For many years, ordinary men, women and children, at work at home and at school or in hospital are being killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and other countries, ignored by the mainstream ‘news’ media which prefers to feed the public with trivia about the Royal family and celebrities often featured in the Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ (short section, right).
Ten years ago AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH described the statistics for civilian deaths caused by pro-Government forces in Afghanistan as ‘simply appalling’:
“UN figures show that between January 2006-October 2009 2,139 civilians died in such circumstances (which is over 50% of the total killed by insurgents during the same period!). The number injured by NATO and its allies is not recorded, though it is likely to considerably outweigh the numbers of those killed”.
The author, Steve Beauchampé, pointed out that whilst fatalities and injuries amongst NATO forces are assiduously compiled and regularly reported in the British media, the coalition does not appear concerned enough to monitor the number of civilians they kill.
These deaths and injuries are ‘diminished and dismissed as collateral damage, the inevitable consequences of war’.
Many are killed by missile strikes; weapons launched from fighter planes, or increasingly from unmanned ‘Drone’ aircraft, the person who terminated or shattered their lives being safely ensconced in front of a computer screen in a US military base 8,000 miles away in Nevada, never seeing or hearing their mutilated victims or the effects of their actions, driving home to their family once their working day is over.
Nowhere is the description of the management of modern warfare better illustrated than in Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright’s account of his two months spent with US Marines during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 shows graphically how there are both competent and incompetent soldiers at all levels of the military hierarchy. Some were fearless and heroic, a credit to their country, some were way out of their depth, yet their judgments often meant the difference between life and death for those Iraqi civilians they encountered.
In Iraq as a whole, a substantial number of civilians (more than the current total for Afghanistan) perished at the hands of the very people who claimed to be their liberators.
Yet it seems few people of importance or influence in the west take the situation anything like seriously enough – certainly not politicians, newspaper editors nor radio or television news producers. Indeed one of the US’s first acts after invading Iraq was to arrange for the interim government they installed to grant immunity from prosecution for American military personnel for atrocities, including:
- families executed in cars when the driver failed to stop quickly enough at checkpoints;
- wedding parties blown up following inaccurate intelligence reports,
- houses, bomb shelters, educational establishments and even hospitals blasted to kingdom come
Civilian casualties are always high in military conflicts (usually higher than those suffered by the armed forces) and NATO‘s record is no worse than that of other armies in this regard. But there must be a line of accountability, especially in a world where those responsible for the killings claim such technical superiority and absolute moral authority.
If we can hold inquiries and apportion blame over the deaths of British service personnel then the least we can do is seek accountability for the killings by NATO forces of those innocent men, women and children unwittingly caught up in wars that the west chose to fight.
Or do their lives count for less?