Special forces mistake Afghan boys school for IED cell, execute students

Hey they were military aged males in a warzone. If they didn’t want to get shot they should have been born somewhere we weren’t gonna invade. Besides, you weren’t there, for all you know they could have been sleeping in a threatening manner and until you have to make those kind of snap decisions about executing restrained human beings you need to be quiet.

You go over there and put on a uniform and hold a gun to a brown skinned eleven year old kid’s head and see if you don’t pull the trigger. You might think you won’t but when you see his tears and the fear in his eyes man you are gonna be slingin some lead let me tell you. Even if there was wrongdoing, we can’t expect our military to be perfect every time and/or they were just a few bad apples anyway.

At the risk of being flamed, I’m going to post a portion of an email about this subject I sent to my Dad, whom is a two-time Vietnam veteran and a retired 36-year career Army officer, and his reply.

Me, to Dad:

…Frankly I’m getting pretty concerned with the wars as well. Some of the news of botched assignments in Afghanistan is certainly not helping in the “hearts and minds” campaign. I just read an article about one such incident where apparently US Special Forces acted on bad information and swept into an Afghani school and murdered a bunch of school kids/teenagers in their sleep with silenced weapons, thinking it was some sort of IED factory. Another recent one I read about was where US forces acted on other bad intel and killed an Afghani family, and once they realized their mistake, pried the bullets from their bodies and washed the wounds with alcohol to try to cover up what they’d done.

I know war is hell (well, I can only imagine that it is) and that in realtime combat environments where quick and decisive actions are required to stay alive that civilians will get killed, especially in the type of warfare we’re seeing now where enemy combatants aren’t easily distinguished from the civilian population. I saw the Wikileaks video from 2007 in Iraq where an Apache engaged what it thought were insurgents during the height of ethnic and Al-Qaeda operations and ended up killing a couple Reuters reporters. And then wiped out a van that tried to help one of the wounded photographers. That didn’t bother me so much.

What bothers me is that we seem to keep relying on bad intelligence from locals that likely bear grudges against some other tribal/ethnic group in the hopes that we’ll go in and kill some innocents to make us look bad and we keep falling for it. Our “precision weapons” are also not quite as precise as many people believe…bombings always kill civilians, and there’s been plenty of stories/videos circulating that make the US look like its indiscriminately killing civilians from the air.

I don’t know what else we can hope to accomplish in either Iraq or Afghanistan other than quickly ensure some type of stability and then get the hell out of there (for the most part…I realize that we’ll probably have permanent bases there for some time yet) and quit squandering our treasure and American lives on wars with questionable intentions (Iraq) or without a clear vision or exit strategy for what defines “success…its over!” (Afghanistan)…
Dad’s Reply:

*Steve – I’ve added some comments to your very good observations below. But let me start off with a little something about combat.

First of all there is no excuse for not having your soldiers trained to the nth degree – that saves lives! Second, the consistent thing about war is confusion. If your intelligence pinpoints a lucrative enemy target, a well-trained outfit rehearses their plans thoroughly, have back up plans and all the supporting plans, escape, supporting fires, etc., etc. They then execute. In today’s Army, so much is done after dark – U.S. Forces have the advantage. But night-vision goggles, no matter how good, do not and cannot give you the same visualizations as broad daylight. In the confusion if something is not obviously what we expect to find, you run into a serious dilemma. I said obviously…if you can tell that the target is clearly children, for example, when it was supposed to be hardened terrorists, then abort. But when one cannot tell that your target is not accurate…hesitating can get your men killed. When have too many examples of news media Monday morning quarterbacks questioning “well, you could CLEARLY tell that while they was one child “strategically” placed in the room, the rest were all terrorists and you got men killed because you aborted the mission while the terrorists, now being warned, open fire on your troops.”

