Sunday, January 15, 2006

THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTED this morning that, according to Pakistani officials, Ayman al-Zawahiri was not in the village that was bombed on Thursday. At least 18, and according to some reports up to 30, civilians, including at least six children, were killed by the U.S. airstrikes. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. embassy in Islamabad; and today tens of thousands of Pakistanis marched in protest against the strikes.

...According to witnesses, the demonstrators shouted, "Death to America!" and "Death to Musharraf!" -- referring to Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf -- and the offices of at least one U.S.-backed aid organization were ransacked and set ablaze.

Wonderful. The Bush administration has once again managed to enrage the Muslim world without even achieving its stated objective. Zawahiri is presumably still alive, wasn't even in the village when the bombs fell, and Muslims have yet one more reason to hate America.

Predictably, there was no apology from Washington. The strikes were apparently carried out by unmanned drones remoted operated by the CIA; the U.S. military denies knowing anything about them. But that did not prevent unnamed "U.S. officials" from defending the bombings, "saying it was the right course of action based on timely intelligence about Zawahiri's whereabouts early Friday."

Here is the London Times on the nature of that "timely intelligence":

US officials said the raid was based on "good reporting" of Zawahiri's presence in the village at a dinner celebrating the Muslim Eid holiday.

So on the basis of an anonymous snitch's say-so that Zawahiri was going to be having dinner in the northwestern Pakistani village of Damadola, a CIA drone fired four Hellfire missiles at a compound of mud-brick houses, razing the houses to the ground and killing as many as 22 people.

These were ordinary, unknown individuals -- families with children -- and they did not deserve to be targeted for death by American aircraft. And they were targeted.

Two senior Pakistani officials said that the CIA had mistakenly launched the missile attack.

"Our investigations conclude that they acted on a false information," a senior intelligence official told Associated Press. His account was confirmed by a senior government official who said Zawahiri "was not there".

Villagers said the Egyptian-born Zawahiri had never been in Damadola and that they had never sheltered any senior al-Qaeda or Taleban leaders.

"This is a big lie," said Shah Zaman, who lost two sons and a daughter. "They dropped bombs from planes, and we were in no position to stop them. To tell them we are innocent."

Residents reported that US airplanes attacked a compound in this village close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. US and Pakistani officials told the NBC news network that US predator drones fired as many as 10 missiles at the village.

Eyewitness accounts said three houses, scattered across a hillside, had been destroyed.

Pakistan remains an ally of the United States in its war on terror, but the government has massive opposition among the Islamic nation's 150 million population. However, it does not allow Afghan or the 20,000 US troops based in Afghanistan to operate on its soil. Zaman added: "I don't know who carried out this attack and why. We were needlessly attacked. We are law-abiding people."

Obaidullah, a local doctor said he saw the air strike from his home about three to four miles away. "There was one plane flying overhead. Then more planes came. First they dropped light [flares] and then bombs," he said.
[...]
Doctors said at least 17 people died in the attack, but residents of Damadola said more than 30 had died.

When the U.S. government is willing to aim Hellfire missiles at a particular group of houses -- private homes, with families living inside them -- and bomb the entire compound into oblivion, based on something as unsubstantial and unconfirmable and uncertain as some handsomely paid informant's belief that an Al Qaeda leader is going to eat dinner in one of those houses, then those families were targeted. Quite simply, whoever in the Bush administration is responsible for this attack knew that dozens of innocent moms and dads and children lived in the houses they bombed; and they were willing to destroy the entire compound and everyone living inside it on the uncertain and very iffy chance that one of the dead people would be Ayman al-Zawahiri.

That is terrorism; and if it's not, the word has no meaning.

1 comment:

The Heretik said...

Keep telling the story. It could use some help.