Military Analysis Confirms Airstrike in Afghanistan Was a Mass Murder According to “Christian” Just War Criteria

Posted: June 3, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

The book is being closed on the massive civilian casualties caused by the airstrikes in Bala Baluk:

A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.

Final “story” from Afghan government and U.S. officials:

The Afghan government concluded that about 140 civilians had been killed in the attacks. An earlier American military inquiry said last month that 20 to 30 civilians had been killed. That inquiry also concluded that 60 to 65 Taliban militants had been killed in the fight.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission‘s final report differs somewhat, and given the tone and their independent stance, their report is probably the most credible:

AIHRC believes that as many as 97 persons may have been killed in the air strikes, the vast majority civilians. Available records suggest that 21 were women and 65 were children (31 of whom were girls and 34 boys.) This raises the presumption that as many as 86 civilians were killed. Witnesses and other sources reported that the 11 other adult males reported killed in these three compounds were also civilians.

Additionally, witnesses and government officials reported to AIHRC that anywhere between 25 and 30 insurgents were killed.

Some things to consider:

Even if the U.S.’s more conservative civilian casualty estimates are true, the U.S.’s own analysis now clearly shows that the incident violates the more permissive “Christian” violence-related ethic, just war theory:

But in “several cases,” the official said, General Thomas determined either that the airstrikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing runs.

Jus en bello requires discrimination between combatants and civilians and proportionality in responding to actions that justify your side’s use of violence. That means that even in a more permissive “Christian” analysis than I would use, this incident is a mass murder.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, these kinds of incidents should put the brakes on Christian endorsements of war as “just.” Back in 2002, a whole bunch of Christian ethicists gave the U.S. cover by claiming the action in Afghanistan would fit just war theory. Here’s what they said:

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.

This incident and the larger trends show that these ethicists just bought hype and spin and used it to do give the U.S. cover for an action which they supported. As the New York Times reported in March:

…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.

Source: NYT

Source: NYT

Bottom line: it’s laughable to call Afghanistan a “just” war and mean it in any way in which Christian thought has ever meant that phrase. Just because you feel justified doesn’t mean you satisfy just war requirements. Even a Christian doesn’t interpret Christ’s words as imposing a nonviolent ethic on Christians (which I firmly believe), continued experience in Afghanistan leaves such a Christian without a “Christian” doctrine to cling to in justifying continued military violence in Afghanistan.

Below the bottom line: Just war theory always seems to get us into war and abandon us once we’re there. It’s a farce to try to do the math to keep a violent exercise in line with the nonviolent teachings and life of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t work. Violence has its own spirituality and its own logic, and it does not fit with anything found in the Gospels.

P.S. Talk about having it both ways:

But Sidenstricker, the military spokesperson, takes a very different view. “There is nothing — in the story, or that we’ve seen or heard elsewhere — that says our actions led to additional collateral damage or civilian casualties,” she says.

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Comments
  1. Nathan says:

    On another blog we reckoned that an actual just war in conception and conduct is a pretty rare occurrence, with no obvious examples in the past century.

    • dcrowe says:

      You’d be right. In reality, there are no wars that conform to just war theory–just wars that start with self-justification. It’s used to sell wars, not to guide them.

  2. […] Military Analysis Confirms Airstrike in Afghanistan Was a Mass Murder According to “Christian” J… posted on June 3rd, 2009 at Return Good for Evil […]

  3. What happened to ‘justifying’ ” DO NOT KILL”?

  4. Dear Derrick,‎

    Everyday is a bit of a ‘struggle’ here  but I was as a little encouraged by the ‘generally ‎peaceful’ Obama speech.‎

    Want to share a short story, part of a letter to my Egyptian friend Shereef, just to say how ‎significant a true practice of love is.‎

    I was reminded of this simple truth recently by my Afghan friend Ali Mohd. I had been busy and had not ‎contacted him for a month or so.‎

    Ali Mohd and I enjoy each other’s company and exchange of ideas. But to him, our time listening to each ‎other’s stories is far more important than my analysis, advice regarding his family’s ‘economic ‎development’ or my help.‎

    I finally caught up with him 3 days ago. He confessed politely that he had been disappointed when I had ‎apparently missed picking up his phone call a few weeks back. An Afghan friend had fuelled his doubts by ‎advising, ”Never give place in your heart to a foreigner. In the end, they will not be your loyal friends. ‎You’ll be hurt.” Ali Mohd was really alluding to the centrality of relationships and community in the ‎Central Asian Muslim world.‎

    As he divulged his heartfelt unease, he said plainly, “ Hakim, you must understand, that we Afghans, ‎having lived through years of war, don’t want to admit that we are in dire need of genuine sincere love. ‎You should have picked up my phone call.”‎

    Thanks and Peace!‎
    Hakim

    • dcrowe says:

      Hakim: Thanks for sharing this story. That last paragraph…man, that hit home. I hope all is well with you. How is Journey to Smile coming along?