Friendly fire accidents happen. One time in Vietnam while I was a Company Commander we pushed out our perimeter to incorporate a borrow pit where we had equipment and soldiers placed overnight but cut off from our perimeter. We notified all our units so they could adjust their predetermined fields of fire so as to not fire into our new positions within the perimeter. Somehow the Infantry Company on our flank was not notified. After dark one of my positions spotted VC implanting an IED in the road leading to the borrow pit and opened fire on the two individuals. An Infantry position on our flank, seeing the muzzle flashes coming from one of my positions but not informed it was friendly, opened fire on my position. My radio started going nuts…the rest of my positions started firing, mostly into the village of Cu Chi which was adjacent to our borrow pit. Once we were able to determine that this was friendly fire, we were able to silence the infantry positions, sent out a patrol to find two riddled VC bodies and enough explosive to destroy an M-60 tank. We fortunately took no friendly fire casualties (the infantry guys later on asked us to help them build their fighting pits because they shot the hell out of one of my positions but my troops were not hit.) Unfortunately we killed three and wounded about a dozen innocent villagers in the exchange. These things really tear you up and it’s not about an American life being more valuable than a Vietnamese child’s, but the fog of war, as Clausewitz describes it, will always be present in armed conflicts. But commanders must make split moment decisions because lives depend on his/her ability to assess and decide; sometimes you access on bad intelligence or bad communication feedback but act on the best information available. That’s part of the “Fog of War.”

I call Bullshit, and some of you idiots are swallowing the bias the same as idiots on the other side of the coin swallow Fox News’ “Fair and Balanced” propaganda. For Christ sakes people, the first link is to “The Anti Press: Dedicated to the defense of the truth in an age of media control”. Does that sound unbiased? The headline of that one reads "The media waits: four months on and still no official Nato press release on the existence of Special Forces Death Squads " Death squads?! Really?! That’s on par with the conservatives idiots calling socialized geriatric health care “Death Panels”.

i.e. It’s bullshit

The link to the Times is much better, of course, but you have to read with a touch more of a critical eye. Don’t be a Der Tris who thinks that the US Military is run by these guys. Fucking really people. Do you honestly think American troops are breaking into kids’ bedrooms, handcuffing them, and then shooting them in the back of the head? Are we the monster under the bed now?

Will you idiots please reread this sentence from the Times article. Reread it several times:

I’m with **Monkey **on this, pending more reliable reports. Further from the Times article:

And if there were “direct evidence”, how forthcoming do you think they’d be with it, in light of recent WikiLeaks events?

OK, having read more, I’m going to qualify my earlier statement about being with you on this.

  1. The Anti Press article isn’t as bad as you paint it. All the info from the Times article is in there, too. It just contains a lot more alleged eye witness accounts. But they do let the US military speak.

  2. We know that our Special Ops forces are authorized to seek out and kill “bad guys”. I don’t think calling them “death squads” is a huge stretch. War is hell.

I wouldn’t have thought they’d shoot pregnant women and then dig the bullets out of their corpses with knives and pour alcohol into the wounds to cover up what they’d done either but hey, here we are.

Add in the wikileaks video, McChrystals “We’ve shot an amazing number of people” statement (these are all events that have come to light in just the last two weeks, btw), and I’m having a difficult time seeing why the military deserves the benefit of the doubt anymore in cases like this. Keep in mind that this isn’t just some report from Joe “Death to America” Taliban, it’s the result of an investigation commissioned by President Karzai.

Good, I hope more of these stories come out, true or not. Maybe Obama will then grow a pair and get us the fuck out. The only reason we’re still there is because he doesn’t want to be hung with the wimp tag.
Either play to win or don’t play at all. Until I hear about the poppy fields being burned to the ground and us telling Karzai to go fuck himself I can’t take any of this seriously anymore. Hearts and minds? My ass. Until the Afgans get tired of the whole Hatfields and MCcoys thing we are the enemy or someone to be used against each other.

Let the Russians or better yet the Chinese deal with that shit hole if they want to. Keep the Predators flying and fire the occasional Hellfire to keep the baddies ducking back into their caves and lets stop wasting resources.

