Afghanistan: Tragedy meets Hypocrisy

Posted: August 14, 2008 in Uncategorized

Taliban insurgents killed three humanitarian aid workers and their driver yesterday in an attack that is being condemned, rightfully, as murder.

Dead are two Canadians, Jacqueline Kirk (left) and Shirley Case, an American, Nicole Dial and an Afghan, Mohammad Aimal.

By all accounts, they were decent, loving people who didn’t deserve what was done to them.

Prime Minister Harper expressed the feelings of many when he said during a visit to eastern Newfoundland: “I want to first of all express my condolences to the families of these murdered humanitarian workers. This is obviously an outrage, a terribly brutal act, which I think should remind everybody of the brutality of the Taliban and the danger that everybody there faces — not just military people but all those who are there trying to help rebuild this country.”

I’m sure Harper is sincere, and that he never stopped once to wonder why Afghanistan needs rebuilding. I also suspect he never once considered what responsibility he might bear for the deaths of civilians and combatants on both sides of this conflict.

I suspect this of our Prime Minister because I don’t recall a time when he has publically expressed sympathy for any of the unarmed men, women and children killed by Canadian and other NATO soldiers over the past seven years.

Perhaps he has, and I missed it. On the other hand, perhaps he is unaware and just needs to be reminded. Well, given that he doesn’t have time to read my blog, maybe someone can pass it along to him. Better yet, pass along the Open Letter that Peace Alliance Winnipeg sent to Gary Doer this week; it has the stats I am going to quote below, and much much more.

Afghan Death Toll

The precise number of Afghans killed since 2001 is difficult to determine, but is safe to assume that tens of thousands have died needlessly.

  • Writing in The Guardian in 2002, Johnathan Steele suggested that up to 8,000 direct deaths and 20,000 indirect deaths could be attributed to the invasion. The American Project on Defense Alternatives, which speaks of “adapting military policy to the opportunities of the new era”, puts the 2001-02 civilian death toll much lower, between 1,000 and 1,300.
  • Dr. Marc W. Herold, of the University of New Hampshire, has estimated that American bombing had killed between 3,100 and 3,600 civilians by Oct, 2003.
  • According to Agence France Presse, about 1,700 people were killed in 2005, “many of them militants.” A report by Human Rights Watch said that 4,400 Afghans had been killed in 2006, more than 1,000 of them civilians. Some 2,077 militants were killed in Coalition operations between September 1 and December 13, 2006.
  • More than 7,580 people were killed in 2007, including: 1,980 civilians, 926 Afghan policemen and 4,478 militants.
  • To date, in 2008, about 2,700 Afghans have been killed, including 960 civilians.

The Peace Alliance notes: “Let us not forget that Canadians are active participants in the killing of Afghan civilians as well as combatants. Reported civilian deaths include a taxi driver, a 10-year old boy, an elderly motorcyclist, two young children (aged 2 and 4, a young motorcyclist and his baby brother, an Afghan National Police officer and a homeless beggar, a Toyota driver, a taxi passenger, and a motorist. Given the obvious limitations on reporting in a war zone, this likely represents the minimum number of civilians killed by Canadians.”

One of 6 civilians killed by a US bombing raid in March 2008.

Does the death of Afghan civilians justify the death international aid workers? No. But remembering them helps us get some much needed perspective. And perhaps it helps us see, more clearly, through the hypocrisy of our political leaders in a twisted world where we mourn “our” dead and fail to acknowledge the deaths of the people “our” soldiers kill.

Canadians will continue to join Afghans in violent death until we compel our government to withdraw Canadian troops and work for international peace.

Let us pause to mourn the war dead of all nations. You can get acquainted with some of these victims by visiting the Afghan Victim Memorial Project.

And then, let’s get to work on building peace.

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