War

by on March 3, 2011 at 10:43 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

KABUL, Afghanistan–Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement on Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake.

How would you feel if foreign helicopters periodically rained hellfire on your children?

Miles March 3, 2011 at 6:49 am

Can anyone detail for me the rules of engagement in this specific case? Lets assume there were no assisting eyes on the ground. What do the gunners need to see/report to open fire?

Regardless, this is inexcuseable and I would like to see the crew brought before a court with the authority hang them if they're found guilty. An eye for an eye isn't a bad policy – it just needs to be delivered by a court rather than a vengeful family member.

Right Wing-nut March 3, 2011 at 6:56 am

Reports like this annoy me at best. When it says "boys", you immediately think eight or nine. But it could just as easily be sixteen or seventeen. Moreover, there is every possibility that they were screwing around. If some of them started stalking others, their behavior would be almost indistinguishable from insurgents from the air.

Yes, these people are dead. That is bad. War is hell in a lot of ways. I wish that the people trying so very hard to kill or enslave me weren't so adept at hiding.

Adam March 3, 2011 at 7:02 am

Read the rest article, nut. Their ages ranged from 9-15.

Six Ounces March 3, 2011 at 7:15 am

How would I feel? Angry. But if my government (who I likely supported) supported terrorists who attacked the nation that owns those helicopters, and oppressed millions of people, then I shouldn't be too surprised to see those helicopters there.

It's possible the pilots committed a crime. If there are known enemy combatants, the helicopters could legally engage the targets EVEN IF there were non-combatants in the area.

However, in this case there was obviously no positive identification that the targets were hostile. And there are likely few mitigating factors which would lead the pilots to reasonably believe they were hostile.

this is slightly different than the pilot who shot a cameraman because the pilot thought it was a missile launcher. That cameraman was amongst enemy soldiers during a firefight.

On the other hand, there is plenty of precedent for children engaging in hostile acts with plausibly innocent cover stories. Our enemies have a lot of fish stories for propaganda.

We do not know what those pilots saw or think they saw. But we likely have gun-camera video to tell us.

This sounds like a case which deserves a criminal investigation with the pilots afforded all the rights under the law. There is also precedent for criminal cover-ups in the military.

MPC March 3, 2011 at 7:22 am

You think this is something new?? Where have you been the last 8+ years?

Andreas Moser March 3, 2011 at 7:30 am

I guess I'd be angry. I might even think my country is at war with the US, even though it's legally not a war at all. Our troops are there at the invitation of the Afghan government.

But I wouldn't want to explain that to these parents. At least not before a few months have passed.

Arthur March 3, 2011 at 7:33 am

If I was a Afghan I would no doubt join the resistance against American invaders.

And, btw, that's how you make suicide-bombers.

I find it funny how some Americans justify that. There's a terrorist group in Afghanistan that attacked America. Ok. Their government supported or couldn't control them. Ok. So it's ok to kill civilians who had nothing to do with the whole thing?

Raj March 3, 2011 at 7:36 am

@Nut

Blaming our incompetence on the competence of the enemy is a pretty weak moral argument. Its exactly the kind of argument used to justify terrorism and cultures of impunity.

Affe March 3, 2011 at 7:37 am

If my country's deeply-rooted customs included compensation mediated by village or tribal elders, I'd wait for the richest country in the world to pay up.

Andrew L March 3, 2011 at 7:50 am

to be pedantic, No hellfire missiles were shot in this engagement. Hellfire missiles are anti-armor missiles and shooting them at people would be a waste of these $68,000 dollar weapons. the rockets used were probably folding fin aerial rockets.

Andrey March 3, 2011 at 7:55 am

"How would you feel if foreign helicopters periodically rained hellfire on your children?"

Um… How about feeling that it was a long overdue tragedy wich already happened to many other people living in a warzone and I am one of those to blame for it?

Problem with information like that is that it demonizes the side which has enough decency to admit this wrongdoing.

