Saturday, April 11, 2009

With God On Our Side?

There was an ugly admission yesterday by the U.S. that forces in the Khost Province killed "four combatants," and that one of those killed was a woman.

And on Good Friday, too, the Defense Department confessed that the four Afghans slain were not soldiers, but "a mother and three of her children." Also wounded in the attack was a baby, who was later to succumb to his injuries.

As more details emerge, it appears that the house under siege was that of an officer in the Afghan National Army. It was his family that was slaughtered. Furthermore, U.S. officials now say that the family does not appear to have been involved with any military action.

Mistakes do happen in any combat operation, of course, but these killings represent a dangerous new pattern which is now emerging in which civilians, in Afghanistan, are being targeted because they are erroneously considered combatants. A week ago, two farmers were gunned down by U.S. forces for being out after curfew.

This blurring of boundaries between civilian and militant, good and evil, right and wrong is spilling over onto our city streets as we see, daily, an escalation in random, and senseless, gun violence. That human life has become just another commodity to be traded in exchange for some ever elusive ideology is unconscionable, whatever that ideology may be.

International outrage is already growing as the rest of the world does not confuse our war crimes with acts of valor. There must be an investigation into what has just happened in Khost Province just as there was in Haditha, Iraq. How many more shoes must be flung at American presidents before we get the picture that those countries we claim to be rescuing from evil have had it with the evil we inflict.

We ask that the Obama administration step forward, call for an inquiry into these killings, and demand accountability from those who were involved. Anything less is unacceptable. We have still yet to see anything even closely resembling accountability result from the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians at Haditha.

Given that the administration announced, on Friday, that it intends to follow former president George W. Bush's lead in denying Afghan prisoners the right to challenge their detention in Afghanistan military prisons in U.S courts, one would hope that President Obama will distinguish himself from his predecessor by ensuring that anyone in uniform who takes a civilian life has to answer for it.

In the end, those who claim to be fighting terror and instead inflict terror on others cannot reasonably claim to be acting with God on their side. We can no longer confuse the almighty with the almighty buck, and expect the rest of the world to buy into it. The introduction of independent contractors, like Blackwater, who fight side by side with our soldiers, has led to the kind of miitary deregulation that can only result in moral bankruptcy, and the kind of piracy that holds world peace as hostage.