As Interdependence Day approaches, the United States humbly admitted error
in bombing a wedding party in Afghanistan, killing around 40 people and
injuring more than 60. Bombs and rockets in our country symbolize a
celebration of freedom, but in other parts of the world, these explosions
are all too real, bringing carnage, death and grueling efforts to survive
destruction of homes and livelihood.
This error, undoubtedly labeled 'collateral damage', stands next to a
smattering of misguided bombs which have inadvertently and regrettably
killed hundreds of civilians in numerous countries over the past few
years. As reported by the BBC, during the current Bush administration's
war on terror in Afghanistan, U.S. planes accidentally killed four
Canadians in April, bombed the town of Hazar Qadam in January, fired at a
caravan of tribal elders en route to the inauguration ceremony for Hamid
Karzai and last October hit a residential area in Kabul rather than the
intended helicopter at the airport. Oops.
For the pilots and American citizens, these mistakes are akin to losses
while playing a video game. From afar, with targets merely illuminated
points on a screen, the people who die are unreal, just numbers and
statistics. When we kill by remote control, our hands are theoretically
clean. The computer won't show blood and won't cry; it's a machine, an
The people affected by our ubiquitous blunders, however, are terribly real,
as is their pain. In February of 1991, during the Gulf War, U.S. planes bombed
a women's and children's shelter in Baghdad called al-Amiriya. Hundreds of civilians
died as a result of the two bombs hitting this supposed-safe haven. The U.S. apologized
after realizing what happened, but still continues to bomb the country, even in
the past week.
The rhetoric about a "new war" with Iraq is a farce. We are already at war
informally with them. Friday June 28th we dropped bombs in the South of
Iraq. Wednesday the 26th of June as well. On Thursday the 20th of June
four people in Iraq were killed when U.S. planes bombed them. Eighteen
people were wounded when bombs fell on Iraq on the 25th of May. And
another four were killed when we bombed Iraq on February 6th. I'd imagine
that Iraqis feel attacked and besieged as bombs continue to fall in an
undeclared, ongoing, indefinite war that inevitably targets civilians.
When I tell people this, they invariably say, "Where'd you hear this? Why
didn't I know about it?" It's in the news, alright, but it's just hard to
find. These statistics get buried in the middle of stories about deposing
Saddam Hussein and vilifying his evil acts.
"But Saddam kills his own people!" He did this in the 1980's as well when
he was our friend. We just turned a blind eye then. Besides, we kill our
own people, executing hundreds of people since the death penalty was
reinstated in 1976. The crime of a state murdering its own civilians looks
different when it's on our own soil.
Incidentally, these bombs that rain down on Iraq are illegal under
international law. They were not approved by Congress nor by the United
Nations. The United States justifies dropping bombs as we unlawfully
patrol Iraqi borders enforcing the bogus "no fly zones." Iraqis have
become sadly accustomed to the noisy air raid sirens.
You cannot achieve peace through war. The United States cannot continue to
be proud guardians of weapons of mass destruction and deify their usage,
apologize for their errors and claim that we are the land of the free and
the home of the brave. Do these mistakes which take innocent lives make us
safer or prove our strength or our liberty? Is it righteous or noble to
kill unarmed guests at a wedding? Moreover, to what end are we still
bombing Afghanistan - has it brought us closer to capturing Osama bin
Laden? Has enough justice not been rendered on the citizens of Afghanistan
to make up for the loss of lives on September 11th?
We are not alone on this small planet, a fact that ought to be in the
hearts and minds of all Americans as the nationally celebrated holiday
approaches. We drive automobiles made in Japan, drink coffee from South
America, wear clothes made in Southeast Asia, buy oil from the Middle East
and Africa and import furniture from Sweden. Even our fireworks are made
On July 4th, millions of American children will be lighting sparklers and
tracing their names in the night sky. They should also trace the names of
any of the thousands of displaced Afghani children, due to the bombings,
who are still refugees on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They
should trace the names of the Iraqi children who are their same-age
counterparts, held captive under the sanctions and threatened almost daily
by U.S. bombs. On Interdependence Day, each and every one of us is
affected by an errant bomb.
Leah C. Wells serves as Peace Education Coordinator for the Nuclear Age
Peace Foundation. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.