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At Least 10 Civilians, 5 Children, Killed by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

Posted by Derrick Crowe on February 15th, 2010

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A few days ago a commenter on my blog took issue with my post, “Fallujah, New Orleans and Marjah.” Part of our disagreement focused on whether the Marines could precisely target their munitions. The commenter said in part:

What do you know about Marine Corps military operations? What do you know about the accuracy of any of the weapons in their arsenal? We are not talking about the CIA lobbing missiles at some Taliban bad guys from a UAV. We are talking about precision guided weapons.

I don’t often call out commenters like this, but at least 10 people including 5 children were butchered today because someone bought this kind of thinking in Marjah, Afghanistan:

An errant American rocket strike on Sunday hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians in the last Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, killing at least 10 people, including 5 children, military officials said.

…Officers said the barrage had been fired from Camp Bastion, a large British and American base to the northeast, by a weapons system known as Himars, an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Its munitions are GPS-guided and advertised as being accurate enough to strike within a yard of their intended targets.

The hype surrounding so-called “smart bombs” and “precision guided munitions” is one of the reasons Americans feel so free to go to war in civilian areas, and it’s one of the most pernicious pieces of misinformation spread by the pro-war crowd. These devices may be more precise than, say, a World-War-II-era blockbuster, but, as February 14th’s outrage shows, they are anything but foolproof. In fact, of the first 50 “precision” air strikes launched at the opening of the Iraq War, “All were unsuccessful.”

The public’s mistaken perception that the U.S. military can fire munitions into a civilian area without harming noncombatants makes many Americans much more willing to back the use of military force. For example, this war-industry hype helped convince the Society of Christian Ethics to declare the Afghanistan war a “just war” in 2002.

There is no such thing as a humane war, and our inability to admit this to ourselves just butchered more than 10 noncombatants, including 5 children.

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  1. [...] 10 afghan civilians killed in Marjah assaults- [...]

  2. [...] from: At Least 10 Civilians, 5 Children, Killed by U.S. Forces in … Tags: civilian-areas, hype-surrounding, pernicious-pieces, precision-guided, reasons, [...]

  3. ed lorenzo says:

    there is a large group of high military commanders that have opposed the military actions of the past ten years. Rumor is that a “Junta” (coalition) has been formed and would plan to take 'direct action' soon, also known as a revolution!
    This is top secret. Do not tell anyone!

  4. flashrob says:

    I think it's very important that you read this post… in order to combat these hawks on Afghanistan, you have to know how they are manipulating the American People in supporting a war, that is NOT FOR THE REASONS THEY TELL YOU… so see what I have to say about BOTH THE “REAL REASONS” FOR THIS WAR… and an obvious strategy, even if you accept THEIR REASONS…

    here it is, and feel free to spread it around, let's see how the MANIPULATORS answer this….


  5. Think of all the people who will want to retaliate because of this attack. How many people will make us their enemies? And what about all the other mistakes like this. We have to stop doing this. This is why there are such things as suicide bombers.

  6. Think of all the people who will want to retaliate because of this attack. How many people will make us their enemies? And what about all the other mistakes like this. We have to stop doing this. This is why there are such things as suicide bombers.

  7. ALFO says:


  8. ALFO says:

    Here is where you fall short with your arguement,what about all of the people that have been murdered by these same religous fools? how many enemies have they created? i'm 100% against this war/all wars,but let's be fair or is that just to much to ask.

