Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Helluva Thing to Ask

A few days ago the war in Afghanistan being fought by American and NATO troops became the longest war that the United States has ever engaged in. That is, of course, since we don't count the war the two Koreas are in to be "engaged" technically since the cease fire many many decades ago, and we are simply over there policing the cease fire.

I'm not going to question if the war against the Taliban is justified or not - I'm not even today going to question if we should bring our troops home or not - but I read a disturbing report this morning that does raise some questions in me.

NATO Helicopter Shot Down in Afghanistan
Published: June 9, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents shot down a NATO helicopter in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing four soldiers on board, according to Afghan and NATO officials.

The helicopter was shot down while it was providing support to British ground troops during a clearing operation in Sangin District of Helmand Province, according to Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor’s office in Helmand.

NATO’s international force confirmed the downing in a news release but did not identify the nationality of the helicopter or the soldiers who were killed.

A day earlier in Sangin District, Taliban insurgents accused a 7-year-old boy of acting as an informant for the government and summarily executed him, Mr. Ahmadi said. It was unclear if the execution was related to the military activities in the district on Wednesday.

The United States has added thousands of additional troops to Helmand and Kandahar provinces as it seeks to blunt the influence of the Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting.


Now the thing that gets me isn't the news. I mean, war sucks. It's dirty, it's ugly, people die including at times the innocent (or at least that's the way it's been since we moved from man-to-man combat to projectiles). But the summary execution of a seven year old child is disturbing to say the least. And in case you didn't know (years ago, I didn't know, and so misunderstood often enough), a summary execution is one without trial - without appeal - and right then and there. In other words, I imagine that in a village square a boy was grabbed by his collar by some older Taliban priest/soldier, accused of being a tattle-tell (a "crime" he may or may not have actually committed) and then either shot instantly or... as the Internet has shown us in the past... ghastly.... beheaded. There in front of everyone, maybe even in front of his family.

This is the picture I very much assume that the story above wanted me to find in my mind. I remember the guy a few years ago who got beheaded, and how it was all over the internet, and so I know how this ghastly picture looks. And I'm most definitely sure that that's what the story wanted me to invoke. And that's the part that disturbs me the most - how well that story is a propaganda piece!

Let's analyze: The headline reports the news. In fact, it's all you as a citizen thousands of miles away from the front really need to know - a NATO craft was shot down and where it was shot down. We can assume accurately who did the shooting. Then we are told some information about the incident (including how the mission was an innocuous enough "clearing operation" really), and some "we don't have information or will not release to the press (poor families and all needing to be told first)" information as well. We have no real answers - and maybe even some of us wonder if we know someone who knows someone who knows someone that was killed. Then, when we just might be putting question to our involvement in the war, we are told the ghastly - basically unrelated - uncorroborated by my senses - story of a seven year old brutally meeting his end.

So is this a propaganda piece or a newsworthy story? Doesn't it just play the emotions just right? Does it leave you saying... "Let's kill those bastards!"?