04 Feb

The US Planes Came At 9 .

At 2am I Buried My Son

The Telegraph – London 15 October 2001

The McGlynn: A story from over seven years ago, seven years! And it continues today! My God!

A wounded boy in an Afghan hospitalAghani boy – a victim of the US attack on Afghanistan. Picture from the Al-Jazeera TV network (posted Oct 13th, 2001)

Fazal Mohammed, a 42-year-old cart-driver from Kandahar, is one of the innocent civilians the American bombardment of Afghanistan is supposed to miss. That is not how it turned out.

“The planes came at nine,” he said, sitting in a hospital bed, his left eye bandaged. “At two in the morning I buried my son. Then we all left.”

What happened to the Mohammed family is a flesh-and-blood illustration of the meaning of “collateral damage”. It was their misfortune to live in the Luwala district, next door to a Taliban munitions dump.

“They warned us what was going to happen but we had no money to leave,” said Fazal, who earns a pound a day when he can found work.

The depot was one of the first targets to be hit in the war on terrorism. As it went up, it took half of the family’s two-room mud house with it. “My son, Taj, was hit worst.” He gestured with his hands. “His stomach was blown open. He was five years old.”

After he had dragged himself from the rubble and the mayhem had subsided, Fazal buried Taj. He then paid a driver 15, every penny he had, to drive himself, his wife Bakhet and his surviving son and daughter to the Pakistani border.
The medical notes report a damaged left eye, deep bruising all over the body and two crushed legs. His arms were heavily pocked with puncture marks

In another hospital across town, another victim of another attack lay stretched out, groaning with pain and shock and swaddled in bandages from head to foot.

Faez Mohammed, 30, an Afghan refugee, left Quetta a month ago to do some labouring work in the Helmund region, about 120 miles across the border. He needed the 80p a day wage to support his wife and nine children.

Last Thursday he was building a wall with three workmates when they heard aircraft. He does not remember what happened next but his injuries tell the story eloquently enough.

The medical notes report a damaged left eye, deep bruising all over the body and two crushed legs. His arms were heavily pocked with puncture marks, the sort caused by flying dirt and grit in a big explosion.

The two men were able to come to Quetta, 60 miles across the border, because they had Pakistani papers. Most Afghans are not so lucky.

Their testimonies suggest that the perception fostered by the Allies that this war can be fought with minimum civilian casualties is illusory.

The pattern of dealing with bad news is already established. As in the Kosovo war, stories of deadly blunders are initially treated by American spokesmen as possible enemy propaganda.

Later, as denial becomes untenable, there is a grudging admission of error – as happened at the weekend when Washington, blaming pilot error, accepted that a stray missile killed four UN affiliated mine clearing workers in Kabul.

The longer the air war goes on the greater the inevitability of more – and grislier stories – such as those told by the two Mohammeds.

They and their families are the wretched of the Earth. All their energies are engaged in the daily struggle to put on the table the bread, potatoes and soup that is all they can usually afford to eat.

“I’ve no sympathy with the Taliban or anybody else,” said Fazal. “They say bin Laden came to our town but I know nothing about it.

“We are poor people. We have no interest in such things.”

He has never seen the images of the events of September 11, the indirect cause of his tragedy, as the Taliban have banned television.

It is stories like these that are likely to stoke anger in the Muslim world against the US and its allies. From the victims, though, there was no word of bitterness.

“We have no enmity with anyone,” said Fazal. “All we want is peace and that this problem is solved by peaceful means.”

Penniless, wounded, a refugee for the forseeable future, it is to Islam that he turns as he contemplates his loss.

“He was very small,” he said. “It was too early to think about what he wanted to do with his life – that would have waited until he was 15 or 16. All I hoped was that he follow the path of the Prophet, may peace be upon him.”

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