So far it looks like that no one gives a damn about how many civilians Taliban has butchered, but U.S. army making a mistake even under strictest RoE is a cause for major shitstorm in media.

Byrk March 3, 2011 at 7:57 am

Here's why we lose this war.

No one cared about German or Japanese kids "getting it" in 1945.

There's a big difference in that Germany and Japan had readily recognizable armies to kill. We kill their army to get them to surrender. In Afghanistan we need to win the hearts and minds, so we have to go with the COIN strategy. Personally, I feel the military is for destroying and not rebuilding countries.

Byrk March 3, 2011 at 7:58 am

So far it looks like that no one gives a damn about how many civilians Taliban has butchered, but U.S. army making a mistake even under strictest RoE is a cause for major shitstorm in media.

I'll give you a hint, the Taliban butchering their own people doesn't make terrorists want to fly planes into our buildings.

Andrew March 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

No Andrew L, they really are using guided missiles, perhaps not Hellfire, possible TOW as indicated by the Youtube videos, because they are scared to get close enough for people to fire back because the policymakers are scared if they take too many casualties we will demand the troops be brought home.

It's not a war, really.

Brian March 3, 2011 at 8:16 am

Yes Andrey, it's a discrete choice between killing innocent children and complete capitulation.

Andrew March 3, 2011 at 8:19 am

How much did those people support the Taliban and how much did the Taliban support Al Qaeda, and how much did Al Qaeda there have to do with 9/11? It's starting to sound like 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Now, because we are there anyone who doesn't like it is an 'insurgent' and terrorist. We are on a mission to see how many people we can radicalize against the US so we can perpetuate the need for anti-terror histrionics.

Even if we were actually not getting further from our objective and if we weren't militarily overextended and bled dry it would still be a clusterfuck.

Sunshine March 3, 2011 at 8:25 am

I'd feel like It's time to go somewhere else.

Andrey March 3, 2011 at 8:38 am

@Brian

It's a discrete choice between waging the war properly and paralysing your own forces completely because some people will get angry about inevitable mistakes. If you don't want accidental civilian deaths – stop fighting. If you can't stop fighting – tough luck, worst you can do to your own forces is to bash them for every misstep even under strictest RoE.

Seriously, it's better to admit defeat and pull out than paralysing your armed forces by "learned helplesness".

Slocum March 3, 2011 at 8:42 am

How would you feel if foreign helicopters periodically rained hellfire on your children?

Devastated, obviously. But would I become a jihadi against the U.S.? The alternative in Afghanistan is Taliban Rule. How would you feel about that prospect if you were a woman or had daughters? Some (low) probability of hellfire from the skies vs guaranteed hell for all women in the country — which do you choose?

PKSully March 3, 2011 at 8:51 am

"If the rule you followed brought you to this, what use was the rule?" Is our involvement in Afghanistan making us any safer? And if so, is it worth the price in blood and treasure?

Six Ounces March 3, 2011 at 8:54 am

@Arthur

I find it funny that you read the small part of my comment that said their country supported an attack on ours, but failed to read the subsequent SIX PARAGRAPHS where I discussed the Law of Land Warfare, the likelihood that this was an unlawful action, that there should be a criminal investigation, and that military cover ups are not without precedent.

Where do you get the idea that I "justified" anything?

Reading… It's fundamental.

j r March 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

"If only NATO, and various other foreign troops, left Afganistan there would be less violent deaths or only less violent deaths caused by foreigners."

Good point. If we don't kill those kids, someone else will.

By the way, can you really apply the conventional notions of civilian casualties and collateral damage to unconventional wars? We declared war on the nations of Germany and Japan in order to defend ourselves from their aggression. At this point, our stated purpose for being in Afghanistan is to protect the Afghani people from non-coalition forces, or whatever they're called these days. If you're killing the people that you're supposed to be protecting, then you might be doing something wrong.

mulp March 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

Obviously, I'd feel that we need to invade Iran, or maybe Mexico, with 5,000 Marines, to bring democracy in a war that will pay for itself in oil corporation tax revenue, especially after the corporate taxes are repealed and the gas tax eliminated.

