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 that they were eager to release it? Here, let me remind you:
The footage shows insurgents streaming into homes that were later bombed, said Col. Greg Julian, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said ground troops observed some 300 villagers flee in advance of the fighting, indicating that not many could have been inside the bombed compounds….Investigators later reviewed hours of cockpit video from the fighter jets as well as audio recordings of the air crew’s conversation with the ground commander. Julian said the military would release the footage and other evidence in the coming days.
…a senior defense official told McClatchy Monday: “The decision (about what to release) is now in limbo.”
Pentagon leaders are divided about whether releasing the report would reflect a renewed push for openness and transparency about civilian casualties or whether it would only fan Afghan outrage and become a Taliban recruiting tool just as Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Two U.S. military officials told McClatchy that the video shows that no one checked to see whether any women or children were in the building before it was bombed. The report acknowledges that mistakes were made and that U.S. forces didn’t always follow proper procedures, but it does little to reassure Afghans that the U.S. has done enough to avoid repeating those mistakes.
A note to reporters covering Afghanistan: stop using information provided by Col. Greg Julian as a credible source of information on which to base your stories. His job is not to tell you the truth. As a function of his assignment in the Defense Department, his job is to win wars, and that includes the use of propaganda. Stop running stories leading with unverified information with him as the primary source, please. In other words, do your job.
While we’re on this topic, again, let me make a similar appeal to my fellow Christians who enthusiastically embraced the war in Afghanistan and then used the absurdity of “Christian” just war criteria to legitimize war’s blatant violation of Christ’s teachings and example. (To be fair, this included me at the launch of the Afghanistan campaign.) Back in 2002:
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.
Things certainly have changed since then, with the pro-war movement arguing that we need more troops on the ground to reduce our reliance on airstrikes–precisely because airstrikes have been responsible for more than 60 percent of civilian deaths caused by pro-Afghanistan-government forces (that’s us). Christians buying the smart bombs sales pitch might have been operating under assumptions formed by propaganda about “smart bombs” from the Gulf War in the 1990s, but even that’s no excuse, given that we knew about the attack on “the Ameriyya civil-defense shelter …which killed between 200 and 300 civilians.” This should be a bright flashing warning to Christians who want to rely on military or munitions-maker assurances about civilian casualties in the future.
If these kinds of incidents militate against believing the propaganda of the pro-war movement, they should also dissuade Christians from relying on the “massive exercise in begging the question” that is just war theory. Halden recently posted a fantastic quote from Yoder on the competing revelatory claim made by just war tradition about the treatment of enemies that conflicts with that offered by Jesus:
[Just war theory assumes] that a great number of other moral values are solidly known and accepted, so that they can provide a perspective from which to evaluate a given war or the use of a given kind of weapon. It is said, for instance that war need be waged only by a legitimate authority; but where do we get the definition of legitimacy for political authority? It is said that only such weapons may be used that respect the nature of humans as rational and moral beings; but who is to define just what that nature is and what means of warfare respect it? The evil that is sure to be brought about by war must not be greater than the evil that it seeks to prevent, but how are we to measure the weight of one evil against another? A just war can only be waged when there is a clear offense; but what is an offense? In a host of ways, the total heritage of just war thought turns out to be a majestic construction whereby a case is made, on the grounds of self-evident values that seem to need no definition, for setting aside the examples and instruction of Jesus with regard to how to treat the enemy. In order thus to function, the other values, as well as the logic whereby they operate in the given case, must have a kind of authority for which the best word is ‘revelatory.’ Otherwise they could not be weighed against Jesus. (“Christ, the Light of the World, p. 190)
Don’t trust military propaganda, and don’t trust Christian traditions that can make Jesus say the opposite of what his words mean on their face. Jesus said, “love your enemies.” That’s what he meant.