Posts Tagged ‘civilians’

Last week I posted about the silly contradictions in the various spin pieces coming from General Petraeus’ press shop in Afghanistan. At the time, ISAF was claiming that a) Kandahar and Helmand were “security bubbles” and b) ISAF was obviously winning because they were confining most of the violence in Afghanistan to…Kandahar and Helmand. This week, ISAF wants to top their crossed messages with whole new contradictions.

Today Petraeus’ folks are screaming bloody murder about the Taliban’s killing of civilians:

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — The NATO-led command in Afghanistan said insurgent fighters were responsible for scores of civilian casualties in October — more than 100 deaths and 200 injuries.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, which has been staunchly criticized by Afghans over the years for civilian casualties during the war, said the latest violence belies senior Taliban claims that the insurgents have protected civilians.

“Their message simply does not match the reality that every day, insurgents are deliberately killing, injuring and intimidating Afghan civilians.” [Rear Adm. Vic Beck, ISAF spokesman]

But wait…remember this from last week?

The number of civilians wounded and killed last quarter (July-September) was 20 percent lower than the same period last year, despite the increase in fighting and increased numbers of coalition forces and Afghan forces. ISAF believes this means that even with rising attacks, it is reducing the ability of insurgents to harm the Afghan civilian population.

Since both of these stories were filed by CNN staff, it sure would be nice if any of their 4,000 news professionals asked ISAF about these contradictions, wouldn’t it?

The truth is that the massive troop presence and escalated military activity isn’t protecting Afghan civilians. That means the U.S. and allied forces are failing at the basic requirement of counterinsurgency: protect the population. The war’s not making us safer, and it’s not worth the cost. Get those troops home.

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This should not surprise anyone:

Pentagon leaders have recommended to President Bush that the United States make no further troop reductions in Iraq this year, administration officials said yesterday.

The plan, delivered this week, calls for extending a pause in drawdowns until late January or early February — after the Bush administration has left office. At that point, up to 7,500 of the approximately 146,000 troops in Iraq could be withdrawn, depending on conditions on the ground there. The reduction would coincide with new deployments to Afghanistan, officials said.

The real test of the next U.S. President’s leadership will be his ability to break this dynamic and impose some semblance of civilian control over the military. A repeated and corrosive failure of past administrations has been to let the military write policy. The throwaway line of “listening to commanders on the ground” is an abdication of responsibility. Civilian leadership should set policy. That’s what civilian control of the military means. The President sets policy, and tells the military to carry it out. This idea of asking the commanders in Iraq what to do, getting a list of recommendations, and then saying, “Yup,” is an absolute betrayal of the constitutional structures in the U.S.

Conveniently, the recommended drawdowns in Iraq would coincide with plus-ups in Afghanistan, which tracks with the framework outlined by several leading Democrats, with only the specifics in play. Again, this should be signal of the need for wariness of apparently anti-war verbage coming from the Democratic party. The lesson learned by the Democrats, perhaps accurately, is that electoral success comes not from opposing all war, but from opposing “wrong” wars, while fighting The Right War.  Those of us who oppose war should push back hard against what will be a tendency to portray anti-war sentiment as a narrow anti-Iraq-war sentiment.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. is killing the wrong enemies–along with the surrounding civilians–in the wrong country. The parable of the weeds touches on the issue of trying to force human society into a certain outcomes using violence:

Matthew 13:24-30, NRSV: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Trying to rip out “insurgents” and “al-Qaida” from among the societies they live in inevitably results in uprooting the “wheat.” The parable is a warning that God will judge, but that we are to leave that judgment to God. We don’t have the judgment to know who should live or die, and even if we did we’d be unable to “rip them out” without killing the innocents around them.

The problem is that Christians are participating in the killing of any enemies at all, rather than loving them in a self-sacrificial way.