Paavo Ojala March 3, 2011 at 9:12 am

"I'll give you a hint, the Taliban butchering their own people doesn't make terrorists want to fly planes into our buildings."

So 9/11 was caused by the war in Afganistan? Forget the WMDs; Taliban has time machine.

How would you feel if foreign cars periodically ran over your children? Death to Toyota

Andrew L March 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

@Andrew, It is not a TOW, Nobody shoots anti-tank/anti-armor weapons at non-anti-tank/anti-armor targets. It's a colossal waste when you have much better suited weapons like machine guns and rockets.

also TOW's are not launched from helicopters. NATO helicopter guns ships are most likely Apaches or Apache-variant, and those helicopters only carry Hellfires and FFAR as well as a gun turret on the nose.

A jerk March 3, 2011 at 9:47 am

Could somebody list the successes of PC-COIN? The successes of grasping the nettle are legion extending back to Alexander the Great.

Incidentally, the progressive bloodlust during WWII is simply shocking to confront.

Elizabeth C. March 3, 2011 at 9:53 am

I think I'd feel like a Palestinian parent in Gaza.

Six Ounces March 3, 2011 at 10:05 am

@CBBB

No, you are the moron. You're conflating the debate over the justness and necessity of the war with the conduct of a particular aircrew in a particular circumstance.

It's easy for the opponents of a war to casually parade around the corpses of the innocent (and not so innocent) dead as if that unto itself undermines the casus belli.

You clearly don't understand the Law of War which passes NO JUDGMENT on the justness of a war. It merely applies uniform standards for its conduct to prevent an endless cycle of hatred. The first principle of the LoW, though is military necessity. Deadly force may be used against combatants regardless of the proximity of protected persons and places, provided the means of attack is proportional. Firing a rocket or missile at a "squad" of nine suspected combatants is not disproportionate or indiscriminate.

The issue here is whether the pilots had a reasonable belief that the nine yutes were combatants. If they do not, then they have committed a crime. If they did, then they have not. The government will have the burden to prove they did not.

A second issue is one of Afghan perception of US forces. Even if those children were engaged in combat activities, or even if the pilots had a false but reasonable belief, this will not render well amongst Afghans.

Unless these pilots were wanton murderers or reckless cowboys, it's hard to believe they desired this outcome either for themselves, the US, or those boys and their families. The guilt of the pilots can and should be investigated.

The comparison with WWII is ENTIRELY relevant because the issue at hand is not the justness of the war but the specific conduct of individuals. During WWII, we bombed the Hell out of Dutch and French cities occupied by Germans, even though we knew that friendly Dutch and French noncombatants were present. This is not a war crime. It is expressly permitted under the Law of War. And it is also a regrettably necessary action to achieve ultimate victory.

One may also criticize the tactic of helicopter engagement which reduces the ability to positively identify targets as hostile, but anyone who criticizes stand-off capability as "cowardly" is an idiot. The entire point of waging successful warfare is staging a series of unfair fights. The ability to kill without being killed is essential and integral for victory.

Your hatred for America drips from every word you write. It appears you are less of an intellectual engaged in debate than a propagandist for our enemies or a traitor to our nation.

Popeye March 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

But if my government (who I likely supported) supported terrorists who attacked the nation that owns those helicopters, and oppressed millions of people, then I shouldn't be too surprised to see those helicopters there.

So if you supported a government that murdered someone's children, you wouldn't be surprised if some missile came and blew up your kid? You'd probably just shrug and say, "Hey, what goes around comes around, what can I say?"

Oh wait, you would be surprised, because the children murdered by your government live in poor countries far away from America. It would be pretty shocking actually.

