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On Accountability And Massacres

Posted by The Agonist on May 27th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

News of the massacre of civilians at Houla in Syria on Friday has outraged all right-thinking people. Despite Syrian official denials of responsibility and news that civilian pro-Assad militias were responsible for what has been called an “appalling and brutal crime”, the Assad government is being held directly accountable.

Rightly so. The Syrian government is the body responsible in international law for ensuring the safety and security of its citizens and all the buck eventually stops there, no matter who actually carried out this atrocity. Either every attempt must be made to ensure “Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account,” as the UN statement put it, or Assad and his officials must be.

But the many calls for regime change fuelled by the news of this massacre are a step too far, and when coming from the West hypocritical to boot.

ISAF, led by NATO which is in turn led by the US, is the security mandate holder for Afghanistan. Just like the Assad government’s final responsibility for the safety of its civilians, the final buck for the safety of Afghan civilians stops at the White House – technically, no matter who does the killing, but especially when US forces themselves are responsible for outrageous crimes.

Just today, six children and two women were killed by an ISAF airstrike. As usual, NATO denied the killings – and just as usual, NATO will subsequently admit them and pay a modicum of compensation. It’s hardly the first such massacre or even the most outrageous. In 2009 a US night raid killed eight children in cold blood. In 2010, US forces in another night raid shot three pregnant women, dug the bullets from their bodies with knives and tried to blame insurgents. No one was ever prosecuted for either of these war crimes. U.S. Special Operations Forces killed well over 1,500 civilians in night raids in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011 and of the 739 children killed in Afghanistan in 2010 over 120 were directly attributable to NATO action. Atrocities committed by the US-led coalition in Afghanistan are at least on a par with those committed by the Assad regime. Yet the number of people charged with crimes, let alone given any kind of meaningful sentence once convicted, is miniscule in relation to the number and size of “appalling and brutal” crimes. The citizens cannot even hold the criminals accountable through their own legal system, since the US and its allies insist on immunity from local prosecution.

Them’s just the facts.

The number of governments calling for UN sanctions, weapons-running to opposition groups and regime change in the US or UK? None.

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