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Saturday, June 23, 2007


Afghanistan: the U.S. military changes its tune

A few days ago, the U.S. military killed seven Afghan children in an airstrike, but claimed they didn't know they were there (a claim subsequently retracted), and made this statement of alleged "policy":
"If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred."
Today, another 25 or more Afghan civilians were killed in an airstrike, including nine women, three infants and an elderly village mullah. And what does the U.S. military say about this attack?
The Taliban launched an attack under the cover of darkness and then retreated into the village of Kunjakak in the Grishk district of Helmand. NATO commanders ordered air support, and the result was devastating.

Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, said in a written statement that perhaps 30 Taliban insurgents had been killed in the airstrike, adding that while an unknown number of innocents might have lost their lives, the fault was entirely the enemy’s. "In choosing to conduct such attacks in this location at this time, the risk to civilians was probably deliberate," Colonel Smith said. "It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties."
Whether the alleged (a word, by the way, that doesn't appear in the news reports) Taliban actually lived in that village, or were indeed using the villagers for cover, is an open question. But when an enemy retreats into a village in the dark, and you simply bomb that village, then the statement "If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred" becomes a grotesque lie, because obviously in any village at night there will be innocent civilians. Yes, it could be literally true (of course they didn't "know" that children or anyone else were inside the buildings, since they made no effort to find out whether there were or not), but I'm afraid that doesn't count. Not in my book, and not in the book of international law, either.

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