I think it's OK to feel this way, it's just very weird to see people think that this is some sort of moral high ground worth getting self-righteous about.

bob March 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

The documentary The Battle for Marjah has a gut-wrenching scene where our troops meet with an Afghan father and pay him a few grand out of a knapsack for the accidental deaths of several family members.

Neal March 3, 2011 at 10:25 am

I'd probably feel something like this.

Lou March 3, 2011 at 11:02 am

Six Ounces rocks.

Further to your point, to justify civilian death in WW2 but not in this one is simply to reveal that you personally approve of one war and not the other. Innocent civilians in Hiroshima were not less human or less important somehow than these kids. The conventional/unconventional distinction between Germany and the Taliban/Al Qaeda is what's truly irrelevant and moronic.

Rahul March 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

Morality, pragmatism and justice are three axes that may or may not be aligned in events and actions. The comparison between this and WW-II needs to keep this in mind. e.g. What about the moral repugnance of Hisoshima? Anyone keep track of how many children were killed there? Surely more than nine?

Also, historically, posterity has always been very benevolent to the actions of the winners.

Rahul March 3, 2011 at 11:27 am

@Dan:
I still don't understand why Americans are some of the friendliest, kindest people in the world, but have such hardened, cold hearts when it comes to this kind of thing.

You confuse the hearts of the Americans and the ruthlessness of their government. Very kind people and a very heartless government. Somehow, Americans don't get the government they deserve. I never understood this mystery either.

Faré March 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

Apologies are nice. But are they offering damage compensation payment to the families of victims, comparable to what a rich man would pay for manslaughter in a civil lawsuit?

CBBB March 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

The extremely unconventional nature of this war is hardly irrelevant. This war is one in which there really isn't a means to achieve any real victory.
When the US entered WWII in 1941 it could clearly state how a victory could be achieved: occupy Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, etc.
In Afghanistan occupying all major cities or towns achieves nothing.
As long as the idea that there is some type of real, tangible, victory that can be achieved in Afghanistan is still widely held these horrific attacks on civilians will continue unabated.
This is the ENTIRE crux of the matter that people seem to ignore.
As long as this illusion of a possible victory persists the NATO forces will stay in Afghanistan FOREVER and continue to slaughter innocent civilians FOREVER.

Andrew March 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

Even if they are using rockets (which they may be, but I contend they are using everything) the use of the helicopter itself is intended for use against tanks. So, 6 of 1, half dozen the other.

Andrew March 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_MQ-1

Our military is not high on Andrew or Charlie Sheen. Winning!

Lou March 3, 2011 at 11:58 am

"Truth is they'd be happy to hiroshima these people in exchange for one 80% off sale at the department store of their choice."

That is pure anti-American garbage, and you can't possibly believe it.

CBBB March 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Why is being critical of high American government officials and the high military command anti-American? How do you know that these people make decisions based on what's actually good for the US long-term rather then what gets them elected/lines their pockets?

Neal March 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I'll toss my hat in the ring with those who say that the answer depends on what I thought the Americans were doing for me.
How can anybody feel this way? Do you or any of the other pontificators you agree with actually have any children?

Lou March 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Right, it's just the government, and the vast majority of the country that approves of the wars is just too stupid to realize it. Ok.

gabe March 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Hey Lou,

I never said "most americans"… I said most "red-team", "blue-team" voting pro-war people wouldn't mind nuking mid-easterners too much…if they got something minimal in return. It could be monetary or the maybe the privelege of wrapping themselves in the flag and shaking hands with politicians at the State of the Union….perhaps a purple and gold ornament would do the trick.

Most people in this country don't respect Dick Cheney or Hillary Clinton or Obama or Henry Kissinger or Brezinski…so yes most americans are basically good.

Regardless of my speculation about what one group or another of americans would do in some moral dilemna.

I do think the decision makers are pretty independent of what we think.

