Moral Low Ground

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On Innocent Afghan Deaths, Clinton Vows U.S. will Do All it Can– to “Express Regret”

It’s been a really bad month for NATO-inflicted civilian casualties in Afghanistan. In the last week or so alone, more than 50 innocent men, women and children have been blown to bits by the people who are supposed to be there protecting them from terror. Last Wednesday, US-led air strikes in the northern part of the country “mistakenly” killed more than 20 friendly police officers and 18 civilians in Nuristan. Then, just a few days later, a NATO air strike in the south slaughtered 14 more civilians, including two women and 11 children under the age of seven.

Not good for America, let alone the Afghans. (Photo: Rawa.org)

The needless deaths have strained already tense US-Afghan relations to the point that President Hamid Karzai issued what he called a “final warning” to NATO and the United States to stop killing innocents. “The Afghan people can no longer tolerate these attacks on their homes,” Karzai declared. “If they continue their attacks on our homes, then their presence will change from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting against the people of Afghanistan,” he warned. “And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.”

Karzai’s main beef is with aerial bombardments that often miss their intended mark and night raids that often target the wrong home or the wrong people, resulting in tragedy. He has repeatedly called on NATO and the US to curtail these tactical actions, but because of the success they often have the invaders insist that they are valuable tools in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

And so it is that the Obama administration is downplaying Karzai’s seething warning. The US has no intention of relenting on either air strikes or night raids, and the Obama administration even had the incredible gall to publicly rebuff Karzai’s call to end civilian casualties. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared that the United States will do all that it can– to express regret whenever US troops slaughter innocent Afghans:

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to express our deep regret when a terrible incident occurs and civilians are injured or killed. And I would only underscore that that stands in stark contrast to the indiscriminate killing, suicide bombing, the IED, improvised explosive devices, that are used by the insurgents without regard for any human life.”

Ah, the old “at least we’re better than those nasty insurgents” argument. It’s the age-old assertion that because they deliberately target civilians for slaughter and we don’t– the vast majority of our civilian casualties are the result of accidents or, as we so like to point out, the bad guys mixing in with women and children– then we are somehow morally superior to them.

Well, I really don’t think the grieving mother of a two-year old whose head was blown off by an American bomb gives two shits whether or not US troops meant to murder her baby. The kid is still dead, and nothing– not all the “regret” in the world– will ever bring him back. Yes, in this particular conflict the vast majority– around 75%– of civilian deaths have been caused by the “bad guys.” But consider the fact that far more innocent Afghans have been killed by NATO and US forces than the terrorists killed on 9/11. That’s a shocking number. Not only does Clinton’s flippant dismissal of Afghan concerns over innocent life come off as extremely heartless, it also has the practical effect of creating legions of future terrorists that may very well seek their revenge against innocent Americans in the future.

And how innocent can we claim those victims will be when many of them supported the war against Afghanistan and/or elected the leaders that crafted the policies that led directly to the deaths of Afghan babies? So many Americans just don’t give a shit about Afghan lives. Racism is part of the reason why. But mostly, we’re just too concerned about $4 gas or catching the final episode of Oprah or if this is the year LeBron finally gets his ring to worry much about the fact that the men and women in uniform representing our country– representing you and I– are killing an alarming number of innocent people in Afghanistan.

Of course, there are still countless millions of Americans who wonder why anyone would hate us. Well, if foreign invaders– even if they call themselves “friends” (don’t they always?)– were occupying your country and killing your babies, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume you might feel some sort of animosity towards them? Isn’t it perfectly logical that Afghans would feel the same way as you? They are people, after all, aren’t they?

It’s not in anyone’s interest to kill civilians, and while the US military  may be trying to avoid innocent deaths, it’s not trying hard enough. Secretary Clinton’s latest comments do not help one bit. Expressions of regret and meager consolation payments do not heal the hearts of the Afghan people nor do they dampen the flames of hatred toward the United States. Quite the opposite. But instead of heeding the pleas and the warnings of the Afghans, we’ll likely respond with more air strikes, more night raids and more slaughter of innocents. And we’ll reap the bloody harvest of the seeds we’ve sown for many years to come.

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