I’ll check back when a reputable source (meaning not some moron working for Karzai) has more information.

FoisGras, thanks for posting that.

What makes you think we aren’t? How many innocents do we get to kill before it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s not a mistake; that we simply don’t care? These aren’t the first kids we’ve killed while labeling them terrorists without evidence.

No matter what we do, no matter how many innocents are tortured or killed it’s just a “mistake”. People accuse me of “painting with a broad brush”, which as far as I can tell means daring to criticize our heroes for killing innocents. It’s quite clear that there’s nothing whatsoever American soldiers could do without having the same people pop up and declare it all a mistake, a lie, an unfortunate necessity, or otherwise excusing it. That’s a broad brush.

Sure. The old man was in the Army Corps of Engineers and served in 'Nam in 1966-67 and then again in 1968-69. He was the only officer in my family (both grandfathers, both my Uncles, his brothers) that graduated from West Point that made it above the rank of colonel.

He often waxes philosophical these days, and has only recently opened up to me, a vet myself from the enlisted ranks that never saw live combat, about his experiences in Vietnam. Its tough for him to talk about and for me to listen to it as he gets so emotional about friends that died, bad things he experienced/saw, etc. I think it may be his way of finally purging about those experiences as he approaches old age, where in the past he likely buried all those memories in his subconscious in order to perform his duties in a professional manner.

He’s a pretty good guy, my old man.

The point is that you assume the exact opposite. This makes you just as bad as they are.

What most of these people have is a basic grasp of human nature. Humans in general just don’t do things that they think are evil. We ALWAYS have a reason. We have to justify things to ourselves.

You boggle my mind. You’ve crossed the line from being skeptical to being sure that they’re wrong. How the heck does a person with your intellect do this? How can you be so blind to your own prejudices?

Gah. It probably won’t help. We’ve tried and tried to get through to you, but you remain willfully ignorant. You don’t get that the extremism you believe is the exact same extremism that causes the problems you decry. It is belief that a certain subsection of the population (in your case, soldiers) are deficient and not to be looked at as human beings that allows stuff like this to happen.

How should I interpret this? Are you suggesting Americans are so bloodthirsty that not even children could affect a pause? That’s not terribly far out there, as far as I’m concerned. But, since you suggested the informant might be made up, and did stuff like putting “mistake” in quotations, do you think that they were seeking to kill children? If so, it’s a little more out there.

And comes off as quite intelligent to boot.

You’re fortunate to have him. Enjoy every minute you can with him.

And thanks for sharing that exchange.

I think the key here is not to ask whether it is possible (we know that it did happen in Iraq, at least once), but whether it is likely in this case. Special Forces units arn’t raw recruits thrown into a situation well over their heads. And without a motive (as we know there was in the instance in Iraq), it really doesn’t pass the sniff test. At least not yet.

No problem. I have been. He’s had heart issues since his triple bypass in 1981, but he’s hanging in there.

Thanks for reminding me…that bears pointing out. Special Forces (despite a poster’s comment to the contrary upthread) are some of the most disciplined, highly trained soldiers we have. It is extremely difficult to survive their training and be accepted, let alone even be considered.

And as my Dad pointed out in my earlier post, operations at night are tricky.

From the sound of it, these guys weren’t Special Forces.

They were Very Special Forces.

Not foreign children, no. We’ve reportedly tortured children in front of their parents to make them cooperate; merely shooting them is nothing. And we did kill children in Fallujah; we turned all but the youngest boys who tried to flee back into the city, so we could claim they were terrorists when we killed them later. After all, if they weren’t terrorists they would have fled the city, right?

Not really. We are not above terror tactics.

No, it means I am going by the record. You act as if this was some isolated incident, and not simply the sort of behavior to be expected from American troops.

And sometimes that justification is “orders”, “why not”, “it was fun”, or “they look funny”.

By seeing this sort of casual killing of innocents happen over and over and over. And by seeing people make excuses for it. And by seeing accusation after accusation dismissed as being ridiculous and slanderous turn out to be true.