Sunday, May 10, 2009

Human Shields

Our enemies in Afghanistan are still working on nullifying our air power:

A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation confirmed that an unspecified number of civilians died in a southern Afghan battle local officials say killed dozens of villagers, but the initial findings released Saturday appeared to blame Taliban militants who used locals as "human shields."

Heavy fighting took place in two villages in Farah province over several hours Monday and Tuesday, a joint statement said. It said U.S. forces responded to a call for help from Afghan forces, and that militants attacked the troops from several locations around the villages.

It said troops called for airstrikes on the militant positions.

"The investigation suggests that villagers had taken refuge in a number of houses in each village. Reports also indicate that Taliban fighters deliberately forced villagers into houses from which they then attacked ANSF (Afghan security forces) and Coalition forces," a statement from the U.S. coalition said.

Neither the U.S. nor Afghan forces took responsibility for killing civilians in Saturday's statement, but appeared to lay the blame on militants.

"The joint investigation team strongly condemns the brutality of the Taliban extremists deliberately targeting Afghan civilians and using them as human shields," the statement said.

Ralph Peters isn't happy about the script that our enemies write, the media reports, and too many in the West believe:

THE most effective weapon terrorists have found to wield against us isn't the headline-grabbing suicide bomber or even the deadly roadside bomb, the IED.

Such weapons can harm us, but they can't stop us. Terror's super-weapon is the lie.

Lying about civilian casualties is the one sure way to impede or even halt US (or Israeli) operations, to force such tight restrictions on our troops that they can't win.

The casualty con's so effective as both propaganda and tactic that terrorists everywhere have adopted the technique. It's been so successful that our enemies long ago transitioned to the next phase: creating civilian casualties and blaming us.

It works. The media love the charge. Our troops and pilots are always guilty -- even if proven innocent. Because so many on the left want us to be guilty.

Few journalists bother to investigate. If the Taliban, al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas says it, it must be so. In Media Wonderland, terrorists never lie. Now every successful strike on a Taliban target generates the instant claim that the dead were all civilians.

Even if some in the administration think we just air raid villages and kill civilians, Secretary Gates understands the situation, as he explained in answering a question about the latest accusation against our forces:

The -- first of all, I'm well aware of this. And as I have -- have said many times before, we -- from the United States and our coalition partners -- do everything we possibly can to avoid civilian casualties.

Representatives of General McKiernan and the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior have gone to Farah to investigate what happened there. The information that you cite about Taliban throwing grenades into houses to create civilian casualties and put the blame on the United States is a report I have heard. But I think we will have to wait -- to wait and see what the results of the investigation are.

We regret any -- even one -- Afghan civilian causality -- innocent civilian causality, and we will make whatever amends are necessary. And I believe that Gen. McKiernan's spokesman, in fact, has already expressed regret about this incident, regardless of who caused it.

We all know that the Taliban use civilians casualties, and sometimes create them, to create problems for the United States and our coalition partners. We will have to wait and see what happened in this -- in this particular case.

But I would make one additional point.

Since the beginning of this year, civilian casualties in Afghanistan are down 40 percent. Casualties American, coalition partners, and Afghan security forces are up 75 percent.

So I believe that the Afghan government, the Americans and our international partners are doing everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. And we will continue to do that.

Even in cases where our bombs are involved in killing Afghans, the actual responsibility lies with the Taliban for using human shields. It is simply not right to just assume death by our bombs means our responsibility:

It is responsibility that is the question. And here the UN does a great favor to the Taliban by placing the blame on them for just 55% of the deaths. The 277 deaths from small arms and artillery, presubably, and 552 airstrike deaths are assumed to be fully the fault of the United States and our Afghan allies.

The airstrikes especially are usually part of the enemy's propaganda campaign to silence our planes that devastate Taliban groups roaming the countryside. But when the enemy fights among innocent people, it is not our fault if our bombs kill nearby innocents when we target combatants. We are not obliged to hold fire against the enemy just because innocents are nearby. Nor is not our fault if civilians aiding the enemy are later proclaimed to be innocents by the Taliban when the UN teams and reporters come around with cameras and notebooks. These deaths properly should be apportioned to the Taliban for responsibility.

We choose to avoid striking to reduce the deaths, but we are under no legal obligation under the laws of war to hold fire as a routine matter and put our troops at risk. This is all about triggering their integrating air defense media system:

We had to supply Stinger surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to Afghan resistance groups in the 1980s to blunt Soviet air power. Today the Taliban just needs to deploy their intergrated global air defense system--the media. Yet if we fail to adapt, we make it more difficult to keep public support in Afghansitan and at home to continue the fight.

As Secretary Gates notes, Afghan civilian casualties are actually down. And if you think it is because our enemies are fighting cleaner rather than our forces accepting risks to fight more carefully, I have no use for you.

Always remember, civilian casualties are the point of enemy attacks. Civilian casualties are something we try to avoid even if it poses some risks to our troops. By the bizarre logic of the world, our failure to be perfect is something to condemn even as our enemies get a free pass on their behavior that intentionally kills civilians.