  9. Double_D says:

    The U.S. Military never feels free to conduct combat operations among civilians. It is a horrible decision that military commanders have to make in these types of operations in Afghanistan. That is why this operation has been planned and worked out with Afghan military and government leadership. No one in the military has ever said precision weapons were perfect or will mitigate civilian causalities. If you can find some advertisement from the companies that make these munitions and guarantee that they will hit their intended target 100% of the time I would like to see it. It is impossible to insure no civilian casualties in a combat zone; urban or rural. Therefore the U.S. military plans there operations to the finest details and spends weeks getting the word out to the population that military is coming. This provides them the option to leave, find cover, or stay. Now in Afghanistan the people are so poor they do not have many options and may not have been able to leave. The Afghan government and military has set up places for the people to go in nearby villages. This has been planned and well thought out. However, it is combat and if civilians are in the combat area there will be casualties and deaths. This is horrible! There are very credible arguments that we should have never gone to fight in Afghanistan. But we are there and we need to work with the Afghan people to create a land where people can live as they want and not have a foreign power (U.S., Pakistan, Iran, or anyone else) or a tyrannical power (Taliban, etc) dictate how they run their lives. This is what President Obama wants and what the U.S. military wants. This has been planned very clearly by the administration and the NATO forces. It is a long way from finished and more civilians and non-civilians will be killed. It is a horrible price to pay but this is the path, right or wrong, that the international community has chosen. If it is abandoned now, there is no imagining how bad life will become in Afghanistan. The best thing we can do is ensure this does not happen somewhere else. After the Soviets left Afghanistan the world had the opportunity to help Afghanistan rebuild their nation, but everyone was so happy in the post Cold War grab for wealth we abandoned any humane notion of helping our brother less fortunate than us. We must not let other nations fall into the same disarray that the international community determines that military force is required. We need to be pushing our leadership to start assisting nation in Africa, Central and South America, and Central Asia to help them govern their nations justly and create an environment where all people can live and provide for their families.

  10. david corner says:

    Funny how we can be so articulate when it comes to pointing out the misdeeds of others and (justly) calling them terrorists while somehow the terror we inflict is moral and justified.

  11. david corner says:

    before calling somebody's argument as falling short, the numbers of innocent people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq is in no comparison to the casualties the west has suffered as a result of terror attacks.

    Your homework: go look up the numbers

  12. chowder12 says:

    that's your response? it's unfortunate? really, and if they were your children? Quit hiding behind terrorism….

  13. larmar says:

    A great big thank you to John McCain, Dick Cheney, and the military industrial complex.

  14. larmar says:

    Now over a million killed in Iraq alone because Duh-Ba-Ya lied about Sadam's connection to terrorism. Your math-justification is way beyond flawed.

  15. larmar says:

    How about we bring home our troops and have them guard airports, boarder crossings, and seaports?

  16. kat says:

    Smart bomb is an uber oxymoron.

  17. Double_D says:

    Articulate discussion is how we learn from each other, and perhaps figure out a way to help each other make this world just a little bit more livable. Is it morally correct to leave a nation to struggle and fail just because we do not live there? Does the United States as the wealthiest nation in the world have a moral responsibility to help other nations? I think we do. I agree Military Force is a strange way to help other nations. The United States has not always played the Military card very well. In fact we usually do not get it right. But, it is sometimes necessary to aid other nations. The good that our military does far outweighs the bad. Does that justify one death? No. That is the big debate. How can the United States make the world better through military force? How can the United States make the world better through no military force? Or do we just do nothing? I think doing nothing is the worst option. We are and should continue to be a leader in the international stage because we have the resources to help other nations less fortunate.

  18. david corner says:

    Somebody has been drinking a whoooole lot of coolaid!

  19. david corner says:

    You are mistaken articulate discussion for self justification.

    “Our military has done more good than bad”

    Now if only those ignorant non-believers would see that!

  20. treas says:

    I love how you fail to mention that Taliban within Marjah had successful efforts all across the city to keep civilians from fleeing–precisely so that civilian casualties could be exploited in this manner. Tell the whole story.

  21. Scott Wright says:

    Does anybody have a picture of this house, exact location showing the group of structures? Send picture or email to:

  22. Roy says:

    Actually, the U.S. encouraged all residents to stay in their home and not leave the are. The tribal elders were told that if people stayed in their homes that they would be safe. This was a promise from the Americans.

  23. Ken Hardy says:

    McChrystal admitted this am that the rocket DID NOT malfunction but was erroneously but purposefully aimed at the civilian house. Now, don't know what story he'll have tomorrow…

  24. Ken Hardy says:

    In the Siege of Falluhjah, if you are prepared for the facts, you know that US Marines complied with orders to fire upon civilians–including ambulances. Also they complied with orders from Bush to try to kill all foreign journalists in the city (they were reporting on and photographing the civilian carnage). The US bombed houses in civilian ares “thought” to be used by journalists.

  25. MT says:

    GPS guided munitions are only as good as the grid coordinates that are provided generally by a forward observer or other means. It is a tragedy that civilians, especially children were killed, but GPS guided munitions such as the ones used by the HIMARS will not detonate or explode until it reaches the target destination. Either inaccurate coordinates were given to the unit operating the equipment, differences in maps (datum info), or crew/fire direction personnel entered inaccurate grid coordinates.

