Break the silence on civilian deaths

The capitalist press has been shy about revealing the toll the “War on Terrorism” has exacted on the innocent in Afghanistan. Those residing in the U.S. are not being told about the devastation that U.S. bombs are raining down upon innocent civilians.

Yet some in the U.S. media openly debate the merits of torture as a means of fighting terrorism, and the U.S. rightwing-led government attempts to dodge the Geneva Convention rules regarding the treatment of prisoners of war on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A Dec. 10, 2001 report by Marc W. Herold, professor of economics, international relations and women’s studies at the University of New Hampshire, documents that in a two-month period more than 3,800 innocent people were killed by U.S. bombing attacks.

Herold’s sources were eyewitness accounts from international media and other documented tallies as reported in the international press, using cross-corroboration – comparing one source to another.

Herold documents how Afghanistan has “been subjected to a barbarous air bombardment which has killed an average of 62 civilians a day.”

The U.S. media report that bombs are dropping only on targets with military significance. Herold states that, “In many instances, U.S. bombs fall on spots without any military significance.”

For example, on Oct. 8, 20 Afghan civilians living near the Kandahar airport were killed during a U.S. bombing raid “on a radio station.” On Oct. 25, a U.S. bomb hit a commuter bus at Kabul Gate, in Kandahar, and 10-20 passengers were incinerated. In early October, 13 women in the gynecology department of the Wazir Akbarhan Hospital in Kabul were killed. As many as 200 people were killed in a hospital in Herat.

Who are the Afghan civilians? Are they also human beings? Excerpts from the Jan. 1-15 edition of The People’s Voice (Canada) gives insight into who those humans are. The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 43 years.

The average annual per capita income is $180, ensuring lives of grinding poverty. Only 13 percent of the total population has access to clean drinking water. The literacy rate is 20 percent. The infant mortality rate is 247 deaths per 1,000 live births. On average, 16,000 mothers die in childbirth every year – one out of every 17 births – a shocking statistic.

According to the report, two U.S. jets repeatedly bombed the farming village of Karam in Nangarhar province on Oct. 11. The village consisted of some 60 mud dwellings. Those bombs killed at least 160 civilians.

Sixty kilometers north of Kabul, on Nov. 17, U.S. bombs killed two entire families – one of 16 members and the other of 14.

Afghan rescue personnel have been killed by “repeat bombing.” The Sultanpur mosque in Jalalabad was bombed during prayer. As neighbors struggled to free 17 victims of the U.S. bombing raid, the bombers returned, resulting in the deaths of 120 more people.

To kill those civilians is as much a crime as the act of criminality that took so many lives on Sept. 11. Murder is murder.

The weapons and tactics of mass destruction used by the U.S. include fuel air bombs, B-52 carpet bombing and CBU-87 cluster bombs. The use of those weapons refutes the propaganda, fed by the media, Pentagon and White House, that civilian deaths are by accident.

The U.S. media focus on “targeted” bombing sanitizes the reality of what is going on. Cluster bombs were used early on and their use belies the concept of “targeted” bombing. Each cluster bomb contains hundreds of smaller “bomblets” that contain razor shrapnel designed to rip into human beings.

The Geneva Convention rules prohibit cluster bombs precisely because of their indiscriminate nature. Those bomblets that do not explode are then nestled into the ground unexploded, becoming booby traps for the innocent of Afghanistan.

Herold said, “From the point of view of U.S. policy makers and their mainstream media boosters, the ‘cost’ of a dead Afghan civilian is zero as long as these civilian deaths can be hidden from the general U.S. public. In order to make the Afghan War appear ‘just,’ it becomes imperative to completely block out access to information on the true human costs of this war.”

The greatest tribute to be paid to those killed in the U.S. on Sept. 11 is to recognize the true horror of murder and to refuse to remain silent in the face of murders being committed in our name against innocent civilians. Or else we also become terrorists.