Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, demands ‘real accountability’ for the U.S.-led coalition’s mounting death toll of Afghan civilians — notably the May attack on Farah that killed 130-140 civilians, including up to 95 children where the U.S. military concedes to making ‘significant errors’.
The attack in question was on 4 May of this year, reported best by Jeremy Scahill in his blog as the “single largest number of deaths caused by a U.S. bombing since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001” as President Obama was saying one thing and doing another, simutaneously, as he does best:
Standing between Hamid Karzai and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday, Obama said the U.S. would “make every effort” to avoid civilian deaths in both countries (which are regularly bombed by the U.S.). But as he was making those remarks, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was arriving in Kabul on Wednesday “to make sure that preparations were moving forward for the troop increase and that soldiers and Marines were getting the equipment they needed.”
Colonel Greg Julian, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, refused to comment on the reported outcome of the investigation, but said the death toll given by Afghan police was “grossly exaggerated”.
“There were civilian casualties no doubt,” he said on Friday after U.S. military and Afghan teams returned from a joint investigation in Farah.
“But the conclusion from the investigation has not been reached, and it’s inappropriate to indicate one way or the other how they were caused.”
Yesterday, the NYT reported that the U.S. military concedes to making “significant errors” in its air strikes:
A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the air strikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.
In each case, the senior military official said, [Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III] determined that the targets that had been struck posed legitimate threats to Afghan or American forces, which included one group of Marines assigned to train the Afghans and another assigned to a Special Operations task force.
But in “several cases,” the official said, General Thomas determined either that the air strikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing runs.
Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. military concedes the air strike as “overkill”, but still thinks only “26 civilians were mistakenly killed”. Jeremy Scahill blogged a follow-up yesterday where he concluded with a message to his readers:
This is a story that should not be forgotten and it should not be swept under the rug of impunity. The victims of this bombing deserve justice and there must be accountability for those responsible.
Press TV reported today that the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston:
… expressed strong concern on the “deeply troubling” problem of preventable civilian casualties in Washington’s mounting pilotless drone attacks on the territory of other states.
“The [U.S.] government should track and make public the number of civilian casualties,” he told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday, demanding “real accountability based on credible independent investigations.”…
“The U.S. government should disclose the legal basis for such killings and identify any safeguards designed to reduce collateral civilian casualties and ensure that the government has targeted the correct person,” he emphasized.
U.S. diplomat Lawrence Richter dismissed Alston’s remarks…
Yesterday, an Afghan journalist named Noorjahan Bahir was arrested by the U.S. military, but gave “no details” as Pres. Obama’s Afghan surge leader, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, “Casualties will likely increase.”
Indeed, Mr. Scahill, this is a story that should not be forgotten.