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Canadians and Killing: "Discovering" the Gardez Massacre

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Canadians & the Gardez Killings
by Anthony Fenton
In [today's] Times of London, reporter Jerome Starkey recaps how the U.S. was forced to come clean concerning its role in the gruesome murder of five Afghan civilians by U.S. Special Forces on February 12th:

"It was the day before the Marjah offensive and most journalists in Afghanistan were braced for a massive operation to fight the Taleban in Helmand, when Nato announced a “gruesome discovery” in the east. [Note: the falsely headlined press release is still on the ISAF website]

On Friday, February 12, less than 24 hours before Operation Moshtarak, soldiers found the bodies of three women who had been “tied up, gagged and killed” during a night raid that left several militants dead.

The implication was clear: the dead militants were also guilty of killing the women civilian prisoners. Nato said that intelligence had “confirmed militant activity”. The coalition spokesman, Brigadier-General Eric Tremblay, talked of “criminals and terrorists who do not care about the life of civilians”. Only that is not what happened."
 
 
[For complete article reference links, please see original at Web of Democracy here.]

Starkey has covered the murder and attempted cover up tenaciously. In response, NATO and its allies tried to smear him, as described in this video by Rethink Afghanistan.
 
Despite their best efforts at disinformation and obfuscation, earlier this week, NATO admitted killing the civilians. Subsequently, General Stanley McChrystal ordered an investigation into the coverup (aka 'botched raid'), meanwhile continuing to  "[dispute] the most sensational allegations that U.S. forces covered up evidence." As Starkey also reported today, JSOC head Vice-Admiral William McRaven visited the village where, with an offering of sheep in tow, he begged forgiveness.

As for the Canadians, note that the original NATO propaganda spin was provided by ISAF spokesman, Canadian Brigadier-General Eric Temblay, who ironically referred to  “criminals and terrorists who do not care about the life of civilians.” To his credit, Tremblay was the one who later admitted "We now understand that the men killed were only trying to protect their families."

 
 
The most troubling thing throughout this whole process is that the murder of these civilians was almost completely ignored by the Canadian media. A Canadian Newsstand database search from the day of the murders (aka "gruesome discovery") to the present, finds only two references to the incident. The first, a Canadian Press article, "NATO says insurgents killed in raid where bodies found; family blames US":

"A joint Afghan-NATO force killed several insurgents during a raid on a compound where troops discovered the bodies of two men and two bound and gagged women, NATO said Friday. Family members accused U.S. soldiers of killing innocent civilians...Police Chief Gen. Azizudin Wardak said the five _ two men and three women _ were killed Thursday night during a party. One of the men worked for the police, while the second man worked for the attorney general's office, he said....NATO forces have pledged to ``co-operate fully in this joint investigation,'' said Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force...An initial statement said the joint force searching the compound made a ``gruesome discovery'' _ the bodies of three women who had been bound, gagged and killed. The bodies had been hidden in an adjacent room, the statement said. But a second statement several hours later said the joint force found the bound and gagged bodies of two women and two dead men. There was no explanation for the initial discrepancy...[R]elatives of the dead accused American forces of being responsible for the deaths of all five people when contacted by The Associated Press by phone."

Albeit balanced, this was the extent of Canadian media coverage of the incident, until April 6th, when the Kamloops Daily News ran an Associated Press wire story, which buried these two sentences:

"NATO also confirmed that international troops were responsible for the deaths of five civilians, including three women, on Feb. 12 in Gardez, south of Kabul. A NATO statement said a joint international-Afghan patrol fired on two men mistakenly believed to be insurgents. It said the three women were "accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men."

                                  

Given the media's drumbeat coverage of the detainee scandal, one would be inclined to think that the involvement of a Canadian General in the middle of a scandal concerning the murder of civilians and alleged attempted cover up would merit some headlines.  With a few small edits [in square brackets] perhaps this passage in Anthony Dimaggio's important new book, When Media Goes to War: Hegemonic Discourse, Public Opinion, and the Limits of Dissent (which I'm still reading and hope to produce a review of soon), speaks to why Brig. Gen Tremblay has thus far received a pass:

"There is no consistent standard for ensuring that victims of state and non-state violence receive balanced coverage. [Canadian and] U.S. media coverage is highly propagandistic, creating a polarization between various groups depending on the specific political context in which the repression takes place. If the goal of media coverage is to ensure that all victims of terror and violence are treated equally, then the [Canadian and] U.S. press abysmally fails in providing fair coverage. On the other hand, if the goal of the coverage is simply to reflect and justify elite values that favor specific types of victims over others, then the coverage is impressive in its consistent transmission of those values."

To date, there has been no thoroughgoing analysis of Canadian media coverage of worthy vs. unworthy victims in the nine and a half year Afghanistan adventure; the  media's omission of the Gardez murders and cover-up and Tremblay's role as primary NATO spin doctor, speaks to the need for one.

- Also see, Robert Naiman's 'U.S. Military Still Lying about Special Forces Night Raid in Afghanistan'
 

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