New reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan (37 dead) were covered in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. The story provides a decent sense of thedeath toll, but near the end makes a rather bizarre point (see bold):
Afghan weddings are traditionally large, drawn-out affairs, and wedding parties several times have been the target of errant airstrikes, in part because from the air the gatherings can appear similar to concentrations of Taliban fighters.
In Afghanistan’s clan-based society, civilian deaths can cause otherwise peaceable villagers to declare a vendetta against those they consider responsible for killing their kin–in many cases, Western forces.
This isn’t the first time corporate media have strained to interpret normal human reactions to violence as uniquely tribal or regional. When an Iraqi family refused a cash payment after their child was killed by Blackwater contractors, the L.A. Times (5/4/08) chalked it up to the “deep disconnect between the American legal process and the traditional culture of Iraq…. traditional Arab society values honor and decorum above all.” A New York Times article (8/25/08) about house raids in Afghanistan noted that they”are seen as culturally unacceptable by many Afghans who guard their privacy fiercely,”and that detaining hundreds of Afghans without trialhave “stirred up Afghans’ strong independent streak and ancient dislike of invaders.” SoI suppose it’s no great surprise to read that being upset about civilian deaths is the kind of thing that happens in a “clan-based society.”
More intriguing–or perhaps troubling–is that this is happening in Afghanistan. Think about this for just a second: U.S. airstrikes are continuing a war that started seven years ago in response to the 9/11 attacks. Villagers in Afghanistan had nothing to do with those attacks, but they’re on the receiving end nonetheless. And corporate media puzzles over the peculiarities of an Afghan “vendetta.”