The recent release by Wikileaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable, which sheds new light on a 2006 attack in which U.S. troops massacred at least 10 civilians, is riveting attention on the horrors visited on innocent civilians by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In March 2006, U.S. troops raided a house in Ishaqi, Iraq, killing at least 10 civilians, including four women and five children under five years of age. The troops claimed they called in airstrikes that destroyed the house where an al Qaida in Iraq leader was hiding.
But a report by a regional security center staffed by U.S.-trained Iraqi police - and Iraqi civilian eyewitnesses - said U.S. troops entered the house and killed the civilians before calling in the airstrikes. Autopsies showed all had been handcuffed and then shot.
The raid came just months after a widely publicized November 2005 incident in which U.S. Marines killed two dozen Iraqis in Haditha, in northern Iraq, including at least 15 civilians. (After extensive legal proceedings charges were dropped against all but one of the Marines accused in the incident.)
In July 2007, in a raid over a Baghdad suburb, U.S. airmen killed a dozen Iraqis, including two who worked for Reuters News Agency, falsely claiming they encountered a firefight. A secretly made video of the raid, showing airmen laughing after the killings, was later released by Wikileaks. Its release is among allegations against the now-jailed Bradley Manning.
As we know, these and other highly publicized incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Many thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have become "collateral damage" since U.S. forces first invaded those countries starting nearly a decade ago.
The most fundamental thing, of course, is to end those wars and bring all U.S. troops and contractors home. The Obama administration has taken steps in that direction, by ending U.S. troops' combat role in Iraq, and ordering withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan.
But these steps are just the start, and are being undermined by pressure from the Pentagon and others to retain large numbers of troops and contractors in both countries long-term.
All of us among the large majority of Americans opposing the wars need to step up vigorous actions to end them.
At the same time, an investigation by a high-level independent commission, of all these incidents and many more, in both Iraq and Afghanistan is urgently needed.