  26. Double_D says:

    How many innocent lives were taken in Rwanda or Kosovo because the world stood by and let a few take the lives of many? Sometime military action saves more lives than inaction.

  27. davidcorner says:

    You got to be kidding me. You really seem to be hanging on to the myth that the driving motive of US foreign policy and military intervention is “to do good”. You want to compare apples with tomatoes to give your story the appearance of validity, your choice.

    The comparison you make between Rwanda / Kosovo and Iraq / Afghanistan is either the result of sheer ignorance or inability to let go of an emotional investment in the “we are noble” myth.

    If the US actions were really driven by humanitarian motives instead of protecting “American interests” (ever heard of that term?) you might want to ask yourself some additional questions.

    - Why did the US support Saddam both militarily as well as economically until no longer deemed in “American interest”
    - No problem with the Kurdish genocide committed by the Saddam regime except for the usual verbal condemnation but happily continuing supporting him (might want to read up on who your friend Rumsfeld was shaking hands with)
    - After the first invasion by King Bush I and encouraging a popular revolt against Saddam, the open rebellion was brutally squashed with no support forth coming from the West.
    - In spite being a brutal dictatorship (of which the US has and still supports plenty of in the world today) Iraq was a highly functioning society and relatively stable >> spare me the insult of having to pull out the statistics you yourself can easily find if you are so inclined

    Do facts really matter if no matter what, you have a story (and a good one for that matter) you cannot let go off? You really believe 9-11 was committed (or all the worldwide anti-American sentiment) by people jealous of our freedom according to Prince Bush the second?

    Take the red pill and start reading some critical account of US foreign policy the last 50 years or keep on drinking the coolaid. Your choice.

    If you seriously w

  28. trrhgnk123 says:

    I am a disabled Vietnam combat veteran and you are right the he_l on. The people who suffer the most in a war is the civilian whose country is the battle ground. Look at the civilian blood that spilled in the Nam for nothing. Here we are again, doing the same ol' thing. The U.S. plays a big game with situations such as Hait. They play big ol' humanitarian but then go and bomb the he_l out of civilians for power and profit. Don't ever blame the military for this crap. They are doing as told and what the American taxpayer keeps quiet and says nothing for. Blame the Bush/Obama war machine and their corrupt political cohorts who support this BS.

  29. Double_D says:

    Finally some articulate discussion. I didn’t want to expand my argument into an entire thesis if all I was going to get in return were insults. The driving force behind U.S. foreign policy is self-interests. This is also the driving force behind every other nation’s foreign policy. I believe we would both agree on that fact. Self-interests were why nation states were developed. To create strength and security of like-minded individuals who share similar cultures, location, and languages. The United States does not go out and “do the right thing” just for the sake of it. However, in the national interest of the United States some good things do actually happen. Is that how things should happen? I know on the personal level I should always do the right thing regardless if it is in my own interests. Does this directly correlate to the national level? It would be nice if it did, but I am not sure any nation operates that way.

    My comparison to Rwanda, Kosovo, and Afghanistan (I didn’t mention Iraq) was not out of ignorance. Poorly worded, yes. I was not trying to make a comparison but referring to the problem of non-action among the international community. We (the United States and other nations sanctioned by the United Nations) invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban who were providing training grounds for terrorist organizations. This was an action agreed upon by the international community. This was probably not the best way to try and attack a non-state entity but it happened. So we are now there. The government is a wreck because we made it that way, but that does not mean we should leave just because it is difficult. If NATO forces leave now, the government will most likely fail and the nation will become worse than before. I know we have not gone about this the right way. I wonder if it should have ever been attempted. (But we could “what if?” this for a hundred years and we would still end up where we are now.) One nation telling another nation how to run things typically does not work. It didn’t work for communism and it will not work for democracy. In President Obama’s State of the Union speech he never mentioned spreading democracy like his predecessor. That was a welcome change for many here in America and probably for everyone around the world. People cannot be forced into a democracy; they must develop it for themselves. I think we must stay in Afghanistan, not to make it a democracy. We need to help them provide security for their people so they can figure out what will work best for them. If we leave, the people of Afghanistan will not have time to figure out what form of government will work best for them. The Taliban will figure it out for them.

