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American Anniversaries From Hell

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Posted on Mar 28, 2013
Giacomo Carena (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

And then, of course, there are the little anniversaries from hell that Americans could care less about—those that have to do with slaughter abroad.  If you wanted to, you could organize these by the military services.  As last year ended, for instance, no one marked the 11th anniversary of the first Afghan wedding party to be wiped out by the U.S. Air Force.  (In late December 2001, a B-52 and two B-1B bombers, using precision-guided weapons, eradicated a village of celebrants in eastern Afghanistan; only two of 112 villagers reportedly survived.)  Nor in May will anyone here mark the ninth anniversary of an American air strike that took out wedding celebrants in the western Iraqi desert near the Syrian border, killing more than 40 of them.

Nor, this July 12th, to switch to the U.S. Army, should we forget the sixth anniversary of the infamous Apache helicopter attacks on civilians in the streets of Baghdad in which at least 11 adults were killed and two children wounded?  All of this was preserved in a military video kept secret until released by WikiLeaks.  Or how about the first anniversary of the “Kandahar massacre,” which passed on March 11th without any notice at all?  As you undoubtedly remember, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly spent that night in 2012 slaughtering 16 civilians, including nine children, in two Afghan villages and, on being taken into custody, “showed no remorse.”

When it comes to the Marines, here’s a question: Who, this November 19th, will mark the eighth anniversary of the slaughter of 24 unarmed civilians, including children and the elderly, in the Iraqi village of Haditha for which, after a six-year investigation and military trials, not a single Marine spent a single day in prison?  Or to focus for a moment on U.S. Special Forces: will anyone on August 21st memorialize the 90 or so civilians, including perhaps 15 women and up to 60 children, killed in the Afghan village of Azizabad while attending a memorial service for a tribal leader who had reportedly been anti-Taliban?

And not to leave out the rent-a-gun mercenaries who have been such a fixture of the post-9/11 era of American warfare, this September 16th will be the sixth anniversary of the moment when Blackwater guards for a convoy of U.S. State Department vehicles sprayed Baghdad’s Nisour Square with bullets, evidently without provocation, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding many more.

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All of the above only begins to suggest the plethora of blood-soaked little anniversaries that Americans could observe, if they cared to, from a decade-plus of the former Global War on Terror that now has no name, but goes on no less intensely.  Consider them just a few obvious examples of what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once called the “known knowns” of our American world.

Impossible Anniversaries

In anniversary terms, Rumsfeld’s second category—the “known unknowns”—is no less revealing of the universe we now inhabit; that is, our post-9/11 lives have been filled with events or acts whose anniversaries might be notable, if only we knew the date when they occured.  Take, for instance, the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.  Sometime in the first part of 2002, President Bush granted the National Security Agency the right to eavesdrop without court approval on people in the United States in the course of its terrorism investigations.  This (illegal) program’s existence was first revealed in 2005, but it remains shrouded in mystery.  We don’t know exactly when it began.  So no anniversary celebrations there.

Nor for the setting up of the “Salt Pit,” the CIA “black site” in Afghanistan where Khaled el-Masri, a German car salesman kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia (due to a confusion of names with a suspected terrorist) was held and mistreated, or other similar secret prisons and torture centers in places like Lithuania, Poland, Rumania, and Thailand; nor for the creation of Camp Nama in Iraq, with its ominously named “Black Room,” run as an interrogation center by the Joint Special Operations Command, where the informal motto was: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.”

Or how about the anniversary of the date—possibly as early as 2006—when Washington launched history’s first known cyberwar, a series of unprovoked cyberattacks ordered by George W. Bush and later Barack Obama, against Iran’s nuclear program (and evidently some Middle Eastern banks dealing with that country as well).  Given its potential future implications, that would seem to be a moment significant enough to memorialize, if only we knew when to do it.


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