  5. Sporkmaster says:

    Hello I know I have not posted in a while but I figured this was relevant. Remember the two soldiers that where shot at the Recruiting station? Seems that the shooter made this statement before he was put on a gag order.

    “U.S. soldiers are killing innocent Muslim men and women. We believe that we have to strike back. We believe in eye for an eye. We don’t believe in turning the other cheek,” he said.

    http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=11459&cpage=1#comment-103331

    • dcrowe says:

      Hey Sporkmaster, good to hear from you. I was in San Antonio to celebrate my 6th anniversary this weekend, and I thought of you. Hope all is well.

      I’m glad you brought this up. I’m working on a new post at the moment (it’s turning into a monster-sized wall-o-text lol) that relates to this, and the attempt that AQ and people like Mr. Muhammad make to speak for whole of Islam. Hope you’ll share your thoughts when I’m done with it.

      Re: the shooting at the recruiting station, I remain puzzled as to the President’s silence on the issue, but I do have a theory–that he’s trying to engage in strategic communications, and attempting to frustrate the “U.S. vs. Islam” frame pushed by AQ. This is also dealt with in the upcoming post.

      I started off wanting those pictures released, but now I can’t think of a good reason to publicize them. It’s not necessarily good news. I think the stories quantifying them serves the same purpose–to communicate the extent of the problem. I’m starting to think that people who want them published are a) using this as a proxy issue to contest what they see are Obama’s reversals on issues important to the progressive community, and/or b) people interested in them for their violence porn qualities.

      As an aside: every once in a while I type out a title like the one on this post and cringe a little–and then I check This Ain’t Hell, and I realize my in-your-face factor is often lower than I think it is. 🙂 Hope all is well.

  6. […] to the Afghans when their leaders demanded we end airstrikes in civilian areas, we went ahead and did it again a few weeks ago. Add to that our love affair with robotic airstrikes in our undeclared war in Pakistan which so far […]

  7. […] to the Afghans when their leaders demanded we end airstrikes in civilian areas, we went ahead and did it again a few weeks ago. Add to that our love affair with robotic airstrikes in our undeclared war in Pakistan which so far […]

  8. Dear Derrick ( and Sporkmaster )

    How’s Journey to Smile? Our latest post below may describe our situation ; Sporkmaster, you’re right ; hell isn’t that in-our-face, especially if we live it.

    What the screaming ‘hell’ is missing in non-violent love, truth and peace?
    The Scream in Afghanistan

    The world’s deep conscience is ‘screaming’ like Edvard Munch’s picture.

    What the screaming ‘HELL’ is missing in non-violent love, truth and peace?

    Why do all humans believe in ‘do not kill’ but still watch fellow human beings, kill, kill and KILL?

    Why does love LOSE to money and power every single time?

    Why do all humans crave for plain truths but cannot escape plain LIES?

    Why has peace become such an abused JOKE?

    Why do we sit and walk around, feel angry, want to put things right, wish for a decent living in a loving family and community but are forever STUCK, forever?

    Why do ‘religions’, ‘democracies’ and ‘ideologies’ preach non-violent love, truth and peace but practice ‘hellish HYPOCRISY and silence’?

    What can the great masses of people who are ‘screaming’ actually do, besides ‘screaming’?

    Why?

    What?

    Please let us, the silently ‘screaming’ Afghan youth, know.

    Please.

    Please stop.

    Thanks and Peace!
    Hakim in Afghanistan

  9. […] civilian casualties, Col. Greg Julian, Gulf War, Jesus, just war tradition, nonviolence by dcrowe Remember that airstrike that killed 30-to-140 civilians in Afghanistan? Remember how the U.S. military said they weren’t to blame and they had video to prove it and […]

  10. […] Afghanistan and a drone strike in Pakistan have killed very large numbers of civilians. The first, the May 4 bombing of Bala Baluk, was a “clear war crime” in that the civilians killed by a combined three-and-a-half […]

  11. […] Afghanistan and a drone strike in Pakistan have killed very large numbers of civilians. The first, the May 4 bombing of Bala Baluk, was a “clear war crime” in that the civilians killed by a combined three-and-a-half […]

  12. cory44b says:

    Afternoon! I am new to these forums I hope this is the right place to post.
    Anyway yeah I am just saying hi [url=http://www.homeinternetjobs.com.au][img]http://www.homeinternetjobs.com.au/laptopsupport.gif[/img][/url]

  13. […] Afghanistan and a drone strike in Pakistan have killed very large numbers of civilians. The first, the May 4 bombing of Bala Baluk, was a “clear war crime” in that the civilians killed by a combined three-and-a-half […]

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