Collateral Damage V

DD vs CC? Denial and Deception versus Civilian Casualties. The war in Afghanistan proceeds with claim and counter-claim dancing a sickeningly predictable duet as the circus rolls on and the civilian casualty list rises steadily.

International aid agencies, the international media and the Taleban on one side, accusing, the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence on the other, denying. The truth, as always, lying somewhere in the grey zone in the middle, as the victims, as ever the innocent, the poor, the unprotected, the have-nots, fall.

The results of the bombing raids on October 28th, the heaviest of the 22 days of this campaign by the US/UK alliance, were an unconfirmed number of military installations destroyed, along with the lives of 15 civilians, nine of whom were children, in a suburb of Kabul, according to the Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

These deaths occurred at 08.00 MSK on October 28th as bombs were launched by US military aircraft on civilian areas of Kabul. It is also apparent that the Taleban anti-aircraft capacity is functional, if not intact, according to eyewitness reports.

The previous day, October 27th, a bomb dropped behind the lines of the anti-Taleban alliance killed one civilian and injured seven others, at 16.30 MSK in Khan Agaha in the Kapisa valley, 80 kms. north of Kabul.

Modern warfare treads a delicate tightrope between what is termed as DD (denial and deception) and CC (civilian casualties). For the attackers, the trend is to accuse the defenders of exaggeration. For the defenders, there is every advantage to be gained by highlighting hospital tours, bloodstained dolls and pictures of children, along with wailing, mourning mothers, for the media circus to follow.

It is immaterial that, for example, the same photograph was paraded more than once in Iraqi funerals, or than the same bloodstained doll was seen at different venues in Yugoslavia. The point is that certainly in Iraq children were killed and certainly in Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan, civilian casualties are a reality.

The Pentagon itself refers to the attack on the Djakovica refugee column as “an unfortunate incident”, according to a senior defence official at a press briefing on October 24th. Regarding Afghanistan, it claims that the truth is hard to glean due to the fact that data on this country is extremely scarce and that military wrecks could date from the 1980s, since this country has been at war for the last 20 years.

In intelligence circles, there is an old saying: “We do not know what we do not know”, or, in the words of a Pentagon Staff officer in the press conference of October 24th, “There are reports – we are taking a look at the reports we are seeing that come out in local media reports, the reports that we see come out in the media”.

If that makes sense, the bombing of innocent civilians does not.


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