90 civilians killed in August 21 attack on Afghanistan

U.S. Special Forces led an August 21 attack in the Heart province of Afghanistan that led to the deaths of 60 children and 30 adults, according to a U.N. report. From the NY Times report:

The bombing occurred around midnight, the United Nations statement said. “Foreign and Afghan military personnel entered the village of Nawabad in the Azizabad area of Shindand district,” it said. “Military operations lasted several hours during which airstrikes were called in.

“The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident,” the statement said, with seven or eight houses “having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others.”

The U.S. military had previously reported that civilians had been killed — five civilians, and they’re not budging from that number. But Afghan government investigators on the ground discovered there were more deaths, since an extended family memorial event for an elder was going on.  The U.N. sent human rights investigators who confirmed the higher figure, but the U.S. continues to argue that the lower number of civilians were killed. The families have explained that some folks who didn’t like them may have given false reports to the U.S. that there were fighters in the village, confusing the issue from the beginning.

The USA Today article reminds us of another painful detail from our work as an occupying army: that families are paid about $2,000 per family member killed (civilians presumably in error) by U.S. military operations. According to the USA Today article, that creates an incentive for people to exaggerate civilian casualties.

You know, if a policy like that existed here in the U.S., we would have fistfuls of outrage. But, the practice has gone on for years unabated in these war zones (here’s the Times reporting on these civilian condolence payments in 2007).

I think a lot about how we would respond to these situations if they were happening here. If bombs rained down from the sky here, and any children were killed, there would be some level of outrage, an in-depth investigation to establish whose figures are accurate, and a call to change whatever procedures could lead to any civilians being blown apart by bombs.

So, what will happen here? If I encounter any calls to action, I will post them.

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