The war in Afghanistan may (or may not) be winding down by 2014, but the drumbeat of civilian casualties goes on in Libya, Afghanistan and worldwide drone attacks, especially in Yemen and in Pakistan.
Before we get to the latest news on the sage of Afghan deaths caused by US and NATO military action, listen to Marc Garlasco on his investigations into civilian casualties in Libya and Afghanistan. Garlasco served as chief of the UN unit in Afghanistan dedicated to monitoring and investigating civilian casualties in that war, and last year he worked in Libya tracking the results of the NATO bombing campaign on civilians. In a Washington Post op-ed, he describes futile efforts to get NATO to acknowledge and investigate incidents of dead civilians, even though the secretary-general of NATO “said in March that the operation in Libya caused no confirmed civilian casualties.” By Garlasco’s own on-the-ground work, that isn’t true. He says:
In August 2011 laser-guided bombs dropped by NATO forces reduced three homes in Majer, Libya, to rubble. The strike killed 34, the largest loss of civilian lives from a NATO attack; 38 others were wounded. As the head of the U.N. investigating team for all NATO activity in Libya, I sifted through the debris and makeshift memorials in the small rural village near Misrata while interviewing survivors, trying to piece together what had happened. It didn’t make sense—NATO hit the homes and returned for a follow-up strike, killing the rescuers who were frantically digging for survivors minutes after the first bombs struck. A pilot using laser-guided bombs would have been able to see the rescuers at work.
Garlasco notes that overall civilian casualties in the Libya operations were relatively low, which makes it even more puzzling that NATO is being so uncooperative. At least nine incidents in which civilians died have been discovered, yet, he says, “NATO refused to discuss those incidents or provide gun-camera footage and questioned why the United Nations was investigating.”
That’s in contrast to Afghanistan, notes Garlasco, where reluctantly the United States and NATO are at least willing to acknowledge killings, and often apologize and make amends. (That wasn’t true early in the conflict there.)
Last Wednesday, a US-ordered airstrike killed at least nineteen civilians. I blogged about it last week, noting President Karzai’s angry denunciations about the unchecked use of American air power to strike what was clearly a civilian home where, it appears, woman and children were visible to the US pilots and Special Forces on the ground. Reports the Guardian: