It seems like there’s been another mistake in Afghanistan, a terrible mistake. Or maybe not. It all depends on which version of events you believe, of course. Isn’t it terrific when you get to choose your own reality?
What we know for sure is that eight young Afghans are dead. They’ve been described by NATO sources who never actually saw them up close and personal as being “of varying ages” and “closer to 15-16” and one of them was older than that, of course; and they’ve been described by Afghan officials and local villagers as being between the ages of six and fourteen, with one aged eighteen.
They’ve been described by NATO officials as being “armed” and as posing “a threat to forces operating in the area,” at least “based on the observations of soldiers on the ground and camera footage” (footage that was not made available to anyone in the press because it had been sent to a forensics lab instead); and also as being “adult-sized and moving in a tactical fashion.”
On the other hand, one of the local villagers who claimed he had lost a son who was 12 years old and two nephews, ages 9 and 11, said that the youths had been sent “to take care of the goats and sheep and feed them and collect firewood from the trees nearby and bring it home so we can heat our homes.”
But, like I said, NATO’s take was different: “They were moving in open terrain in a tactical fashion and clearly keeping a distance from each other.” And they were armed, of course, after all. As for the weapons they were carrying, by the time the NATO assessment team arrived at the site where the boys died there was little left from the bombing other than “some fragments” that might be consistent with weapons, at least according to Air Commodore Mike Wigston.
Wigston, who led the NATO investigation team, is the director of air operations for the NATO joint command in the area. It was his aircraft that carried out the bombings apparently; and by the way, they didn’t bomb the boys just once. They did it twice. I guess they wanted to be certain whoever they were bombing was dead although it doesn’t seem like they’re certain about very much else as the NATO version of the story kept changing over the course of the last seven days.
When they reached the site, of course, the villagers found something else: “When we went there we saw the children in pieces, some missing legs, some missing arms, only the heads and face could be recognized, nothing else.”
Here is the latest story published in the New York Times in which NATO acknowledged that it was responsible for killing the kids without admitting that it did anything wrong. And here is the somewhat earlier version that provides more information about what the Afghans are saying.
Read the stories and figure it out for yourself. Hint: If you Google it, you’ll find bits and pieces of other information scattered about the web. Personally, I didn’t have a lot of time to investigate so I thought I would leave that to you.
What can we conclude from all of this? Well, for one thing, even if we can’t say it was a mistake, a terrible mistake, it seems even NATO agrees it was “a very sad event;” and one more in a long line of similar events involving NATO forces, I might add. But, hey, that’s the price we apparently have to pay to defend Americans from terrorists worldwide. It’s a heavy burden, I know, but someone has to do it.
Besides, it turns out the story has a happy ending. You remember Air Commodore Mike Wigston, the fellow in charge of the air operations that killed the kids and who conducted the investigation for NATO? It turns out he visited the village where the boys lived and offered “to make life better” for the villagers: “A road to the outside world would be a very important part of that,” Wigston said.
Halleluiah, praise God almighty, a road! Progress is a wonderful thing.