Team America Kills Five Kids in Marja

casualties are inevitable
," said U.S. officials before launching
their weekend military assault on Marja in southern Afghanistan, and
in this case, they were telling the truth. Yesterday, the New York
a U.S. rocket strike "hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians...
killing at least 10 people, including 5 children."

What justification has been provided by the government of the United
States for its decision to kill these five children?

It will be argued that the government of the United States did not
decide to kill these five children
specifically, and that's absolutely true.
The U.S. government did not decide to kill these particular children;
it only decided to kill some Afghan civilians, chosen randomly from
Marja's civilian population, when it decided to launch its military
assault. These five children simply had the misfortune of holding
losing tickets in a lottery in which they did not choose to

Recall the U.S. government's instructions
to Marja's residents
before the assault:

Afghan villagers should stay inside and "keep their heads
down" when thousands of U.S. Marines launch a massive assault on a
densely-populated district in coming days, NATO's civilian
representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday.


NATO forces have decided to advise civilians in Marjah not
to leave their homes, although they say they do not know whether the
assault will lead to heavy fighting.

These five kids were staying inside, as instructed. It didn't save
them from U.S. rockets. Perhaps they weren't keeping their heads down.

Having advised civilians to stay - helping ensure the area remained
heavily populated during the offensive - U.S. forces bore an extra
responsibility to control their fire and avoid tactics that endanger
civilians, Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch told

"I suspect that they believe they have the ability to
generally distinguish between combatants and civilians. I would call
that into question, given their long history of mistakes, particularly
when using air power," Adams said.

"Whatever they do, they have an obligation to protect
civilians and make adequate provision to alleviate any crisis that
arises," he said. "It is very much their responsibility.... They are
going to be carrying the can if this goes badly."

"Avoiding such civilian deaths...has been a cornerstone of the war
strategy" by General McChrystal, the Times informs us. If
that's literally true, then McChrystal's strategy has failed
spectacularly. But perhaps we're not meant to understand this
statement literally. Perhaps what this statement means is that
McChystal's strategy is to undertake the same military actions as
before, and even to escalate them, but to change the rhetoric about
them, in an effort to tamp down the outrage that might result from
U.S. actions.

It's not too late for the United States to change course. These five
children are gone forever, but other children in Marja can still be
spared. Tell
President Obama and Congress to protect civilians in Marja
, as the
United States is required to do by the laws of war.

If the United States cannot protect civilians from its military
operations - as it is apparently either unable or unwilling to do -
then the war should end. According to the repeated statements of
senior U.S. officials, the way that the war is going to end is through
negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, so those negotiations should commence

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