Let’s Call them Crimes, not Mistakes!

The BBC reports that a US military inquiry has uncovered serious “mistakes” made by US forces in bombing suspected Taliban positions in Afghanistan last May. According to the Afghan government, 140 people were killed in the strikes. US authorities admits only 20-30 casualties, the result of “errors” made by American personnel that did not comply with the standing rules of engagement. But those cannot be called mistakes, when countless pleas to stop bombing civilians have come not only from the Afghans themselves but also from UN agencies, NGOs, and non-corporate media outlets. Those who want to know are well aware of what has been going on. It has been known for years.

It is the same old story that we have been hearing ad nauseam in political and scholarly debates on the Vietnam War. It was a “tragic mistake,” we are told. It wasn’t. That’s too easy. You make a mistake when you hurt someone even though you didn’t mean to. But, just like now in Afghanistan, everybody in Vietnam at that time knew that bombing, whether indiscriminate or not, was taking a heavy toll indeed on the Vietnamese people. When, in a war, you hurt civilians, knowing perfectly well that your actions will likely amount to that, you do not make a mistake, you commit a crime, a war crime.


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