Friday, June 22, 2007

More Civilians Killed in Attack

So I guess I'm going to have to start writing about this two or three times a week:

Taliban militants attacked police posts in southern Afghanistan, triggering NATO airstrikes that left 25 civilians dead, including three infants and the local mullah, a senior police officer said Friday.

[The] Taliban used at least two civilian compounds for cover during the clashes, which lasted into early Friday, Andiwal said.

"NATO was targeting the areas where the fire was coming from ... and two compounds were completely destroyed, and the families living in those compounds were killed," he said.

Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, expressed concern about the reports of civilian deaths, but claimed that as insurgents had chosen the time and location for the attack, "the risk to civilians was probably deliberate."

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

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 witness report.

Civilians die in war. This is a fact. And I'm not saying that had the response to this attack been via ground forces and not the air, all of these civilians would have lived. What I am saying is that when enemy fighters hole up in our around civilian buildings, where civilians are probably living and trying to hide, and you then go bomb them, then you are going to kill civilians. Lots of them. Perhaps you're one of those who really doesn't give two flips about civilian casualties (at least, when they're not American) but everybody ought to care about these, because we are trying to convince the Afghan people that we want them to live free of the Taliban and that we do not wish to recklessly kill them. We're doing that because we don't want to drive these people into the arms of the hated and feared Taliban. But we will do just that if we continue bombing attacks like these with little regard for civilians casualties.

Let me put it this way: the other day our forces bombed a compound and killed seven children, in the hopes of getting an alleged local leader of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Now, had they actually succeeded in killing him, it is altogether likely that someone else would replace him. But in addition to that, possibly dozens of Afghan men who heard about the attack, or knew the children who died in the attack, are now thinking that signing up with the Taliban to kill NATO forces is not such a bad idea. And beyond that, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians are now thinking that maybe helping the Taliban fighters out when they come around isn't such a bad idea either. What's worse is we didn't get this feared leader, so now there are people signing up to support the Taliban and this guy is still running the show.

Now in this incident, the bombing got "most" of 30 fighters who attacked the police station. But it also got 25 or so civilians. So now we have, again, dozens of men thinking they should fight NATO, and hundreds or thousands more Afghans who are pushed even more towards supporting (or even just tolerating) the Taliban.

Or let me put it this way: NATO attacks + dead cvilians = Strengthening the Taliban. It's really that simple.

This is an inevitable result of bombing campaigns, and I don't care how many journal articles or op-eds by military officers you read that say otherwise. Insurgencies cannot be won from the air. It's as simple as that. It's time to get more troops into Afghanistan and have them do what fighters and bombers are doing in their stead: hunt down and kill the Taliban and Al Qaeda.


adam said...

Jesus Christ.

Nat-Wu said...

There are two factors at work here. One, the military is full of technophiles. They're given too much money and too much free rein in the use of such weapons. Two, the military is told by our civilian political leaders that the use of more troops on the ground is unacceptable because troops=casualties. Sadly, the political worth of civilian lives is extremely low as long as they're not us or Europeans. Worth far less then three or four dead American soldiers. This tendency becomes exaggerated when we're fighting an unpopular war, despite the fact that in this case it is right and necessary for us to be in Afghanistan.

To senior military men, the answer is obvious: bombs save American lives and if that's the only way they can prosecute the war, they'll do it (as opposed to saying they can't fight at all rather than fight that way, because our militaries are institutionally inclined to make war).