Imagine you are a parent living in a war zone. A happy life is hardly a reality but you are surviving by keeping your head low and cooperating with no one and everyone. One day you venture out of your house for an hour to pick up flour for the next month. When you return your house, and the family you left there, you find it has been completely destroyed. Your children, your spouse, your life scattered around your land like rubble. You, and your family, have become victims of air strikes.
Whether in Kosova in the 90’s, or Afghanistan & Iraq today – air strikes are deadly to civilians and they have devastating effects on infrastructure for years to come. I’ve seen it. I’ve walked, ten years after the war, through the streets in Prishtina, Kosova where bombed hospitals sit empty and unused in an area where a mammography machine would save lives from breast cancer. I’ve lived in a house held up by makeshift beams and gutted on one side because a missal exploded 5 feet from the front door in 1999.
This month we’ve had new insight into the multinational forces (MNF) responsibility for civilian causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan. October was the deadliest month for civilians in Afghanistan and air strikes played a significant part. Last Sunday 60 minutes did a report on this very issue. They found a family who was suspected of harboring terrorists and bombed to death by multinational forces. The family was never confronted or warned to get out. The villagers claim those died never had anything to do with insurgents. MNF bombed without proof – they just bombed. President Karzai came out publicly in that program condemning air strikes. Bush touts Afghanistan as a victory and an explanation of what we are doing in Iraq. And yet, “while the enemy has killed hundreds of civilians this year, a similar number of civilians have been killed by American forces. With relatively few troops there, the U.S. and NATO rely on air power. The number of civilians killed in air strikes has doubled.” Where is the victory in that?
In Iraq we have less information because the MNF refuse to be open about the civilian causalities. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq recently released a report which deals with civilian causalities. I’ll simply quote the highlights of page 9. “UNAMI recorded a number of incidents in which 88 civilians were reportedly killed during air strikes conducted by MNF forces.12 They included the following: nine civilians killed in five villages in the al-Anbakiya area near Ba’quba on 11 March; two civilians killed in Dulu’iya in Salahuddin Governorate on 15 March; 16 civilians killed in Sadr City in Baghdad on 30 March; 27 civilians killed in Khaldiya, Ramadi, on 3 April…..:” the list goes on for another 30 or so lines.
If we cannot stop this war let us at least stand up for the people who suffer from it on a daily basis. I urge you to contact your representatives and tell them to work with the UN to report these atrocities. We must bring the crimes of this war to light. The only weapon we have now is shame and the best way to shame our own government is to align ourselves with an international power.