I’ve begun reading the accounts from Wikileaks’s Afghanistan War Logs (AWL) that are being provided by the NYT, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel.
The revelations that have interested me most have been those about the extra-judicial killings (assassinations) that have been carried out by the U.S. military against suspected (or merely accused) Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Conducting extra-judicial killings is, of course, a tactic the US military has picked up from Israel, which has used them for many years now.
An “extra-judicial” killing is, of course, just that. It is a killing in which any “evidence” there is against the target is compiled and judged only in secret, by secret accusers.
In the U.S. military, the tendency is to say that the orders that result from this process are to “capture or kill” those designated as targets. But as this Guardian review of the AWL material reveals,
- In many cases, the unit has set out to seize a target for internment, but in others it has simply killed them without attempting to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.
The Guardian piece, which was written by Nick Davies, says that,
- The Nato coalition in Afghanistan has been using an undisclosed “black” unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or capture” list, known as Jpel, the joint prioritised effects list.
Both the Guardian account and the Der Spiegel account note that U.S. military commanders have gone to great lengths to conceal he existence of TF-373, which it describes as,
- The unit of elite soldiers, which includes members of the Navy Seals and the Delta Force, get their orders directly from the Pentagon in Washington and operate outside of the chain of command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
I note parenthetically that ABC News had a story today about the Taliban in Afghanistan having claimed that they had killed one U.S. Navy member and captured another one.
What on earth were two U.S. “sailors” doing in seriously landlocked Afghanistan, I wondered?
The Spiegel story notes that,
- [T]he new information about the secret commando missions could… prove embarrassing for the German government. Roughly 300 men with TF 373 have been stationed on the grounds of Camp Marmal, the German field base in Mazar-e-Sharif, since the summer of 2009. The special unit has chosen a strategically advantageous and shielded location at the airfield, where it operates from the Regional Command North, which is under the command of Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
The stationing of the unit was a sensitive issue from the very beginning, and officials in Berlin persistently sought to prevent much discussion of the issue.
The Spiegel story also gives the distinct impression that the activities of the JPEL-related teams have been stepped up in recent months.
So much for Pres. Obama having brought a new respect for the rule of law into the conduct of U.S. government activities overseas.
The Guardian account gives many details of instances in which there have been significant killings of bystanders in conjunction with the activities of TF 373. The killing of bystanders (a.k.a. “collateral damage”) is indeed horrendous, and tragic. But even if no bystanders were killed at all, the idea of designating individuals for execution based on secret accusations against them is itself inherently anti-democratic and repellent.
I really don’t see why Pres. Obama and his advisers don’t understand this.
(Perhaps he listens too much to the advice he gets from his many Israeli friends? Of course, Israel’s longstanding and persistent use of this grisly tactic hasn’t “solved” its many remaining problems with its neighbors, has it? Indeed, by most accounts, it has merely exacerbated those problems. Obama might usefully ponder on that… )