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Saturday, July 28, 2007


Killing "Taliban"

Day after day for the last week, reports in the media have talked about "50 Taliban killed" or similar numbers. Today there's a different headline: "Dozens of Afghan civilians die in air raids: residents." NATO airstrikes have killed "between 50 and 60" civilians.

If this were "just" yet another case of NATO (or "coalition forces" in Iraq) bombing and killing civilians, it would hardly be worth blogging about. What prompts me to write is this:

A spokesman for British forces in Helmand said there was an ongoing operation in the province, but denied there had been any civilian casualties around Girishk.

"We have no reports of any such incidents in Girishk yesterday at all. There have been no people taken to the hospital ... in relation to anything around Girishk," said Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo.

"Because the Taliban don't wear uniforms like us, as soon as they are killed, they are called civilians, the key is are they male or female and if they are male, what age are they?"
So now you can go back to the articles you read yesterday and the day before and the day before that about how many "Taliban" were killed, and understand the official NATO definition of "Taliban": any male between the ages of 13 and 70. You can also understand, as you could have anyway, that it's kind of hard to distinguish someone's age or sex when you're dropping bombs on them from thousands of feet in the air, which means that even with that rather loose definition of "Taliban," it doesn't represent the slightest impediment to NATO attacks.

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