It’s fun to shoot some people



On March 6 the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation HQ in Afghanistan announced that “at least five Afghan National Army personnel were accidentally killed this morning during an operation in eastern Afghanistan…An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident. Our condolences go out to the families of the ANA soldiers who lost their lives and were wounded.”

There might be an investigation carried out, but its findings will never be published. There will be no evidence taken from Afghan soldiers. There will be no Afghan representation on the board of inquiry, if one is indeed held. There will be no information given to the government of Afghanistan about the appalling incompetence of the operation. 

The whole affair will be forgotten by the west – but not by the grieving widows and children of the dead soldiers who will never receive their tiny compensation because of corruption. And it won’t be forgotten by the eight soldiers who were wounded in this bungling blitz. Or by many Afghans who have good reason to loathe the foreigners who have made such a mess of their country since the invasion a dozen years ago.

Western governments and forces never seem to learn about the culture of the countries they invade. When the US went to war in 2003 against Iraq, one of its more outstandingly moronic military commanders was a knuckle-dragging clown called Lieutenant General James Mattis, a US Marine officer who (as I wrote at the time) had been grossly over-promoted from latrine orderly and had done his bit to contribute to the shambles in Afghanistan. 

His personal military ethos was: “Actually, it’s quite fun to fight them…It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people, I’ll be right up front with you. I like brawling…You go into Afghanistan, you’ve got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” These were his public words. They make me wonder what this man (I use the word loosely) might really think in the depths of his malevolent mind.

In 2004 I wrote that “It was this same Mattis who dismissed photographic evidence of the slaughter of dozens of people by US forces at an Iraqi wedding party last year. The wedding took place in western Iraq, and Mattis denied there had been an atrocity. He said he could not understand how a wedding could take place in the desert, so he blitzed the gathering. He did not know that the desert is home to thousands of families, settled and nomadic, who have relatives and friends in villages, towns and cities, and that these people come to visit on occasions of celebration or grief. 

“The man betrayed his appalling ignorance of the culture and customs of the country by exclaiming ‘Ten miles from the Syrian border and 80 miles from the nearest city and a wedding party? Don’t be naïve. Plus they had 30 males of military age with them. How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?’”

Thousands of them, you murderous fool.

A first-hand witness, recorded by reporter Rory McCarthy, told the world what Mattis achieved at that wedding party. She said “from her bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad that ‘We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one.’ She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. 

“As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground. She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. ‘I left them because they were dead’, she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell. ‘I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn’t kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me’.”

Remember the war cry? – “It’s fun to shoot some people.”

Then there was the slaughter of 24 Pakistan army soldiers in Mohmand Tribal Agency on November 26, 2011 by US air strikes. I had been in Mohmand at the beginning of the month, visiting 77 Brigade whose officers and soldiers of the Azad Kashmir Regiment were massacred by US aircraft, and I knew exactly where Pakistan’s border posts were located. And so did American forces, because they were informed of the locations of all them.

The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, US General John R Allen, said he sympathised with the family of “any” Pakistani soldiers who “may have been killed or injured,” which expression of half-hearted disquiet was as insulting as it was conditional. And over a week elapsed before President Obama grudgingly offered “condolences” for the massacre by his military. The US investigation did not take evidence from one single Pakistani soldier. The US would not allow a Pakistan Army officer to be a member of its Board of Inquiry. So much for being an ally in the fight against world terrorism. 

It seems that nothing changes when ‘it’s fun to shoot some people’. Atrocities continue to be committed in hideous blitzes, be they by deranged soldiers who kill for fun and kick wounded mothers, or by incompetent drone operators in their air-conditioned killing shacks, or by casually murderous helicopter cowboys swooping on their defenceless prey.

What we’re waiting on now is another chance for the shooters to have a fun time yet again. It looks as if the west, as represented by US-controlled Nato, is gearing up for fun in Ukraine – and there are many people like the unhinged Mattis who are raring to go. But this time there is an opponent who can strike back. It might not be such fun to be shot at. Especially by someone who has a cause to fight for.


Brian Cloughley is a South Asian affairs analyst. Website:

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