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US War Has Littered Afghanistan with World’s Deadly Garbage April 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I recall the ubiquitous chant from the days of Vietnam anti-war protests: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  Viet Nam still hasn’t recovered from Agent Orange and other toxins, but at least they didn’t have to face plutonium bullets, and they will recover much sooner than America’s more recent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.  The killing of children goes on, in the name of democracy and financed with U.S. citizens’ tax dollars.

 

Afghan children and poorest citizens most vulnerable to unexploded bombs and toxic materials of thirteen-year war

– Jon Queally, staff writer

A concrete wall marks the beginning of the Bagram air base firing range. Some of the firing ranges left behind by U.S. forces will be transferred to the Afghan army. About 40 ranges belonged to nations in the international coalition, and they will have to determine whether to clear them. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/For The Washington Post)

As in the abandoned battle fields and scarred countrysides of southeast Asia a generation ago, the U.S. military’s footprint in Afghanistan is leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded ordinances and toxic materials that will continue to kill and permanently harm the nation’s children and others for years to come.

According to the Washington Post on Thursday:

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, it is leaving behind a deadly legacy: about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells.

The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said.

Clearing the rest of the contaminated land — which in total is twice as big as New York City — could take two to five years. U.S. military officials say they intend to clean up the ranges. But because of a lack of planning, officials say, funding has not yet been approved for the monumental effort, which is expected to cost $250 million.

“If the Americans believe in human rights, how can they let this happen?” asked Sayed Sadeq, whose teenage son and his friend were both killed when one of them stepped on an unexploded grenade near a U.S. firing range in Ghazni province.

Spokespeople for the U.S. military confess that cleaning up the garbage of the U.S. military occupation has not been a priority.

“Unfortunately, the thinking was: ‘We’re at war and we don’t have time for this,’” Maj. Michael Fuller, the head of the U.S. Army’s Mine Action Center at Bagram Airfield, told the Post.

According to the UN, too little has been done to address the problem even as the statistics soar.

The Post reporting continues:

Even before the U.S. military arrived in 2001, Afghanistan was the most heavily mined country in the world. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989 after a 10-year occupation, they left about 20 million pieces of unexploded ordnance scattered nationwide. The munitions have killed and wounded thousands of children. The U.S. government has helped fund efforts to clear those devices, a massive project expected to be completed in 2023.

The firing ranges aren’t the only places where U.S. military explosives may be lying undetonated. There are 331 known sites of battles against the Taliban where some American ordnance probably remains, especially from airstrikes. U.S. officials say they will not attempt to clear those sites.

“We’re probably never going to be able to find those [munitions], because who knows where they landed,” said another U.S. official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The United Nations says a more robust effort to clear those sites is necessary.

“The battles happened in areas where people live, work and attempt to earn their livelihoods. The contamination needs to be addressed,” said [one UN official].

In response to reports of civilian casualties, the U.S. military has posted additional barricades around some firing ranges. But American officials have refused to construct fencing, which they said would be prohibitively expensive and probably ineffective.

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After the Latest U.S. Airstrike, Can Anyone Wonder Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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child_burnt afghanistan

In the eyes of the children whose families die in U.S. led wars, the Americans are the terrorists.

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2009.

About a half-hour north of Jalalabad, the children along the road change. No waving. No smiling. No thumbs up. No screaming for candy. Only serious stares and empty eyes!

I have seen this in Iraq, and it’s deeply uncomfortable until you get used to it — if you get used to it. Children by nature are friendly, when they’re unfriendly it’s because their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community is worse than unfriendly. And the change can be fast, in the next village, yet most of the time the change comes slow. But you have to be looking. Otherwise you look up and the smiling and enthusiastic little ones are suddenly frosty and distant little ones.

— Embedded journalist in Farah Afghanistan, March 2009

 This was written during a four-day convoy ride with the Regional Corps Advisory Command of the U.S. Marines. The author, a Vietnam vet who says he has traveled to 109 countries — including multiple trips to Afghanistan — and “reported from more than a dozen wars,” has no doubt seen his share of action. But reading it this week, days after a U.S. airstrike killed up to 130 people in Farah, Afghanistan, including 13 members of the same family, this quote from an journalist embedded with soldiers in a warzone that is escalating at this moment, is chilling.

It is a glimpse into the black and white logic that gave birth to the “War on Terror,” where there is a “good” side and a “bad” side, and as long as we know where the bad guys are, perpetual war against an entire people is justifiable. Thus, if a child stares coldly at U.S. military convoys, it must be because their “parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community(!)” is comprised of terrorists. Thus by the unfortunate accident of lineage and geography, they too must be terrorist in the making themselves.

Is it too obvious a point that the “frosty and distant” children who stare at U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan might do so not because “their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community is worse than unfriendly” but because “their parents, possibly their extended family, maybe their whole community” were recently slaughtered by the U.S. military, like those killed this week in Farah?

Even in the face of an official apology from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reports that villagers collected “two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies” and remarks from Afghan president Hamid Karzai that the U.S. forces must operate from a “higher platform of morality,” the Pentagon has tried to claim that the civilian victims of this week’s deadly airstrikes in Farah were actually killed by the Taliban, who staged the massacre in order to pin the blame on the U.S. For those who see the fight against the Taliban as a battle of good versus evil, this might seem plausible.

But six years into the bloody war on Iraq, almost eight years into the war in Afghanistan, five years after the release of the photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib, weeks after the release of the grisly CIA torture memos, and one day after a U.S. soldier was found guilty of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then killing her family it is hard to imagine that people around the world still have much faith in the infallibility — let alone moral superiority — of the U.S. military, even over the murderous Taliban. As more civilians die by U.S. hands in the escalating war on Afghanistan — including children and their families — the less convicing such cynical claims and cover-ups will be.

 

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet’s Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.

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