U.S. in Afghanistan: The Wedding Party Massacre

Revolutionary Worker #1158, July 14, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

It was late at night on Monday, July 1 in the village of Kakrak in southern Afghanistan. Mohammed Sherif's house was crowded with family members celebrating the wedding of Sherif's son. Women and children gathered in one courtyard, singing and dancing, while the men were in another compound nearby. Some partygoers sat on the flat-topped roof. Children ran around and set off firecrackers.

But the joyous celebration suddenly turned into a scene of death and horror when people came under attack from U.S. warplanes.

Ahmed Jan Agha was playing a traditional drum when explosions rocked the house. "The first rocket hit the women's section. The second hit the men's section," Agha recalled later. "Then everybody started running. The airplanes were shooting rockets at the people running away. They were chasing us."

By the time the U.S. forces stopped firing, dozens of people lay dead--the latest victims of the brutal U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. government has tried to portray their war in Afghanistan as a series of pin-point attacks aimed precisely at the intended targets--the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. But the people of Afghanistan have a very different story to tell. Since the U.S. began the war in Afghanistan last fall, countless ordinary people have been killed and injured by the U.S. and allied forces.

On rare occasions, when news of civilian deaths break out into the open, the Pentagon spokesmen deny and justify--but they never apologize. They declare that their troops were "acting in self-defense" or that the victims themselves were somehow responsible for getting bombed or shot at.

Such justifications only intensify the anger of the people in Afghanistan at the crimes being carried out by the U.S. and allied forces. "They are not liberators but occupiers," said one shopkeeper in the capital, Kabul, after hearing about this latest killing by the U.S. troops.

"The AmericansWere Bombing"

U.S. military officials claim that for several days before the July 1 incident, U.S. aircraft had spotted anti-aircraft fire from Kakrak and several nearby villages. No U.S. soldier was hurt and no plane was actually hit by this supposed anti-aircraft fire. But according to the logic that the U.S. operates on, any perceived threat is justification enough to act with massive and deadly force, no matter what the consequences to ordinary people on the ground might be.

The attack on Kakrak was part of a large operation involving hundreds of troops, B-52 bombers, and AC-130 warplanes that fire machine guns, cannons, and artillery shells.

The people at the wedding celebration had no idea that this military offensive was going on nearby. Mohammed Sherif was the brother of a close ally of Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-installed head of the central regime in Kabul. So the guests at Sherif's house had no reason to believe they would become targets of a U.S. attack.

By tradition the groom, Sherif's son Abdul Malik, and the bride were not at the celebration. But while Malik survived, 25 or more of his extended family--including his father--died when the U.S. rockets hit.

Survivors tell of the terror and shock they experienced. Laik, a 35-year-old farmer who lost his wife and three children, saw two men cut down right next to him. "The three of us were drinking tea together in the courtyard when they first bombed," he said. "They killed my friend right where we were. Then we ran out of the compound, and my other friend was killed." Laik fled into the fields. "The Americans were bombing the house, and we could not believe it. We were running everywhere to hide."

Naseema, a 15-year-old girl, said, "A piece of iron sliced the woman's neck in front of me. In a split second her head was not on her body."

Another woman remembered, "It was like a slaughterhouse. There was blood everywhere. There was smoke and dirt all around, and people were running helter skelter. It was a doomsday scene."

Saboor Gul, 11 years old, lost her mother in the attack and was injured in the back and legs by shrapnel. "The airplane was very big," she said. "I was up on the roof when a bomb landed and we ran downstairs. After the second bomb I was unconscious." At the Kandahar hospital, she shrank away from the foreign reporters. "I am scared," she said. "They are Americans, and they bombed us."

Sardar Gul, 25, said, "The bomb came and people were running for shelter. After that, it looked like only three or four people were alive." He said that the attack then shifted to nearby houses and villages and continued until 4 in the morning. "I don't know how many bombs there were," he said. "I can't count that many."

Twenty-year-old Mohiuddin was in the nearby village of Shartogai. He said he was sleeping outdoors when he awoke to loud explosions. He saw aircraft lights and ran to a grove of trees where several children were already hiding. Mohiuddin said the planes fired on the grove. "Bullets hit all around me. I was lucky to be alive."

Shortly after the attack stopped, U.S. troops came into the villages and ordered everyone inside the houses. Only the severely injured were allowed to leave.

Evidence of Massacre

U.S. officials at first flatly refused to believe the Kakrak villagers. The U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that U.S. investigators who toured the village said repeatedly, "There should be more blood" and "Where are the bodies?"

Following Islamic custom, the villagers had buried the dead soon after they were killed. But reporters who visited the village found graphic evidence of the destruction and carnage.

One report described the scene: "At Mohammed Sherif's compound, two gaping holes could be seen in front of the house. The mud walls facing the inside of the compound were pockmarked with shrapnel holes, and bits of metal shards were scattered throughout the yard. Dried blood and pieces of human remains littered the area. Forty pairs of shoes were still at the front door of the house, in keeping with Afghan tradition that requires visitors to remove footwear before entering."

At the village graveyard, reporters saw 25 fresh graves--mounds of stones arranged in orderly rows on top of a barren windblown hill. Abdul Malik said he had finished piling up the white stones himself. As he wiped away tears, he told reporters, "I can't even remember which one is my father."

U.S. military spokesmen had alleged that anti-aircraft fire had come from within Mohammed Sherif's compound itself. Malik escorted journalists through the rubble of his father's house, pointing out the cooking pots with lamb stew from the celebration. "The Americans came here one hour after the bombing," he said. "How could we have had time to take out a gun and put it somewhere else? The Americans had already surrounded us."

As the evidence of the massacre mounted, the U.S. government issued hypocritical expressions of condolence for civilian deaths--but refused to take any responsibility. Gen. Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared: "If a U.S. military unit is taking fire, they have the absolute right of inherent self-defense to return fire."

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld coldly said civilian deaths were inevitable: "It is going to happen. It always has and I'm afraid it always will."

Anger and Bitterness

The massacre at Kakrak is the latest U.S. attack on Afghanistan's civilian population. Various studies and reports have estimated that thousands of Afghanis have died in the U.S. war--not counting the battlefield deaths and those killed in the prisons.

The attack at Kakrak was not even the first time a wedding party has come under U.S. fire. Last December U.S. warplanes bombed a wedding at the village of Qalai Niazi in eastern Afghanistan, killing over 60 people.

Many other villages around the country have been attacked by the U.S. and its allies. U.S. bombers have systematically targeted anything moving on the roads--including vehicles packed with refugees.

There is growing anger and bitterness about these brutal and cold-blooded actions by the U.S. and its allies. A jewelry seller in Kabul denounced the callous U.S. response to the Kakrak bombing: "The Americans didn't even say `We are sorry' for what happened. Probably they'll soon say it was Afghans who killed women and children at that wedding party." Several hundred people marched in Kabul on July 4 to protest the wedding massacre.

At the graveyard in Kakrak, Abdul Malik talked bitterly as he mourned his dead relatives: "My heart is burning with anger. The Americans should be put on trial.... They killed every single one of my dear ones. If I had the means, I would fight the Americans."

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