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What’s NATO Ever Done?


Wondering why anyone would confront NATO’s summit in Chicago this month? A look at some of its more well-known crimes might spark some indignation.

Desecration of corpses, indiscriminate attacks, bombing of allied troops, torture of prisoners and unaccountable drone war are a few of NATO’s outrages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere. On March 20, 2012 Pakistani lawmakers demanded an end to all NATO/CIA drone strikes against their territory. As reported in The New York Times, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Jalil Jilani said April 26, 2012, “We consider drones illegal, counter-productive and accordingly, unacceptable.” On May 31 last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave what he called his “last” warning against NATO’s bombing of Afghani homes, saying “If they continue their attacks on our houses … history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.”

While bombing Libya last March, NATO refused to aid a group of 72 migrants adrift in the Mediterranean. Only nine people on board survived. The refusal was condemned as criminal by the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog.

NATO jets bombed and rocketed a Pakistani military base for two hours Nov. 26, 2011—the Salala Incident— killing 26 Pakistani soldiers and wounding dozens more. NATO refuses to apologize, so the Pakistani regime has kept military supply routes into Afghanistan closed since November.

The British medical journal Lancet reported that the US-led unprovoked 2003 bombing, invasion and military take-over of Iraq—which NATO officially joined in 2004 in a ‘training’ capacity—had resulted in over 665,000 civilian deaths by 2006, and 200,000 in the UN-authorized, 1991 Desert Storm massacre led primarily by the US with several NATO allies.

On April 12, 1999, NATO attacked the railway bridge over the Grdelica Gorge and Juzna Morava River with two laser-guided bombs. At the time, a five-car civilian passenger train was crossing the bridge and was hit by both bombs. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused NATO of violating binding laws that require distinction, discrimination and proportionality.

NATO rocketed the central studio of Radio Televisija Srbije (TRS) in Belgrade, the state-owned broadcasting corporation, on April 23, 1999 during the Kosovo war. Sixteen civilian employees of RTS were killed and 16 wounded when NATO destroyed the building. Amnesty Int’l reported that the building could not be considered military, that NATO had violated the prohibition on attacking civilian objects and had therefore committed a war crime.

Headlines chronicle NATO’s crime spree 

“U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers.” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2012

“Drones At Issue…: Raids Disrupt Militants, but Civilian Deaths Stir Outrage.” New York Times, March 18, 2012

“G.I. Kills 16 Afghans, Including 9 Children In Attacks on Homes.” New York Times, March 12, 2012

“NATO Admits Airstrike Killed 8 Young Afghans, but Contends They Were Armed.” New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012

“Informer Misled NATO in Airstrike That Killed 8 Civilians, Afghans Say.” (Seven shepherd boys under 14.) New York Times, Feb. 10, 2012

“Video [of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters] Inflames a Delicate Moment for U.S. in Afghanistan.” New York Times, Jan. 12, 2012

“Commission alleges U.S. detainee abuse.” Minneapolis StarTribune, Jan. 8, 2012

“Six Children Are Killed by NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan.” New York Times, Nov. 25, 2011

“American Soldier Is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport.” New York Times, Nov. 11, 2011

“Pakistan: U.S. Drone Strike Kills Brother of a Taliban Commander.” New York Times, Oct. 28, 2011

“Afghanistan officials ‘systematically tortured’ detainees, UN report says.” Guardian, & BBC Oct. 10; Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2011

“G.I. Killed Afghan Journalist, NATO Says.” New York Times, Sept. 9, 2011

“Cable Implicates Americans in Deaths of Iraqi Civilians.” New York Times, Sept. 2, 2011

“Civilians Die in a Raid by Americans and Iraqis.” New York Times, Aug. 7, 2011

“NATO Strikes Libyan State TV Transmitters.” New York Times, July 31, 2011

“NATO admits raid probably killed nine in Tripoli.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 20, 2011

“U.S. Expands Its Drone War to Take On Somali Militants.” New York Times, July 2, 2011

“NATO airstrike blamed in 14 civilian deaths.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 30, 2011

“Libya Effort Is Called Violation of War Act.” New York Times, May 26, 2011

“Raid on Wrong House Kills Afghan Girl, 12.” New York Times, May 12, 2011

“Yemen: 2 Killed in Missile Strike.” Associated Press, May 5, 2011

“NATO Accused of Going Too Far With Libya Strikes.” New York Times, May 2, 2011

“Disposal of Bin Laden’s remains violated Islamic principles, clerics say.” Associated Press, May 2, 2011

“Photos of atrocities seen as threat to Afghan relations.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 22, 2011

“Missiles Kill 26 in Pakistan” (“most of them civilians”) New York Times, March 18, 2011

“Afgans Say NATO Troops Killed 8 Civilians in Raid.” New York Times, Aug. 24, 2010 

“A dozen or more” Afghan civilians were killed during a nighttime raid August 5, 2010 in eastern Afghanistan, NATO’s officers said. Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6, 2010

“Afghans Say Attack Killed 52 Civilians; NATO Differs.” New York Times, July 27, 2010

In June 2008, NATO bombers attacked a Pakistani paramilitary force called the Frontier Corps killing 11 of its soldiers. New York Times, Nov. 27, 2011

“Afghans Die in Bombing, As Toll Rises for Civilians.” New York Times, May 3, 2010

John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and anti-war group in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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