The fruits of liberation

The lives of six more Afghan children are extinguished with an air attack as the responsible nation yawns

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(updated below)

In Afghanistan — yet again:

Six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Thursday.

Those Afghan government officials claimed that the aircraft were chasing “insurgents” when they fired on the children, but the villagers and the children’s families — as usual — insist that is false:

 The victims were members of two families.

Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children who were killed, disputed the government’s version of the attack. He said his relatives were working in fields near their village when they were attacked without warning by an aircraft.

His brother-in-law, Mohammad Rahim, 50, had his two sons and three daughters with him. They were between 4 and 12 years old and all were killed, except an 8-year-old daughter who was badly wounded, Mr. Samad said.

“There were no Taliban in the field; this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines,” Mr. Samad said. “I have been to the scene and haven’t found a single bit of evidence of bombs or any other weapons. The Americans did a serious crime against innocent children, they will never ever be forgiven.”

I read about the death of these children yesterday and had decided not to write about it because I don’t have anything particularly new to say about it, but then all day, that decision irritated me because it just seems wrong to allow this to go unobserved (and in Southern Afghanistan, “NATO” in the vast majority of cases means: “American”). Whichever version is correct, the U.S. devastated these families forever and ended these children’s lives in a region where even U.S. officials say that there is a grand total of two Al Qaeda leaders and the group is “operationally ineffective.”



What’s particularly notable, I realized, is how we’re trained simply to accept these incidents as though they carry no meaning: we’re just supposed to chalk them up to regrettable accidents (oops), agree that they don’t compel a cessation to the war, and then get back to the glorious fighting. Every time that happens, this just becomes more normalized, less worthy of notice. It’s just like background noise: two families of children wiped out by an American missile (yawn: at least we don’t target them on purpose like those evil Terrorists: we just keep killing them year after year after year without meaning to). It’s acceptable to make arguments that American wars should end because they’re costing too much money or American lives or otherwise harming American strategic interests, but piles of corpses of innocent children are something only the shrill, shallow and unSerious — pacifists! — point to as though they have any meaning in terms of what should be done.

This kind of thinking would, I suppose, be viable if these were very isolated incidents. But they’re not. All in the name of a single, one-day attack more than a decade ago, the U.S. has spent more than ten years slaughtering Muslim children in numerous countries in all sorts of different ways, and we continue to do it unabated — see here, here, here, here, here, and here as just illustrative examples. All this as The Washington Post demands regime change in Iran, national security reporters start casually calling for war in Syria the way most people ponder their lunch options, and it is reported today that the U.S. is escalating its drone attacks and other proxy war fighting in Somalia. At some point, doesn’t a country’s ongoing willingness year after year to extinguish the lives of innocent human beings in multiple countries, for no good reason, seriously mar the character of the country and the political leaders responsible for it, to say nothing of the way it inexorably degrades the political culture of the nation and the minds of the citizens who acquiesce to it? That should be nothing more than a rhetorical question. The gap between how many Americans perceive of their nation’s role in the world and the reality is indescribably wide.

* * * * *

Two questions which this episode raises: (1) why do they hate us?; and (2) why won’t those ridiculous, silly, unreasonable liberals — you know the dreary type: those “in their fifties with a ponytail” – swoon for President Obama the way career New Republic writers do? As we’ve been taught this week, liberal disenchantment with their Commander-in-Chief is a towering, baffling mystery because there is simply nothing rational that can explain it.

 

UPDATE: The U.S.-led effort to overturn the ban on cluster bombs, which I wrote about here, has apparently failed. I wonder if Democratic defenders of the administration will consider this development to be a failure or a success?

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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