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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The military - active and retired - keeps lying

Just two days ago the U.S. military slaughtered seven Afghan children but made this categorical statement to cover their tracks:
"We had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building."
I was actually willing to believe that was true, not that it excused the action of the U.S. military. But, lo and behold, it was an out-and-out lie, if not on the part of the spokesperson making the statement, then certainly on the part of whoever gave him the information to report:
According to several officials, and contrary to previous statements, the U.S. military knew there were children at the compound but considered the target of such high value it was worth the risk of potential collateral damage.
One does wonder how this calculation goes. How many children or other "innocent civilians" are actually worth the life of one "high value target"? And do they multiply that by the probability that they have actually correctly identified the presence of said target? Based on their record trying to take out Saddam Hussein and other "high-value targets" during "shock and awe," I'm guessing that probability is pretty darn low; indeed, as far as I remember, Zarqawi is the only "HVT" that has ever been taken out by a military strike.

That was the active military lying - not much surprise there, really. What about the "retired" part? Appearing in his maiden outing on MSNBC on Countdown tonight, Gen. Wesley Clark had this to say (my transcription):

"It's really hard to know what happens in battle...In this latest case, we don't know if there was misleading or not. It may be just that first reports weren't correct, and by the time they got the special forces guys back in and debriefed them, they realized they had in fact taken a calculated risk of calling in the bombs even though they saw the presence of children in the compound."
But that's a lie in the exact same way that many of the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq were lies. As I've written many times before (I'll skip the links), some people, analogous to Clark's excuses above, say we just don't know if Bush or Cheney or Powell were lying, or if they really believed Iraq had WMD. And that might be true, if they had said to the American public, "We think Iraq has WMD" or "Our most reliable evidence strongly suggests that Iraq has WMD" or something along that lines. As soon as they said "We know Iraq has WMD," they were lying, just as surely as if they had said "The moon is made of green cheese" without ever having been to the moon to subject it to a taste test (which has been done, by the way).

And, in the present case, the military spokesperson could have said, "We're still investigating what happened" (and then never follow up on it, following countless precedents) or "As far as we know, no children were seen." But he didn't. He stated categorically that they had watched the compound all day and not seen children. Now again, we don't know that he personally was lying; chances are in fact that he wasn't. But there's no question that the military was lying. And Wes Clark covering up that fact is itself a lie, because this is not some remarkable insight I'm offering, it's just plain common sense.

The Washington Post's William Arkin has some ideas about why they might have been lying. But that doesn't change the fact that they were.

By the way, we'll see how this develops, but as I write this, MSNBC and Arkin (the latter in an online blog, not a news article) are the only ones to report this development in the story.

Update: It's now the next day, and according to a Google News search, not a single other American corporate news organization is yet reporting this development. As compared to, say, when Matt Drudge reports something, and you can count on practically the entire panoply of corporate media quickly reporting, even without confirmation of their own, that "it is being reported that..."

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