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U.S. soldier makes a radio call in this battlefield file photo. (Credit: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force)

Friendly? All Deaths Are Shameful in a War That Shouldn't Be

Rory Fanning

Twenty-four hours after reading the news that five U.S. soldiers were killed in yet another friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, I fear this response is already old news.

And it is old news, Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire 10 years ago last April. It has been 12-years since the first friendly fire incident occurred in Afghanistan, when an American fighter pilot dropped a 225-kilogram laser-guided bomb on four Canadian soldiers in what is known as the “Tarnak Farm incident.” 

It has been said countless times that friendly fire is an inevitable fact of war. Time called the friendly fire incident that happened on Monday in Afghanistan, "a curse of the technologically advanced." A curse is something that is out of the control of the alleged cursed. The US is in complete control of its actions in Afghanistan. What we need to start saying and hearing is, ‘friendly fire is an unnecessary fact during unnecessary wars.‘

There have been 25 officially reported friendly fire incidents since 2001 in Afghanistan.  However, after the cover up of Pat Tillman's death we can only assume there have been more. This officially reported number does not include the unspecified number of innocent Afghans who have been killed or captured and sent to Guantanamo indefinitely as a result of bad U.S. intelligence, outright negligence, or war crimes. Anand Gopal reports extensively on this largely unacknowledged number in his latest book No Good Men Among the Living. The capture and detention of innocent Afghans is something I can attest to firsthand. 

US taxpayers have spent $557 billion between 2001 and 2011 on the war in Afghanistan, as Gopal reports in his book. Most of this money was spent after the Taliban had surrendered, and al-Qaeda had fled to Pakistan following the initial US invasion in 2001.  In light of these facts polls now show that only 14% of Americans have a favorable view of the war in Afghanistan. 

Declaring a war unnecessary and thus unjust does not diminish the sacrifices of the young soldiers who died in them. Most soldiers do the best with the information they are given by their chain of command and the media they are exposed to. However, 12 years into this war there is little justification for any US soldier to be fighting in Afghanistan. Thus there is no excuse or inevitability in these ongoing friendly fire incidents. 

If we don’t label something by its real name then it will happen again. What is happening in Afghanistan is imperialism not self-defense. Those who continue to die in friendly fire incidents in Afghanistan do so unnecessarily. 


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Rory Fanning

Rory Fanning

Rory Fanning, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion, became one of the first U.S. Army Rangers to resist the Iraq war and the Global War on Terror. In 2008–2009 he walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation. Rory is the author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America and co-author of Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter. He has bylines at Common Dreams, The Guardian, The Nation, and TomDispatch. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from the Chicago Teachers Union to speak to CPS students about America’s endless wars and to fill in some of the blanks military recruiters often ignore about America’s endless wars. As a sponsored lifetime member of Veterans for Peace, Rory has traveled multiple times to Japan on speaking tours to express solidarity with those seeking to abolish nuclear weapons and close U.S. military bases around the world. Rory currently lives in Chicago and works for Haymarket Books.

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