It’s GreenChange Blog Action Day and the theme is “war and peace.” Part of the reason I oppose the war in Afghanistan – and almost every war, for that matter – is the inherent risk to civilians. Whatever goal we’re fighting for there (getting bin Laden? getting the Taliban? getting al Qaeda? protecting women? I’m not really sure), it’s not worth the huge civilian death toll.
Not only is it completely disgusting and tragic that these people are dying, but it only works to create more enemies. Having a family member or friend killed or having your house blown to smithereens could definitely create an insurgent out of you.
So I’m just going to examine some recent news about civilian deaths, if for no other reason than to get around that terrible media bias of focusing almost exclusively on American deaths.
Wikipedia lists the total number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan during 2009, so far the deadliest year of the war, as a bit over 2,400, although most of that was from “anti-government” combatants. In Iraq, estimates range from about 100,000 to over 1,000,000 dead civilians since the start of the war. And let’s not forget about the other places where the tentacles of our military empire reach. In Yemen, the US has recently been getting involved because of an alleged al Qaeda presence there, and our drones have been killing dozens of civilians at a time.
Drones are being used extensively by the US military in Pakistan, as well. The military claims they’re a useful tool, but their accuracy is not always perfect, and civilians end up being cannon fodder many times when they strike.
‘A drone fired five missiles on a vehicle apparently carrying some miscreants,’ said a local intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘Six people died in the attack’.they strike
The second drone fired two more missiles on a crowd of villagers carrying out relief work, killing six people and injuring several others.
‘The total death toll now stands at 12 but it may rise as some injured are said to be in critical condition,’ said the official.
Furthermore, some claim that drone attacks may actually be violating international law.
The CIA’s extensive use of unmanned drones to kill alleged terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere is arguably against international law and raises the possibility that top U.S. officials will someday be tried at the Hague for war crimes, a law professor told a congressional oversight panel on Tuesday.
Despite the rapidly increasing use of drones in warfare and anti-terrorism — and the legal and ethical issues their use raises — the U.S. government has never publicly advanced a legal justification for sending its drones on targeted killing runs overseas; up until Tuesday, Congress hadn’t even held a single hearing into the question.
Back to Afghanistan, here’s a news item on some recent civilian deaths there. Recently, insurgents killed 13 civilians and NATO forces killed an elderly man in his home.
The force entered the village of Koday early Sunday morning and asked everyone to leave his house. When the force began to search houses, it found a man inside, and “the assault force reacted to what they thought was hostile intent and shot the individual,” according to a NATO statement.
“It was subsequently determined the individual was an elderly man,” the statement said.
The episode is under investigation, and the forces were meeting with the aggrieved families to discuss compensation.
The bombing in southern Afghanistan took place in Gereshk, a thriving market town in Helmand Province and the closest major population center to the province’s two major NATO bases: Camp Bastion, a British base, and Camp Leatherneck, an American Marine base.
A cart driver, his cargo hiding explosives, detonated them in a crowded area near where families were enjoying a traditional festive Nowruz picnic, which celebrates the Persian new year and the coming of spring.
General McChrystal says that he is working on a way to reduce the civilian death toll in Afghanistan, especially since the number of ordinary citizens dying there has skyrocketed recently.
Speaking days after a Scotsman investigation revealed that two pregnant women and a teenage girl had been killed in a night raid, General Stanley McChrystal said troops under different commands were sometimes working at cross-purposes…
Although Gen McChrystal’s focus on protecting the population has succeeded in cutting the number of civilian casualties caused by international troops, Special Forces are often blamed for the worst incidents.
The US Marines’ Special Operation Command were behind three of Afghanistan’s worst incidents.
In May last year, they called in an air strike in Bala Boluk, in Farah, that left more than 100 people dead. In 2008, they killed around 90 people in Azizabad, in Herat, while their first deployment in 2007 was cut short after they sped away from a suicide attack firing at passing traffic and killing 19 people.
I’ve got a good way to cut that number way down. Stop killing people. End the war. 100 al Qaeda members is not sufficient justification for keeping 100,000 troops as an occupying force in a nation. It’s time we ended the US military empire. This state of perpetual war is causing nothing but harm, and is completely unsustainable.