FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Civilian Casualties: Theirs and Ours

by William Blum

The question is now upon us.

Who killed more innocent, defenseless people? The terrorists in the United States on September 11 with their crashing airplanes? Or the American government in Afghanistan the past ten weeks with their AGM-86D cruise missiles, their AGM-130 missiles, their 15,000 pound “daisy cutter” bombs, their depleted uranium, and their cluster bombs?

The count in New York and Washington is now a little over 3,000 and going down steadily. The total count of civilian dead in Afghanistan has been essentially ignored by American officials and the domestic media, but a painstaking compilation of domestic and international press reports by University of New Hampshire professor Marc Herold, hunting down the many incidents of 100-plus counts of the dead, the scores of dead, the dozens, and the smaller numbers, arrived at 3,767 through December 6, and still counting.

Ah, people say, but the terrorists purposely aimed to kill civilians (actually, many of the victims were military or military employees), while any non-combatant victims of the American bombings were completely accidental.

Whenever the United States goes into one of its periodic bombing frenzies and its missiles take the lives of numerous civilians, this is called “collateral damage” — inflicted by the Fates of War — for the real targets, we are invariably told, were military. But if day after day, in one country after another, the same scenario takes place — dropping lethal ordnance with the knowledge that large numbers of civilians will perish or be maimed, even without missiles going “astray” — what can one say about the intentions of the American military?

The best, the most charitable, thing that can be said is that they simply don’t care. They want to bomb and destroy for certain political ends and they don’t particularly care if the civilian population suffers grievously. Often, the US actually does want to cause the suffering, hoping that it will lead the people to turn against the government. This was a recurrent feature of the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. US/NATO officials freely admitted this again and again.

Now let’s look at the September 11 terrorist hijackers. They also had a political purpose: retaliation for decades of military, economic and political oppression imposed upon the Middle East by The American Empire. The buildings targeted by them were clearly not chosen at random. The Pentagon and World Trade Center represented the military and economic might of the United States, while the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania may well have been aiming for the political wing, the White House. Destruction of these institutions — powerful both symbolically and in actuality — was the purpose of the operation. And the resulting casualties? In the hijackers’ view, these people could be seen as collateral damage. The best, the most charitable, thing that can be said is that the hijackers simply didn’t care.

In reaction to some awful photos of Afghan victims of US bombing that appeared in the US media, the host of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Brit Hume”, in a November program, wondered why journalists should bother covering civilian deaths at all. “The question I have,” said Hume, “is civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they’ve been?”

Mara Liasson from National Public Radio was direct: “No. Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable.”

Fox pundit and U.S. News & World Report columnist Michael Barone had no argument. “I think the real problem here is that this is poor news judgment on the part of some of these news organizations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says, news. The fact is that they accompany wars.”

But, if in fact the September 11 attacks were an act of war, as we’re told repeatedly, then the casualties of the World Trade Center were clearly civilian war casualties. Why then has the media devoted so much time to their deaths?

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Portions of the books can be read at: http://members.aol.com/ superogue/homepage.htm (with a link to Killing Hope)

More articles by:
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail