Kabul dogs, Nuremberg Code, Taliban weapons: Fact-checking 4 recent viral claims

Debunking claims buzzing around social media

A U.S military aircraft takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
A U.S military aircraft takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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There’s been so much nonsense floating around the internet, it’s hard to just pick four things to cover. But your time is valuable. So let’s get into it -- here are some fact-checks on recent claims buzzing through the interwebs.

☑️ Claim: US left military service dogs in Kabul

This started after reports published by Fox News and TMZ claimed a non-profit was working to help evacuate dozens of contracted military dogs from Afghanistan amid the full U.S. military pullout.

A photo posted to social media showed several dogs in crates in front of a helicopter. The American Humane Society released a statement criticizing the Biden administration for the alleged abandonment Monday evening.

But on Tuesday, the Pentagon addressed the reports, stating the U.S. did not leave any military dogs in Kabul, and the dogs in the photo are animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not under the care of the U.S. military.

“Despite an ongoing complicated and dangerous retrograde mission, U.S. forces went to great lengths to assist the Kabul Small Animal Rescue as much as possible,” a spokesperson from the Pentagon said in a statement to various media outlets.

⛔ Verdict: The dogs are real, the photo is real, but the context is false and misleading.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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☑️ Claim: Video shows Taliban hanging man from helicopter

Photos and videos went viral on social media this week, showing what appeared to be a man dangling from a helicopter in Afghanistan. Several pundits, and even Sen. Ted Cruz, claimed it showed a man being hanged by the Taliban.

The blurry, 11-second video clip was viewed millions of times on Twitter, but there was no context. The BBC uncovered additional footage, which showed the man alive, with images that show the man waving the Taliban flag.

Officials in Kabul told the BBC that the flight was an attempt to fix a flag over a public building. The man dangling from the helicopter was wearing a harness. The Washington Post reported the same.

Multiple outlets found that the original claim of a man being hanged came from a satirical comedian on Twitter.

⛔ Verdict: This claim is false. Moving on.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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☑️ Claim: COVID-19 vaccinations are a “violation of the Nuremberg Code”

We’ve been hearing about this one a lot. Several viral posts on social media claim mandating COVID-19 vaccinations is a violate of “the Nuremberg Code.”

The biggest post, posted on Aug. 16, showed a man driving up to a Walmart, claiming he was going to “present documents to the pharmacist, letting them know what they are doing is crimes against humanity and what they are doing is a violation of the Nuremberg Code, and if they do not stand down immediately, then they could be executed.”

The man, identified as Christopher Key, is a known anti-vaccine advocate and has a history of making discredited medical claims, the Washington Post reports.

Additionally, the Nuremberg Code has nothing to do with COVID-19 vaccines. The “Code” dates back to after World War II. It’s a set of medical ethics that led to the prosecution and execution of several Nazi doctors who carried out experiments on victims in concentration camps.

Experts say COVID-19 vaccines don’t apply to this set of ethics because the vaccines are not experimental. Vaccines are authorized for emergency use and have gone through extensive clinical trials. The FDA recently fully approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Lastly, the Nuremberg Code has not been adopted as law in the United States. Even if it were applicable, it wouldn’t be legally enforceable in America.

⛔ Verdict: This claim is false. People getting vaccinated for COVID-19 are not participating in an experiment. Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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☑️ Claim: Taliban now possess U.S. military equipment worth $80-85 billion

As the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, many social media users had viral posts claiming the Taliban’s arsenal was worth as much as $85 billion, suggesting they had taken over U.S. military equipment.

Former President Donald Trump amplified the falsehood in a statement Monday, writing that “ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost.”

Those numbers are significantly inflated, according to reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the conflict.

According to the Associated Press, the $85 billion figure resembles a number from a July 30 quarterly report from SIGAR, which outlined that the U.S. has invested about $83 billion to build, train and equip Afghan security forces since 2001. Yet that funding included troop pay, training, operations and infrastructure along with equipment and transportation over two decades.

“We did spend well over $80 billion in assistance to the Afghan security forces,” said Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. “But that’s not all equipment costs.” Only about $18 billion of that sum went toward equipping Afghan forces between 2002 and 2018, a June 2019 SIGAR report showed.

Even if the percentage from a 2017 GAO report, stating at 29% of dollars spent funded equipment between 2005 and 2016, held to 2021, it would mean the U.S. has spent about $24 billion on equipment and transportation for Afghan forces since 2001. Grazier added that much of the equipment would be obsolete.

American troops have previously scrapped unwanted gear and recently disabled dozens of Humvees and aircraft so they couldn’t be used again, according to Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command.

Still, while no one knows for sure the value of the Taliban’s arsenal, defense officials have confirmed it is significant. Just not $80 billion.

⛔ Verdict: While it’s true the Taliban likely possess some U.S. military equipment, the scale is much smaller than the claims made in social media posts and by former Pres. Trump.

Be Careful

After reviewing this topic, we've found some issues - Be Careful.

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📱 Be your own fact-checker

Most people don’t want to share inaccurate information, but sometimes it happens. How can you play defense? Here are some tips:

  • Check your sources: Where are you reading it? Who is reporting it? Are they credible? Watch out for “pink slime” local news sites.
  • Social media origins: If you see something floating around social media, like a meme or a story, try to find the original source and check it yourself.
  • Go beyond the headline: Some headlines are purposely misleading and don’t tell a complete story.
  • Share the right information: Be a sharer of the correct news and information! Send accurate information to your friends and family, post it on your social feeds, forward this newsletter. It’s nice to be right. (And be nice about it, nobody wants to be called out on being wrong)

✅ What would you like us to fact-check?

The Trust Index team fact checks questionable information circulating on social media and in our communities. Use the form here to share claims you’d like checked out. You can also email me here, if you have any questions or comments. - Ken Haddad

Find more Trust Index stories right here on ClickOnDetroit.



About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.