Massacres Expose Another Reason to End Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

The bylaws and directives of this war allow our Army helicopter gunners to shoot at unarmed Reuters photographers, and military convoys to fire on busloads of civilians in Afghanistan, and U.S. Special Forces to murder pregnant women and teenage girls in Iraq.

The recent exposes from Iraq and Afghanistan--with their shocking
images, appalling laughter, and video-game ethos--would have shocked
the conscience of the nation in an earlier era. After all, when what
happened at My Lai was exposed during the Vietnam War, it shocked
millions of people who hadn't been thinking very much about the war.

My Lai was hardly the first, and probably not the worst, U.S.
massacre of civilians in Vietnam. Vietnam's casualties were
exponentially higher than Afghanistan's. Still, when the reports came
out, they hit the front pages. In today's wars, exposes are mostly
relegated to page 13 of The New York Times, and there's no
evidence so far that any consciences were particularly shocked. The
Pentagon responded that all the helicopter pilots and gunners had
operated within the official rules of engagement. No rules were broken.

And the Pentagon is probably right. The rules of engagement probably
weren't violated. The bylaws and directives of this war allow our Army
helicopter gunners to shoot at unarmed Reuters photographers, and
military convoys to fire on busloads of civilians in Afghanistan, and
U.S. Special Forces to murder pregnant women and teenage girls in Iraq.

Of course the official rules of engagement don't actually say that's
okay. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in
Afghanistan, has been talking a lot about his concern over killing
civilians. He doesn't talk much about the danger to the Afghan
civilians themselves, he talks mostly about how dangerous killing
civilians is to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

He's apologizing a lot these days, because U.S. troops are killing
so many Afghan civilians. General McChrystal really is sorry.
Protecting civilians really is our top priority. It's the fog of war,
the split-second decisions that our young soldiers have to make.

He's partly right. Most of these young soldiers are from rural areas
and small towns, drafted into the military by the lack-of-jobs draft,
the lack-of-money-for-college draft, the lack-of-any-other-options
draft. They're themselves victims of George W. Bush's, and now
President Obama's, war, sent to kill and sometimes die in a war that
will not make them or their families safer, a war that is impoverishing
their own country even as it devastates the countries in which they
fight.

General McChrystal can apologize all he wants, but
counter-insurgency and the U.S. "global war on terror" are all about
sending U.S. and a few NATO troops to kill Afghans in their own
country. No surprise that sometimes--often--they kill the "wrong"
Afghans. The split-second decisions are dangerous and difficult and
sometimes impossible. But why does the U.S. military get to decide who
are the "right" Afghans to be killed in their own country, anyway?

Does anyone still need to ask, "Why do they hate us?" The only ones
these wars make safer are the war profiteers pocketing billion-dollar
contracts--and the politicians pocketing campaign contributions in
return. These wars don't make Afghan or Iraqi lives better. Their cost
is devastating our economy, and there's no military victory in our
future. The sooner we acknowledge that, and start withdrawing all the
troops, drones, and planes, the sooner we can begin to make good on our
real debt--humanitarian, not military--to the people of Iraq and
Afghanistan.

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