What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The June 15 car bombing 'cascade'

MStFB update
Three things happened that ultimately convinced me that it is the second of the two versions presented in my post yesterday of the June 15 Tarin Kowt suicide bombing that is the correct one. 1) I watched the video several more times. 2) I posed a question to David Axe connected to this. And ultimately 3) I got a comment from Pim whose word I trust.
So, what happened on June 15 was that, actually just like in several textual accounts I've encountered, it was the first vehicle in the convoy, a YPR-765, that was hit by the car bomb explosion (the YPR-765 wasn't hit by the car itself, because the latter got stuck in a ditch in the process, while racing towards the convoy from a perpendicular sidestreet).
One could say it was always clear it happened this way, but it was yesterday that I saw the video of the attack first, and I got badly deceived by it. The visual information suggested to me both correctly and wrongly assumed inconsistencies, inconsistencies that were inconsistent with each other to start with (the correctly assumed misunderstanding coming from David Axe, and the wrongly assumed one from others' account).
As I have written to David Axe: "now that I finally managed to find the RTL footage on the net, I myself was deceived by how the video cut away from showing the antenna/berry/whatever-picking Bushmaster right to the explosion (just after quick-zooming in on the Bushmaster even). It seemed to confirm that the bomber struck as the vehicles were piling up behind the Bushmaster. The only idea nagging me was that the vehicle immediately behind the Bushmaster wasn’t a YPR-765. So I kept watching that really deceivingly cut video, and by now I’m absolutely sure that the explosion hit a YPR-765 ahead of Suzanne’s jeep in the convoy rather".
I was very curious to find out if Axe may have been deceived by the same video, just like me, because of that deceiving cut from the Bushmaster to the explosion. I assumed this was the case, because of what he wrote in his original article: “one vehicle halted so that an occupant could pick berries from a low-hanging tree branch, causing the rest of the vehicles to pile up behind it with their flanks exposed to the alleys. That’s when the sucide bomber struck”.
You see? Actually it was that assumption of Axe's that influenced me in believing just that when I saw the video showing the Bushmaster and then the blast rightaway, and that's why I was ready to consider that textual accounts I've read were actually wrong. Well, as to David Axe, I have no clear answer from him, just something I can possibly interpret so that he indeed might have been deceived by the RTL footage (that would be the benevolent interpretation in this case, actually, wouldn't it?). He says he was using several sources, including the RTL video. Well, I don't assume that an eyewitness would have told him that the car bomber hit the vehicles piling up behind the Bushmaster, and so rather I would think he concluded what he did on the basis of the RTL footage.
It's all just so illustrative of what James N. Rosenau calls 'cascades' (the cascades of what he calls the 'multi-centric world'). A would-be suicide bomber enters Afghanistan from Allah knows which part of the world to blow himself up, does so, local insurgents use the bombing to coordinate it with a surprise offensive, meanwhile an American journalist writes an article on the event, there are some misunderstandings in it, dozens, potentially hundreds of Dutch readers read the article on several sites where it's available (some of them directed there by links at other sites), and some of them turn into an angry virtual crowd, with one commenter among them even saying that he is running a news center, and so now he will contact all Dutch political parties to use his influence to tell them not to support the extension of the Dutch mission in Uruzgan beyond 2008 (that commenter may not get anywhere in the end, but still this is indicative of where cascades can potentially lead). John Robb over at Global Guerrillas would love the subject material here I guess.


fm said...

It also goes to show the wafer thin support for NATO's overall mission that is to be found in the Dutch population. And that doesn't reflect very well on the Dutch, I don't think. I mean, plenty of Dutch journalists will criticise American operations in every way, shape and form (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly), but one American has but to criticise a Dutch operation (perhaps unfairly in some aspects), and suddenly they are prepared to take their bat and ball and go home?

fm said...

I should have scrolled down further to read your other posts. You've more or less noted the same thing. I think you're dead right with this:

I'm afraid David Axe has just given some people what they in a way were glad to find. Although one may argue that if not in Axe's article, they would have found something else to get spectacularly infuriated by elsewhere then.

No doubt about that. Regardless of David Axe's faults, there will always be errors in reporting. That doesn't excuse knee-jerk reactions. And I don't find the lack of support amongst the Dutch (or anywhere else in Europe) particularly edifying. A bit harsh maybe, but, you know...

Péter MARTON said...

Well, yeah. The thing I find really captivating about the issue of the Dutch involvement in Afghanistan, is how they, despite the general mood, have actually gone into one of the most dangerous areas (most of the top leadership of the Taleban came from Uruzgan), at a time when there were no other realistic candidates for the task in 2006. This is a country that throughout the last decade actually did something to develop a modern army with expeditionary capabilities, unlike other European countries. One could say that although support is little, there's still more public support coming in the Netherlands than elsewhere (Germany, or even, say, Poland). But of course if one asks the question would you support the mission to Uruzgan if it would be similar to what's going on in Kandahar or Helmand, support would diminish significantly, one has to suspect. And recently it has become a bit like that, with two suicide bombings and the fighting around Chora.