During the last 10 years, thousands of civilians have been killed by air strikes supposedly targeting the Taliban, as if the Afghan life is cheap. It seems that the mounting toll is sapping the authority of the Western-backed Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, who has pleaded repeatedly with the US and Nato commanders to consult with the Afghan authorities before the operations are initiated and show more restraint. Despite this, unfortunately, the occupiers have always turned a deaf ear to his pleas and cries.
The latest incident took place when a US soldier shot dead 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, in a village outside his base in southern Afghanistan, a rampage that the Afghan President said was unforgivable. The soldier, who was reported to be a staff sergeant and father of three, who has done three tours of duty in Iraq, was arrested after the assault.
It is not the first time that the US soldiers have intentionally killed Afghan civilians, but the toll is unprecedented for a single soldier. The commander of the American and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, however, promised a thorough investigation of the tragic incident. "I am absolutely dedicated to making sure that anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable," he said, but his response is unlikely to do much to dampen the fury of the Afghan officials or people.
In 2010, US soldiers had killed three Afghan civilians as a sport in the Kandahar province. They were sentenced in August 2011, but it did not deter other American soldiers from involving in such despicable acts.
In January 2012, a video surfaced showing US marines urinating on the corpses of three insurgents, and in February anger flared over the burning of the Holy Quran. The US President, Barack Obama, said he was deeply saddened. He said: “I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.” But this will not heal the Afghan wounds, because despite regrets by the President, military commanders even in the past did not avoid participating in such incidents.
When the Americans and the Europeans are killed in a terrorist attacks, like 9/11 or 7/7, the champions of the cause of human rights throughout the world mourn; they light candles and place bouquets at the venue or the graves of the victims. But when other people are killed in similar attacks, or by ruthless and callous bombings and air strikes, there is no mourning. One may ask: What different breed is the Taliban from their compatriots, who fought against the Red Army, and were regarded as freedom fighters or mujahideen by the West, especially the Americans, while the Soviets viewed them as bandits? It is up to the historians to write the true history, but, for the present, Afghanistan is awash with civilian blood. Unfortunately, weddings have also been bombed more than once during the last four years.
In 2010, for instance, at least 44 civilians were killed in what they called a mistaken Nato air strike, in the Gujran District of Daykundi province carved out of the Uruzgan province, on three mini buses in southern Afghanistan a marriage party. This added to the already existing hatred against the US and West. After the incident, the Nato officials said: “It hit a suspected insurgent convoy, but ground forces later found a number of individuals killed and wounded, including women and children.” In addition, a commander said that this was not a deliberate act, but sometimes they have to take snap decisions. The question, however, remains: How such incidents take place by mistake when the US and Nato forces have all the facilities to determine the identity of people on ground? Indeed, such callous acts belie the claims that the US and Nato forces are in Afghanistan to protect the people from the militants.
The Americans and the Europeans are yet harping on the same tune that they are fighting in Afghanistan to secure it and their countries as well against militancy. But the Afghans are paying the price for it with their innocent blood - the blood of their civilians, their children and their women.
Needless to say, the saddest part is that there are no eyes brimming with tears in the West and no fears on the massacre of Afghan civilians. Not a single human rights activist has so far made an issue of this civilian carnage in which 16 innocent people lost their lives, as if the Afghans are no human beings. Pathetically, Western hearts bleed on the deaths of their troops; if the Afghan war is becoming unpopular in the West, it is because of mounting casualties and injuries of their armies and not because they feel qualms about the killing of innocent people of Afghanistan.
The writer is a senior journalist and freelance columnist.