"It says more about the disgustingly sophist, elitist people behind the left-wing anti-war movement. "

BTW…in your narrow little one dimensional retard-paradigm-brain I'd be considered extreme right wing.

Andrew March 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Let's play us or them:

"The problem is that when they are mad at our government, they attack our civilians"

Who said it?

gabe March 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

"so we have a bunch of people coming out of the woodwork clamining that they always opposed the unjust Afghanistan war"

Hey Dan,

There are libertarian anti-war type people you know?

There are one or two million people that have been anti-war, pro-free-market, consistently over the last ten years. You know, the people who supported Ron Paul? The same people who also don't like the Council On Foreign Relations policy reccomendations or the Central Mercantilist Bank Monetary system.

You seriously think people consistently criticizing Republican and Democrat supported wars don't exist ..or don't come to this website?

No Econ PHD students at George Mason think this way? you must know that some do.

Dan, You seem to be doing as I predicted..trying to frame this into a argument where people who don't like this are "anti-troops". In fact I feel sorry for these troops. People sent them there knowing this would happen and they were lied to, telling them they were there to "spread freedom" or "end terror".

Lucky for me and my kids, my West Point grand dad warned me of this many years ago as a young boy.

Dan Weber March 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm

You seem to be doing as I predicted..trying to frame this into a argument where people who don't like this are "anti-troops"

Oh spare me the drama.

People are fair-weather fans in sports, they are fair-weather fans in war. The Afghan war isn't going well, so they rewrite history. There was a single Nay vote in the House on the AUMF, and it was not Ron Paul. (I'm not saying he can't be opposed to it now; if he thinks ending it is in America's best interests based on what we now know, good for him.)

I know there were people opposed to the Afghan war at the start; I was at a church in Harvard Square in late 2001 that was trying to send around a petition for a "non-violent resolution to this disagreement." (They didn't get many signatures.) But the number of these people was very small, and they were very quiet when the Afghan war was popular. Over on page 1, someone said "we should have just gone in, kicked out the Taliban, and left." Well, that's great, but he should have been telling us that in 2002, not now.

gabe March 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Again with the "don't blame the troops" deflection.

So according to the weaponized sock puppets anyone who would be mad about their children being blown up for gathering firewood is either a "elitist leftist" or somebody who wants to "blame the troops".

This is further fueled by the pro-war apologist who comes in and helps frame things by saying "sure we should punish these particular soldiers to the fullist extent of the law…just like that redneck Lyndsie England. The administration and foreign policy making elite have nothing to do with this and if you criticize foreign policy you are anti-american and possibly extremist."

I was mad as hell during the Kosovo conflict…we supported and funded muslim extremist there remember? very wierd how we always accidentally build up our enemies which then happens to be used by experts at the CFR to justify further taxation and war making and debt dealing.

CBBB March 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think opinions have changed on the Afghan War as it has gone from overthrowing the original Taliban government to a sort of an ill-defined war where I guess the only purpose is keeping Hamid Karzai in power. But you're right in a way that part of the opposition wouldn't exist if the war were going better, although frankly I think this war is unwinnable by definition and by intent.
As for Iraq, I don't know how much of a "success" that really was, regardless it was still a huge mistake which capped decades of bad policy with respect to that country.
And is the fact that some people are inconsistent with their criticism of war an argument for continuation of the war? It seems to me as if the NATO armies continue to be there with no real goal – or at least no realistic goals, constantly moving into territory, fighting off some "Taliban", and then moving onto the next piece of territory over, and over, and over, and over again.

gabe March 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Well the lies leading directly into the Afghan war were pretty big…so they fooled a few more people for a longer time period than some of the lies leading into some other wars.

The benefit we have now is that the internet allows us to track the lies told to start many of wars in a much more complete way. Of course that is why folks like Jay Rockefeller want to regulate the internet.

TPTB weren't too happy about that Gutenberg thing either.

CK March 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

"How would you feel if foreign helicopters periodically rained hellfire on your children?"
Were they Canadians?

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