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Mar. 28 2010 - 4:23 am | 2,160 views | 1 recommendation | 17 comments

McChrystal admits Afghan atrocities, press yawns

Commander of International Security Assistance...

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KABUL, Afghanistan — American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul.

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.

– via New York Times: Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints

This is an amazing admission. Here is General Stanley McChrystal, the highest ranking US military official in Afghanistan, openly admitting that the US military has killed a whole lot of people, none of whom posed a threat.

The Times goes on to say that this kind of indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians (euphemistically called “escalation of force”) might, perhaps, stoke some anti-American sentiment among Afghans.

I’m inclined to agree. Shooting innocent people at checkpoints isn’t a fantastic strategy to win the hearts and minds of civilians. Neither is occupying an autonomous country, killing hundreds in air strikes, and ruling that detainees (many of whom were tortured) have no legal right to challenge their possibly indefinite detainment even though Major General Douglas M. Stone, who was charged to investigate Bagram, has said that most of the detainees are innocent.

Side note: None of the checkpoint killings include shooting deaths caused by convoys guarded by private security contractors. If those deaths are added into the pool, the deaths are “far higher”.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I must point out that McChrystal admitted to a war crime. Under the Grave Breaches of the Geneva Convention, the US is guilty of numerous human rights violations, including

killing civilians

torture or inhuman treatment

causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health

depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial

unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement; and the taking of hostages.

Military brass and the warmongering elite usually skirt war crimes accusations by saying the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations aren’t conventional warfare. That is to say, the US is not at war with an official army, so anyone picked up on the battle field (which is the entire world in the War on Terror) isn’t a POW. They’re an enemy combatant who does not have access to the protections afforded to enemy soldiers under the Geneva Convention.

This is a tricky way to circumvent accountability, but even this clever interpretation of international law can’t cover the stink of McChrystal’s admission. The US is occupying Afghanistan, and while there, they are killing innocent civilians, says the highest ranking military official in the country.

But the elites need not fear. Even when Cheney admits to war crimes on the teevee, and McChrsytal casually drops the fact that American and NATO troops are killing all kinds of non-threatening Afghans, there won’t be any kind of trial for these criminals.

As for the UN, I’m really at a loss as to what their purpose is these days. They’ve been politely and dutifully keeping tabs on the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan as though keeping score in a cricket match. All of the focus appears to be on McChrystal’s failure to cut deaths, and not the fact that he admitted to killing civilians who posed no threat to the US.

Additionally, I can’t find any news outlet apart from the Times that picked up the story, and emphasized the innocent civilians part. Granted, I’m a bit removed from the bubble right now as I’m in Australia and don’t have access to the major news networks, so if anyone has seen additional coverage, let me know.


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  1. collapse expand

    The UN isn’t a democratic international institution where one country = one vote.

    Its action is determined by the permanent members of the Security Council, of which the major player is the United States.

    At this level, a single country can veto a bill, which is how Israel has gotten away with murder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council#Veto_power

    • collapse expand

      This is a good point. The US does hold disproportionate power in the UN, which is why you get things like the The World Court ruling in July 2004 that the wall Israel built in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal under international law, the wall has to be dismantled, and Israel has to pay compensation. The only dissenting vote was the US, and the wall has not been dismantled, and the compensation has not been paid.

      If the US votes nay, it doesn’t matter if every other nation votes in favor of a piece of legislation. The motion will fail.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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