This morning, AP published a story featuring Red Cross officials expressing anxiety about the escalating Afghanistan conflict:
”The daily lives of people living in areas where the fighting is taking place are being disrupted, be it because of airstrikes, night raids, suicide attacks, the use of IEDs, or because of intimidation and the population being pressurized or co-opted by the different parties to this conflict,” he said.
The U.N. last month said 2,118 civilians died in the Afghan conflict in 2008, a 40 percent jump over 2007. The world body said insurgent attacks caused 55 percent of those deaths, while U.S., NATO or government forces caused 39 percent of the deaths. The remaining 6 percent were caused in crossfire.
”Unless more is done in different ways by the different parties to the conflict … to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, the ICRC fears that the Afghan population will bear the brunt of the announced escalation and that consequences for many will be dire in the extreme,” Krahenbuhl said.
A real sea change occurred over the past few years regarding the relationship of air strikes and the manslaughter of civilians. Citing the ‘precision capabilities’ of U.S. missile technology to claim conformity with the ‘Christian’ just war criteria of discrimination was one of the prime propaganda tactics of pro-war factions after the Persian Gulf War. Many American Christians bought this farce hook, line, and sinker, and relied on this false premise to come to the conclusion that the U.S. war in Afghanistan would fit the requirements of just war theory.
Members of the Society of Christian Ethics have expressed cautious support of the military effort in Afghanistan. The consensus of 350 professional ethicists at an international conference was that the conflict fits the just war principles articulated by Augustine in the fifth century.
U.S. methods fit the just war principle of discrimination, said John Kelsay, professor of ethics at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Some have estimated that more than 4,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, but Kelsay said the U.S. has used smart bombs and avoided targeting civilians.
Fast-forward to this past week, though, and read the New York Times:
But the report also found that Afghan government forces and those of the American-led coalition killed 828 people last year, up sharply from the previous year. Most of those were killed in airstrikes and raids on villages, which are often conducted at night.
Sixty-seven percent of civilians killed by pro-Afghanistan-government forces (that’s us, mostly) were killed by air strikes, a.k.a. smart bombs. The civilian casualties tied to these kinds of strikes got so bad that now pro-escalation folks hold them up as the reason we need to increase troop levels–to mitigate the use of air strikes!
The upshot of this troop-shortage has been that NATO forces have relied ever more heavily on air-strikes (which the United States has to carry out, since other NATO forces lack air-support).
Unfortunately, all this buzz about adding more troops to mitigate the use of air strikes is total bull. As Siun noted earlier this month, more troops will mean more air strikes, not fewer:
…the addition of more ground troops is more likely to increase the use of air strikes rather than decrease them as the suge proponents argue. In their exhaustive study of civilian casualties Human Rights Watch notes:
“Broadly speaking, airstrikes are used in two different circumstances: planned strikes against predetermined targets, and unplanned “opportunity” strikes in support of ground troops that have made contact with enemy forces (in military jargon, “Troops in Contact” or TIC). In our investigation, we found that civilian casualties rarely occur during planned airstrikes on suspected Taliban targets (one in each of 2006 and 2007). High civilian loss of life during airstrikes has almost always occurred during the fluid, rapid-response strikes, often carried out in support of ground troops after they came under insurgent attack. Such unplanned strikes included situations where US special forces units-normally small numbers of lightly armed personnel-came under insurgent attack; in US/NATO attacks in pursuit of insurgent forces that had retreated to populated villages; and in air attacks where US “anticipatory self-defense” rules of engagement applied.”
Fellow Christians, can we please stop rallying around a national flag and the arms-makers’ easy propaganda whenever someone hurts us, or when we want to hurt someone else?
For the record, back in 2002 at that infamous gathering of “Christian ethicists,” Hauerwas got it right:
Still, a minority of ethicists stood against the war. Stanley Hauerwas argued the Christian pacifist position that violence is never justified. Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke University Divinity School, said pacifism is essential to the Christian faith.
“It’s not like you believe in Jesus, and then something about nonviolence might follow,” he told Christianity Today. “Nonviolence and what it means to be a disciple of Christ are constitutive of one another.”
“So many people are on a kind of God-and-country bandwagon right now,” Hauerwas said. “That’s very sad, from my point of view.”
There is no such thing as just war.