This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
It was a blast. I’m talking about my daughter’s wedding. You don’t often see a child of yours quite that happy. I’m no party animal, but I danced my 64-year-old legs off. And I can’t claim that, as I walked my daughter to the ceremony, or ate, or talked with friends, or simply sat back and watched the young and energetic enjoy themselves, I thought about those Afghan wedding celebrations where the “blast” isn’t metaphorical, where the bride, the groom, the partygoers in the midst of revelry die.
In the two weeks since, however, that’s been on my mind–or rather the lack of interest our world shows in dead civilians from a distant imperial war–and all because of a passage I stumbled upon in a striking article by journalist Anand Gopal. In “Uprooting an Afghan Village” in the June issue of the Progressive magazine, he writes about Garloch, an Afghan village he visited in the eastern province of Laghman. After destructive American raids, Gopal tells us, many of its desperate inhabitants simply packed up and left for exile in Afghan or Pakistani refugee camps.
One early dawn in August 2008, writes Gopal, American helicopters first descended on Garloch for a six-hour raid:
The Americans claim there were gunshots as they left. The villagers deny it. Regardless, American bombers swooped by the village just after the soldiers left and dropped a payload on one house. It belonged to Haiji Qadir, a pole-thin, wizened old man who was hosting more than forty relatives for a wedding party. The bomb split the house in two, killing sixteen, including twelve from Qadir’s family, and wounding scores more…. The malek [chief] went to the province’s governor and delivered a stern warning: protect our villagers or we will turn against the Americans.
That passage caught my eye because, to the best of my knowledge, I’m the only person in the US who has tried to keep track of the wedding parties wiped out, in whole or part, by American military action since the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan in November 2001. With Gopal’s report from Garloch, that number, by my count, has reached five (only three of which are well documented in print).
The first occurred in December of that invasion year when a B-52 and two B-1B bombers, wielding precision-guided weapons, managed, according to reports, to wipe out 110 out of 112 revelers in another small Afghan village. At least one Iraqi wedding party near the Syrian border was also eviscerated–by US planes back in 2004. Soon after that slaughter, responding to media inquiries, an American general asked: “How many people go to the middle of the desert…to hold a wedding eighty miles from the nearest civilization?” Later, in what passed for an acknowledgment of the incident, another American general said: “Could there have been a celebration of some type going on?… Certainly. Bad guys have celebrations.” Case closed.