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20 Dead Taliban, 80 Dead Villagers

Bombing Without Regrets

by DAVE LINDORFF

US A-10 attack planes earlier this week bombed an Afghan village in the dead of night for several hours, killing nearly 100 people, at least 16 of them acknowledged to have been innocent men, women and children.

The Pentagon is claiming that 20 of the dead were Taliban fighters, though the accuracy of that information is open to question since the Pentagon is also claiming that as many as 60 others of the dead "may have been" Taliban fighters. Of course, they equally may not have been.

Now, in a version of the notorious brutal cop’s claim that the victim of his abuse "kept ramming his head into my baton," Pentagon spokesman Col. Tom Collins says, "The ultimate cause of why civilians were injured and killed is because the Taliban knowingly, willfully chose to occupy homes of these people."

Notice that he’s not even saying that the victims invited or allowed the Taliban into their homes. In fact, according to reports, it appears that the Taliban forced their way into civilian homes in order to try to escape U.S. attacks. What were people supposed to do? Tell these desperate armed men to please go away? Isn’t this kind of what the British were saying to justify their massacres of American colonists?

What Collins and the Pentagon conveniently forget is that the Geneva Codes require military forces to adhere to the doctrine of proportionality. If an enemy hides among non-combatants–especially where these include women and children–the attacking force must forgo attacking unless there is a compelling military justification. To take an extreme case, it would clearly be a war crime to bomb a school full of children just to kill a single enemy soldier hiding in the building.

Since the U.S. knowingly bombed houses in a village and killed at least 16 and wounded another 15 Afghan civilians in this latest attack, and since the military says it has only confirmed killing 20 Taliban fighters, it’s understandable that the Pentagon would be trying to claim another 60 Taliban deaths. A ratio of 16 civilians for 20 enemy fighters is hardly "proportionality." It is more properly called a civilian massacre.

And people keep asking this stupid question: Why do they hate us?"

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book, "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is due out May 1.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com