    Facts really do matter and I base my opinion on facts and reality. I agree with you that terrorist do not attack because they are jealous of our freedom. Thank you for your advice, but I already read and study critical accounts on many nation’s foreign policy. This problem is not unique to the United States. Additionally, I have traveled to many places that have had U.S. foreign policy “pushed” on them and I have also been to many places where U.S. foreign policy has been requested and warmly received by the majority of the nation. (I didn’t ask everyone if they approved of the U.S. but the overall response was positive)

    My question is: Since we acted in our own national interest in Afghanistan by attempting to deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan, don’t we have a moral obligation to remain in Afghanistan and help provide security (since we made it un-secure) for them to form a government that can provide security and stability for the Afghan people without the assistance or influence of other nations?

    I like this blog because it is challenging us to rethink our role in Afghanistan. If rethinking means just leaving, I do not think that is the right course of action. I think the President and his advisors have looked at the options and decided that a failed Afghanistan will not help the Afghan people nor the rest of the world. I think it is in our national interest and every nation’s interest (especially Afghanistan’s) that the Afghan people become capable of governing themselves.

  30. davidcorner says:

    Judgments yes, insults no. Either way your elaborate response deserves a reply.

    My last reply to you was in context of some of the opinions you shared in previous posts. I would not be interested in rehashing them if it wasn't that they reflect some of the (in my view) core illusions which underpin the mainstream paradigm when discussing the topic of Afghanistan (or for that matter any other foreign policy issue).

    Starting with one of your previous post below exulting in length the noble intentionality and precision by which the US military plans its missions, in my eyes already displays a fundamental bias and wishful thinking. (PS Ever heard of any country which claims the opposite?).

    An extension of this same popular mythology is that the US (or the west for that matter) are actually interested in promoting human rights and committed to using this as a primary measure in their pursuit of securing their national interests. If you would have to choose the core bedtime fable we lull ourselves to sleep with (literally) it has got to be this one. The whole notion of precision bombing plays in this respect an important propaganda function.

    On a side note it is interesting to have witnessed the rather clinical discussion about “shock and awe” as a fundamental new way of waging war (promoted in the same vein as being more “civilian friendly”). What is really unremarkable but shouldn't be is that never any reference was made to its historic precedent; the “Blitzkrieg”. The difference is the emphasis the Germans made on the tactical execution and saw no need to mask it with a humanistic PR line to sell it to a lollipop hungry citizenry.

    The suggestion that we cant push democracy on others no hard we try (more of the “us is good”) is the preferred storyline and with good reason. Looking at the actual policies and foreign policy legacy of the US (i.e. West) in supporting either directly or indirectly the most brutal regimes if it was believed American interests were best served, the emerging picture becomes a lot less pleasant. Democracy being the war cry and moral cover for our foreign policies.

    Interestingly as part of the ongoing fairy tale we talk about the noble prince who was bestowed with the mission of slaying the big bad monster in a far far away country as decreed by the council of noble kings. This elaborate theater play works great until low behold there is actual resistance to what the king of kings decrees who subsequently simply declares the council irrelevant as done in the case of Iraq. To pull out the UN legitimicy card is just one more indication of not being able to see past the smoke and mirrors of the artificially manufactured truth.

    One way of framing the Afghanistan discussion is according to the preferred “our intentions are noble” myth from which the “now that we are there…..” line of reasoning makes perfect sense.

    An other way of looking at the American (foreign) involvement is within the context of its historical pursuit of strategic political dominance in order to control access to important resources, irregardless of human rights considerations or access (let alone control) to these same resources by the population of the contries in question. (There has been much written on the subject but one of the most chilling and honest insights has to be “The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski.)

    The rational to keep (US) forces in Afghanistan because we cant leave is I more self delusional reasoning to avoid having to deal with the real motivations and consequences of American policy choices. This argument is intrinsically connected to what drives these initial policy choices in the first place and one is simply the logical extension of the other.

  31. davidcorner says:

    Invading other countries with a sense of entitlement and self righteousness > hallmark of the perpetrator. WE SHOULDN'T BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!

  32. A NATO statement said a “large number” of insurgents were killed in the Wednesday … Now Zad was the scene!

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