And then, hoping to catch a young lady's eye, I applied copious amounts of mayonnaise to my nose

This is pretty old by internet standards, but here it is anyway. Writing about an incident in Afghanistan last week, Charli Carpenter wrote:
Afghan civilians blame US airstrikes for 100+ civilian dead; the United States is investigating the possibility that the Taliban executed the civilians with grenades in order to blame US forces.

Either scenario is pretty plausible; but either way the PR fiasco falls in the lap of the international forces, so the bottom line is the US needs to rethink its counterinsurgency strategy. |LGM|

Emphasis added.

I've seen this repeated over and over again, and I have trouble buying it. We're supposed to believe that the Taliban are executing civilians, dozens or hundreds at a time, in order to win a propaganda victory. What kind of person would do that? I don't mean, who could be so evil? I mean who could handle the cognitive dissonance necessary to execute one's own people in order to liberate them?

Don't get me wrong, I'm as familiar as the next American with the evil third world insurgent types who populate our movies and television shows, and I'm sure that those characters would do such a thing, but...really? And this is such an every day thing that we can say, for any given set of air strike attributed fatalities, that it is pretty plausible that it was a mass execution perpetrated for propaganda purposes.

It just doesn't make any sense. Even if we leave aside the unfathomable psychology of these fantastical Talibani, it's hard to see what strategy such tactics could possibly serve. For one thing, the Taliban couldn't maintain its own integrity as a fighting force if they were routinely killing innocent civilians who were on their side (and probably in their extended family). For another, given that the United States is relying heavily on air strikes, those air strikes will produce civilian casualties, so the Taliban doesn't need to add anything to the mix to get their propaganda pictures. Why, then, would they? Blood lust?

Two final points. First, I think that the Taliban grenade story is being admitted as being pretty plausible mostly out of an attempt to be fair. That account of the events was floated by the US military, and nobody wants to call them a bunch of liars. But, second, they are liars. If you want to find a propaganda campaign here, it's the one the US is running. The point of that campaign, obviously enough, is to paint our adversaries as being so removed from normal human motivation that they are barely people at all. Seems to be working.

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