This October marks twelve years since the invasion of Afghanistan. While many Americans can cite the more than 2,200 Americans killed and the billions of dollars spent on that war, even those who are vociferously antiwar often fail to discuss, or even comprehend, its catastrophic effects on Afghan civilians. In part to remedy this collective ignorance, The Nation created an interactive database detailing Afghan civilian deaths by United States and coalition forces. As the project documents, the United States military has often been inadequate to the task of accounting for the lives lost in its armed conflicts.
Currently, the Department of Defense does not have an office dedicated to tracking and reducing civilian casualties. As a result, lessons often fail to become institutionalized and the military risks repeating its mistakes. As Robert Dreyfuss and Nick Turse write, “The American people, the media, academia and think tanks all have a role to play in demanding that, in any future wars, the United States place the highest priority on avoiding civilian casualties and, if they occur, on being accountable and making amends.”
Someday we may live in a world where war and militarization are rare, but, until then, we must demand the protection of innocent life when conflicts happen. Sign our open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking him to implement a permanent office at the Pentagon dedicated to monitoring and preventing civilian casualties.
In their introduction to The Nation’s special issue on Afghan civilian casualties, Nick Turse and Robert Dreyfuss detail the difficulties of gauging the true toll of the war on Afghan civilians.
In a video for Foreign Affairs, Center for Civilian Casualties Executive Director Sarah Holewinski describes the challenges facing organizations who advocate for civilians in war zones.