Death From Above

by matttbastard

NATO invokes a variation of the wifebeater defence after alliance air strikes in Afghanistan kill 25 civilians:

NATO commanders are adamant that the militants — not foreign forces — deserve most of the blame for the toll among civilians, and said the overnight bloodshed in southern Helmand province was just such a case.

[…]

Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, expressed concern about Afghan police reports that civilians also died in the airstrike. But he said insurgents chose the time and place for their attack, so “the risk to civilians was probably deliberate.”

“It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties,” he said.

The airstrike killed 20 militants, but it also wiped out two civilian families totaling 25 people, including nine women, three babies and a mullah, provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal told The Associated Press.

“NATO was targeting the areas where the (insurgent) fire was coming from … and two compounds were completely destroyed, and the families living in those compounds were killed,” he said.

Military commanders said their forces have to be free to respond to attacks.

“If someone is firing at our troops they have the right to defend themselves and have the right to fire at a position which is firing at them,” said another NATO spokesman, Maj. John Thomas. “If the enemy has put themselves in an area where they are firing from among civilians, this is when we sometimes have casualties.”

[…]

If confirmed, the casualties in Gereshk would bring the number of civilians killed in NATO or U.S.-led military operations this year to 177, according to an AP tally of figures provided by Afghan officials and witnesses.

You know, it didn’t wash when US and Israeli military officials used this crassly disingenuous line of initial misdirection in Iraq and Lebanon, respectively, and it doesn’t wash when NATO tries to pull the same shit in Afghanistan. More from RFE/RL:

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer argues that civilian deaths caused by NATO combat activities are accidental and, therefore, in a different moral category than civilian deaths intentionally caused by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

[…]

De Hoop Scheffer said after those talks that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are trying to increase civilian casualties in Afghanistan in a bid to undermine support for foreign troops in the country — as well as support for Karzai’s government.

“They are, of course, trying to [ensure] that we are losing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “We are still supported by a large majority [of Afghans]; I find that out every time I get there. But, of course, [the insurgents] are waging this indirect war against us by exploiting civilians — by using them as human shields.

With all due respect to the Secretary General, this is a steaming pile of self-justifying imperialist offal. Fuck this ‘accidental’ noise; the ongoing indiscriminate slaughter on the part of Western occupation forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel that has resulted in so many innocent lives lost is, as Lenin pointed out last year (by way of a Michael Schwartz article on the US air war in Iraq ), SOP:

[T]ake one story from Baiji [Iraq], in which a pilotless drone ‘detected’ three men which the US claims was planting a bomb by the roadside – the plane tracked the men to what is neutrally described as a ‘building’, which they strafed with 100 cannon rounds before dropping a bomb which – predictably – destroyed the building and damaged six others around it. The building turned out to be a house. Three women and three boys aged younger than ten were killed in their nightclothes and blankets. There was no report of whether a bomb was in fact discovered by the roadside, but the ‘coalition’ press information centre said: “We continue to see terrorists and insurgents using civilians in an attempt to shield themselves.”

Aside from the callousness of this statement, Schwartz notes that it “did assert U.S. policy: If suspected guerrillas use any building as a refuge, a full-scale attack on that structure is justified, even if the insurgents attempt to use civilians to ‘shield themselves.’ These are, in other words, essential U.S. rules of engagement. The attack should be “precise” only in the sense that planes and/or helicopter gunships should seek as best they can to avoid demolishing surrounding structures. Put another way, it is more important to stop the insurgents than protect the innocent.”

Judging by the number of civilian casualties piling up in Afghanistan this year as a result of NATO counterinsurgency operations, stopping the Taliban also outweighs the lives of civilians.

And don’t think the ones we’re supposedly ‘liberating’ aren’t aware of this.

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