Paravant, whose two employees, Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon, had been accused of killing two Afghans and wounding another at a checkpoint at the capital of Kabul.

Afghanistan is a tribal warlord nation that is fast developing a mercenary subculture. Jim Hightower reported a year ago that even before President Obama's troop/contractor surge, there were 3847 security contractors in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, only nine of them were from the US. Yet, when mercenary murders are alleged in Afghanistan, it's generally American contractors who are named and Blackwater or one of its affiliates are often named.

It's tempting to see in this paragraph in an article today by Jeff Huber a synecdoche of the contractor mindset in Johnnie Walker, a Blackwater manager in Camp Alamo in Kabul:
Drotleff and Cannon’s boss at Blackwater was no altar boy either. Johnnie Walker (supposedly that really is his name) was a two-fisted, double-barreled, heat-seeking disaster. A senior Blackwater executive wrote an internal memo that said Walker’s management at Camp Alamo in Kabul “cultivated an environment that indirectly” led to the May shootings, and he described Walker as “an exceptionally ineffective” manager who habitually blew off meetings with Department of Defense and NATO officials. The Blackwater executive also mentioned that Johnnie Walker was a Hemingway-class drinker and characterized him as having “no regard for policies, rules, or adherence to regulations in country.”

As I said, it could be a dangerous assumption that this is representative of the Wild West mindset of the US security contractor in Afghanistan. However, based on what we'd seen so far in Iraq, is it really safer to assume that everything would be upfront and above board, with an especial reverence for human life and international law, with these same characters in Afghanistan?

Shockingly, this goes to the true heart of the article about Gen. McChrystal, the man who used to head JSOC that's made up of the same Delta Force and Navy Seal commandos that we're using in Afghanistan. The independent, extralegal mindset is identical, which explains why even Gen. McChrystal is keeping a short leash on them, a short lease being held by his very hand.

Yet nowhere in the NY Times article does it even hint that the JSOC killers were even under investigation much less up on charges of murder under the UCMJ. It's as if McChrystal thinks that setting more stringent ROE (Rules of Engagement) is a legitimate do-over that doesn't require any legal action or even an investigation.

It's a blood-spattered, murderous pattern that we'd seen for going on 7 years now in Iraq with both the legitimate American military and the contractors we hire to protect them, our diplomatic officials, oil workers and other contractors, a series of scandals that so far have resulted in a few enlisted people and a brigadier general taking the fall and four mercenaries getting sent free by Judge Urbina last December 30th.

And still the mainstream media fails to connect the dots.

It's still unclear whether or not Furlong's Jason Bournes were the ones who'd killed those five people and at least two unborn children in Gardez on February 12th. But one thing is clear:

As in Iraq, we refuse to own up to it. The one name that provides a common denominator in both New York Times articles is Admiral Gregory J. Smith, the top military spokesman in Afghanistan. Smith had this to say about the deaths of the three women in Gardez:
"The regret is that two innocent males died. The women, I’m not sure anyone will ever know how they died. I don’t know that there are any forensics that show bullet penetrations of the women or blood from the women." He said they showed signs of puncture and slashing wounds from a knife, and appeared to have died several hours before the arrival of the assault force. In respect for Afghan customs, autopsies are not carried out on civilian victims, he said.

In other words, we have no problem owning up to the killing of an Afghani police chief and a prosecutor but blanch at admitting as much about three women, two of them pregnant, who we're supposed to believe just happened to be murdered by other people before our own people conducted their murderous raid.

In the other article, Admiral Smith, when asked about the missing $15,000,000 originally set aside for Eason Jordan's information website Afpax and allegedly used by Furlong to hire mercenaries, said, "I have no idea where the rest of the money is going."

The more things stay the same, the more things stay the same.
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Anonymous mandt said...
My god, what a terrible story and never ending.