'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free Fire Zone Afghanistan (Part 4) 

In October of 2001, I participated in a protest, along with about 30 other people, against the US invasion of Afghanistan. We marched along Russell Boulevard in Davis, California, passing by people entering the stadium to watch the UC Davis Aggies play football. They either ignored us or looked at us as if we were freaks.

At least, at that time, there was a plausible pretense that the war was about al-Qaeda and getting the people responsible for 9/11. No longer. On Monday, 10 French peacekeepers were killed in an insurgent attack of unknown origin, although there is a report that they were actually killed by NATO air support which NATO denies. Upon hearing of the French deaths, my immediate reaction was, oh, no, NATO and the US are going to launch some airstrikes to kill a bunch of people so as to look like they are doing something about it.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened:

A US-led operation in western Afghanistan has killed 76 civilians, including 50 children and 19 women, according to claims from the Afghan interior ministry.

But the death toll has been challenged by US forces, who said only 30 people, all of them Taliban fighters, lost their lives in today's air strikes.

Another Afghan government department, the defence ministry, said five civilians and 25 insurgents died in the operation in Shindand district in Herat province.

If the figure of 76 civilians is proved correct, it would be one of the largest civilian losses of life since the US-led operation against the Taliban began in 2001.

An Afghan interior ministry spokesman said that the civilians had been killed by "accident", but that it was sending investigators to find out how the tragedy occurred.

This incident follows immediately upon the heels of earlier reports that 20 out of 30 alleged Taliban insurgents killed by US airstrikes in the province of Laghman were actually civilians, again mostly women and children.

For more background on what is happening here, please consider reading my post of August 4th entitled People in White. Taking the indiscriminate killing of Korean peasants and refugees by the US during the Korean War as an example, it explores the question as to why the US has perpetually killed large numbers of civilians during its military interventions since World War II.

Domestically, the political alternatives are dim. Obama wants to take troops out of Iraq, so that he can put more troops in Afghanistan. That's the choice that we have in this election, a choice between a Republican candidate who wants to make killing Iraqis his priority, and a Democratic opponent who wants to emphasize killing Afghans. Will the US ever pull out of the killing fields of the Middle East and Central Asia during my lifetime? Only if forced to do so.

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