Gall's story is based on numerous interviews in the village with survivors and eyewitnesses of what happened, as well as visits to the graves of the dead. Her report strongly supports the Afghan version. U.S. military officials have been doing everything possible to cover up this episode, going so far as to accuse the villagers of making up stories to help the Taliban. But this is one of those articles that really needs to be read line by line. Thus, deep in the story, we find out that the American version of things is based on the following in-depth investigation:
American military officials in Afghanistan and Washington have stood by their much lower body count. Capt. Christian Patterson, an American military spokesman at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, said that an investigating officer, a Special Forces major, visited the village after the airstrikes. Guided by aerial photographs, he visited six burial sites within a six-mile range of the attack; only one had any freshly dug graves, about 18 to 20 in total, Captain Patterson said. The 12-page investigative report does not indicate whether they were the graves of children or women. The officer did not interview villagers, he said.
"The officer did not interview villagers..." What a damning admission. The article suggests that the Americans may have been misled by an informant whose business rival lived in the village. Whatever the case, thanks to courageous reporters like Gall and her colleagues on this story, this is one episode that will not be swept under rug, and the U.S. military's stonewalling campaign appears to be faltering:
For two weeks, the United States military has insisted that only 5 to 7 civilians, and 30 to 35 militants, were killed in what it says was a successful operation against the Taliban: a Special Operations ground mission backed up by American air support. But on Sunday, Gen. David D. McKiernan, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, requested that a general be sent from Central Command to review the American military investigation in light of “emerging evidence.”
“The people of Afghanistan have our commitment to get to the truth,” he said in a statement.Sure they do, now that the coverup has failed. Fortunately, the Times has the resources, and in this case the good editorial judgement, to send reporters to the scene. And, finally, the good judgement to put the story on the front page.
Photo: A girl injured in a NATO airstrike in Helmand province last year/REUTERS/Abdul Qodus
Panic in Obamaland: I'm seeing a lot of anxiety out there after the Republican Convention. Is it lack of confidence in the candidate or lack of confidence in the American people? Perhaps some of both, but it ain't healthy.