A Step-By-Step Guide to Avoid Accountability for War Crimes: Afghanistan Edition

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Collateral damage is an expected part of warfare. However, there is a difference between unintentionally taking non-combatant lives and targeting them to achieve a particular military effect.

The US not only has a tendency to target non-combatants, doing so is a part of its official policy and greater military strategy. Murtaza Hussein writes for The Intercept:

THE AUGUST 29 attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed Zemari Ahmadi, an innocent aid worker, and his family has become one of the most notorious drone strikes of the war on terror. It is also rapidly becoming one of the most revealing, forcing the U.S. government to disclose more about how it makes decisions about killing people in foreign countries by remote control, using aircraft high in the sky. The Kabul attack generated intense scrutiny from the moment it was launched, after journalists on the ground quickly contradicted the government narrative about who had been killed.

This kind of exposure for a drone strike and media opposition is only possible now. These drone strikes and other forms of indiscriminate killing, are not new. They are not new to the American invasion of Afghanistan and certainly not to America’s military strategists.

RELATED: Drone Strike in Afghanistan: The Nightmare Continues

However, now that the war is over and popular support is gone, it is possible for mainstream media to question these things without being viciously censored. Hussein writes:

A one-page summary of the findings of an internal investigation of the strike, led by Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, claimed that no violations of the laws of war had been committed and did not recommend that anyone be criminally disciplined for the killing of Ahmadi and his family.

How can such war crimes go unpunished? What is the methodology which is utilized in order to avoid culpability? In a law-and-order based society, how can such excesses be tolerated?

RELATED: Pentagon (Once Again) Finds Killing Muslim Civilians “Lawful”

Political scientist Howard Zinn outlines a multi-stepped process by which such atrocities can be denied in his collection of speeches, “Howard Zinn Speaks.” His thinking is further developed in this article.

Firstly, the government will keep as much information secret as possible. Hussein:

The U.S. government has been militant about protecting the drone program from scrutiny, making accurate assessments about intelligence failures hard to confirm. When information has leaked, such as the classified 2015 disclosures from the program published by The Intercept, it has shown a program that is far less discriminating and targeted than has been advertised. One leaked document showed that during a five-month stretch of a U.S. operation in Afghanistan, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not the intended targets of the attacks.

Secondly, if an atrocity is discovered, the government will deny that it occurred. If it is impossible to do so, then it will be claimed to be a success.

The Kabul attack was initially celebrated by the military as a successful operation, with the term “righteous strike” used repeatedly by military officials. The fallout that came when outside investigators determined what really happened, however, has once again raised serious questions about who is being killed in U.S. military operations conducted from the skies.

If it is impossible to do so, then only allow the official narrative is exposed.

If none of this works and the government is forced to admit that its troops committed a massacre, then they claim that it was a freak incident based on an honest mistakes. Zinn says:

One massacre shouldn’t condemn a whole war; one police-controlled election shouldn’t condemn our ally; one admirable NLF program doesn’t represent communism in Vietnam. The war as a whole is still a good one.

If the public insists on investigating a particular issue, then the government will issue a report wherein it finds no evidence of wrongdoing, such as a recent report on a massacre in Syria’s Baghuz.

Finally, if none of that works, and some kind of justice is demanded by the masses, then the government will pick one or two soldiers or agents as scapegoats and give them a slap-on-the-wrist prison sentence.

That is how you get away with drone striking civilians and other war crimes.

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