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4.7.2010 Collateral Pentagon

By Pepe Escobar

"We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."

That was General Stanley McChrystal, supreme commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, late last month - during one of the virtual "town hall" meetings held with US troops every two weeks, as reported in the New York Times.

McChrystal added, "To my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."

So here's the war hero responsible for conducting President Barack Obama's "good war" in Afghanistan admitting on the record what really goes on at times in these checkpoints, while also shedding some light over those recurrent missile bombings of Afghan wedding parties.

Since Obama's summer 2009 surge in Afghanistan, US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops killed 30 and wounded more than 80 Afghans in convoy and checkpoint shootings; that's only the "official", documented list.

McChrystal's spokesman, Tadd Sholtis, said the general was basically using his comments to urge his soldiers to exercise "courageous restraint". Public opinion in the Pentagon-defined "arc of instability" from the Middle East to Central Asia may see it for what it is: the "rules of engagement" for a Pentagon serially engaged in perpetrating "collateral damage".

'Look at those dead bastards'

The direct connection between the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the prevailing "shoot an amazing number of people" rules of engagement in both, has just been provided by the small, independent Wikileaks website.

This Monday, Wikileaks released an up-to-now secret, decrypted air strike video of a massacre of civilians in the southeastern suburb of New Baghdad on July 12, 2007, conducted by the 30mm cannon fire of Apache helicopters. The website said the video and supporting documents were offered by "military whistleblowers".

Wikileaks calls it "Collateral Murder" (see the video at www.collateralmurder.com) . This is definitely not Academy Award winner The Hurt Locker - where American soldiers are selfless heroes and Iraqis are faceless ghosts. This is real life - with American soldiers as video game killers and Iraqis as corpses. These are the kind of heroes who mistake a telephoto lens for an rocket-propelled grenade.

The video speaks for itself. Among those gunned down from above were Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40 (both shot dead), as well as two Baghdad kids (both seriously wounded).

Reuters had been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act since 2007. David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news, released a statement on Monday saying, "The video ... is graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result." No criticism of the Pentagon, not even when all the signs point to a Pentagon-orchestrated cover-up. "There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl said at the time.

As a document of the tragedy and absurdity of the continuum Afghanistan-Iraq - and of a series of Pentagon-sanctioned war crimes - this video tells it like it is, louder than any anti-war manifesto published or broadcast since 2001. And no - it will not be running for Best Documentary Short in the 2011 Oscars.

"Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards."


"Good shoot'n."

"Thank you."