The civilian death toll in the celebrated Battle of Marjah is now up to 19, a third of them children. But that’s only part of this ugly story.
While the slaughter goes on in this pointless display of Marine power, civilians have been dying at American hands elsewhere in Afghanistan. On Thursday a US airstrike allegedly targeting “insurgents” ended up hitting and killing seven Afghani policemen. And yesterday, another airstrike, this time on a “convoy” of three vehicles, killed an astonishing 33 civilians and injured 12 more--and given the vicious nature of American weaponry, it’s a fair bet that many of those who were injured will end up dying of their wounds too.
Nice work Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Your newly professed “concern” about protecting civilians is working out nicely.
True to form, Gen. McChrystal’s response to these murderous outrages has not been to call for investigations and courts martial of those responsible for the deaths, but rather to express his concern that “inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their [the Afghan people’s] trust and confidence in our mission.”
Ah, the “mission.”
Oh yeah, this general who earned his rep running a huge death squad operation in Iraq, says he’s also “extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives.” What he didn’t say though, was that he is that he is extremely angry that American forces are continuing to shoot first and ask questions later, or that he plans to call some people on the carpet and strip some badges off them to ensure compliance with his orders to protect civilians.
Why would this be?
Because the professed “concern” about protecting civilians in this war is all talk and showmanship. It’s not about actually caring about and protecting civilians.
America is not in Afghanistan because of any real concern about the welfare of the people of Afghanistan. It is in Afghanistan because America wants to control Afghanistan. This is a war about geopolitics, not about liberation.
If America really cared about the ordinary people of Afghanistan, who have endured decades of war, it would forswear the use of antipersonnel weapons, which the UN has been trying to ban--over the opposition of the US and other benighted powers like China and Israel--weapons that leave unexploded bomblets littering the landscape to maim and kill innocent people, disproportionately small children. It would sign and obey the land mine ban. It would cease using pilotless drones, which have been killing far more innocent people than actual enemy fighters, and it would stop using airstrikes on “suspected” enemy targets when those targets are likely to have civilians in them.
In fact, if the US really cared about the people of Afghanistan, it wouldn’t be fighting there at all. It would be organizing a regional peace conference, under the auspices of the United Nations and involving all the surrounding nations--Iran, China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan--and reaching an agreement among all the forces within the country, including the Taliban, to establish a government of national reconciliation. The US would be relying not on war but on the carrot of aid to get such a government to actually work for the peaceful reconstruction of the country. And it would withdraw all of its forces promptly.
But there is no talk of such an approach. Rather, in Washington all we hear is talk of “winning” and “completing the mission,” though nobody seems able to say just what “winning” or the “mission” in Afghanistan might be. That’s understandable since the government of Afghanistan is a corrupt narco-regime led by a family of gangsters, thugs and profiteers, and the military and police are a hopeless combination of inept and corrupt. According to a first-hand, on-the-scene report in the New York Times, which has been an editorial backer of this war, Afghan forces have played almost no role in the Marjah battle, which is supposed to be a test run of the new Obama war strategy. That might explain why only one Afghan soldier has died in the battle, compared to 12 US and other NATO soldiers.
Happily, there is a light at the end of this blood-drenched tunnel. That light is the people of the Netherlands, who have so soured on their nation’s support for this stupid, criminal war, that they have brought down their government. Technically what happened is that the Dutch Labor Party, which opposes Dutch military involvement in the Afghan War, has denounced the war and, this week, pulled out of the governing coalition, leaving the coalition with just 47 of 150 seats in the country’s parliament. It is likely that the 2000 Dutch troops serving in Afghanistan will soon be pulled out.
The war, never popular in Europe, Canada or Australia, has become increasingly less popular everywhere but in America. Now, like the famed story of the little boy who saved Holland by putting his finger in a leaking dike, only in reverse, this pulling out of a Dutch finger could lead to a flood of European nations ending their commitment of troops to the NATO participation in the War in Afghanistan, leaving just US and British forces alone there.
The challenge now is for the somnolent and co-opted peace movement in the US to throw off its narcophilic embrace of the Democratic Party and of President Obama, to take heart from the Dutch people, and to demand that the US too end its war making, not just in Afghanistan, but around the globe.
About the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
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