In a Machevellian-type of logic, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz justified the killing of Afghan civilians when a U.S. AC-130 gunship fired on several villages in Uruzgan province, July 1. Wolfowitz said, during a visit to Bagram air base, headquarters for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, “We have no regrets about going in after bad guys and there were some there.”

The 48 Afghan civilians killed, including women and children attending a wedding, and the 117 wounded in the U.S. attack, was a disgraceful debacle reminiscent of the Vietnam War, when the Pentagon’s outlook was you have to destroy a village to save it.

Wolfowitz, one of the most prominent hawks in the Bush administration, did not acknowledge the civilian deaths, saying, “We are always concerned when we believe we may have killed innocent people and we think that happened and we regret that.” A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation is underway.

The last investigation into the U.S. killing of Afghan civilians cleared the military of any wrongdoing. U.S. special forces killed 21 Afghans when they stormed buildings in the same province where this last attack took place. The Pentagon later acknowledged that none of those killed were Al Qaeda or Taliban, but Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld absolved the U.S. forces.

Estimates put the total civilian deaths in Afghanistan at over 3,500 since the bombing began Oct. 7, 2001. The Pentagon has never released civilian casualty figures.

“Demands have been made to give compensation to the families of Afghan civilians,” said Marilyn Bechtel, Communist Party USA international secretary, who visited Afghanistan in the early 1980s, “that’s a start. But the U.S. needs to pull its military out of Afghanistan and put the millions spent on continued death and destruction to rebuilding this impoverished, war-torn country under the auspices of the United Nations. The humanitarian need is great.”