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Kucinich Challenges Gates on Civilians Killed in Afghanistan

by Ron Brynaert

The buck doesn't appear to be stopping anywhere in Afghanistan.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday "demanding information on the decision-making process and the underlying intelligence that led to a NATO attack on a civilian convoy." (Raw Story - File) "Two days after Afghanistan's deadliest attack on civilians in six months, many questions remain unanswered," The Canadian Press reports. "Perhaps the two most pressing are: Who called in the air strike? And on what grounds?"

The article continues, "Dual investigations by NATO and the Afghan government are underway to answer those questions. But the cabinet of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already made it clear the attack was, in a word, 'unjustifiable.'"

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- whose own press release notes that he remains "a vocal critic of the war in Afghanistan" -- wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday (pdf link) "demanding information on the decision-making process and the underlying intelligence that led to a NATO attack on a civilian convoy."

"Media reports indicate that 27 civilians were killed, including women and children and many more were injured," Kucinich's press release notes, adding, "The U.S. government has an obligation to protect civilians under international law. As Secretary of Defense, you have an obligation to ensure that all military operations conducted in Afghanistan are conducted in accordance to such laws."

Kucinich writes, "Please provide information about the events leading up to the air strike, including the name of the person who granted authority to US Special Forces helicopters to conduct the aforementioned airstrike, the name of the person who ordered the airstrike, a detailed description of how it was determined that the civilians traveling by minibus were Taliban insurgents, and the protocol for ordering this airstrike and all other airstrikes."

The press release adds:

Kucinich demanded a response within two weeks, citing "the gravity of the situation and the tragic loss of life." Kucinich added, "The United States must demonstrate a clear commitment to protecting civilian lives in Afghanistan, and the results of this investigation are vital to ensure that an adequate system of oversight and accountability is in place."

Kucinich warned, "If necessary, I will direct the request for information via a Resolution of Inquiry in the House of Representatives." A Resolution of Inquiry is a procedure to force a House vote to force the release of documents from the Executive Branch. Under House Rules, a Resolution of Inquiry must be referred to committee and acted upon within 14 legislative days.

While specifics about what happened hasn't really been adequately addressed yet, the new Pentagon policy apparently believes in at least taking responsibility for errant actions.

The Christian Science Monitor notes, "Another botched airstrike, another apology."

"In a video distributed Tuesday in Dari and Pashto, the main languages spoken in Afghanistan, the top NATO commander here Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he was sorry to the nation for 27 civilian deaths, after US special forces killed a convoy of Afghan civilians they had mistaken for insurgents. It was the coalition's deadliest mistake in six months," Julius Cavendish writes for CSM.

The article adds, "While public apologies by NATO have become almost commonplace - this was just one of half a dozen in the past 10 days, and the second by McChrystal himself - the push to admit mistakes and say sorry is unprecedented in NATO's nine-year intervention in Afghanistan. It fits into McChyrstal's new strategy that prioritizes winning over the population."

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