This article originally appeared on Tom Dispatch.
It was a tribal affair. Against a picture-perfect sunset, before a beige-colored cross and an altar made of the very Texas limestone that was also used to build her family’s “ranch,” veilless in an Oscar de la Renta gown, the 26-year-old bride said her vows. More than 200 members of her extended family and friends were on hand, as well as the fourteen women in her “house party,” who were dressed “in seven different styles of knee-length dresses in seven different colors that match[ed] the palette of…wildflowers–blues, greens, lavenders and pinky reds.” Afterwards, in a white tent set in a grove of trees and illuminated by strings of lights, the father of the bride, George W. Bush, danced with his daughter to the strains of “You Are So Beautiful.” The media was kept at arm’s length and the vows were private, but undoubtedly they included the phrase “till death do us part.”
That was early May of this year. Less than two months later, halfway across the world, another tribal affair was underway. The age of the bride involved is unknown to us, as is her name. No reporters were clamoring to get to her section of the mountainous backcountry of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. We know almost nothing about her circumstances, except that she was on her way to a nearby village, evidently early in the morning, among a party seventy to ninety strong, mostly women, “escorting the bride to meet her groom as local tradition dictates.”
It was then that the American plane (or planes) arrived, ensuring that she would never say her vows. “They stopped in a narrow location for rest,” said one witness about her house party, according to the BBC. “The plane came and bombed the area.” The district governor, Haji Amishah Gul, told the British Times, “So far there are 27 people, including women and children, who have been buried. Another 10 have been wounded. The attack happened at 6:30AM. Just two of the dead are men, the rest are women and children. The bride is among the dead.”
US military spokespeople flatly denied the story. They claimed that Taliban insurgents had been “clearly identified” among the group. “This may just be normal, typical militant propaganda,” said 1st Lieutenant Nathan Perry. Despite accounts of the wounded, including women and children, being brought to a local hospital, Captain Christian Patterson, coalition media officer, insisted: “It was not a wedding party, there were no women or children present. We have no reports of civilian casualties.” The members of an Afghan inquiry, appointed by President Hamid Karzai, later found that, in all, forty-seven civilians had died, including thirty-nine women and children, and nine others were wounded.