Civilans Are Not “Collateral Damage”

By Mohammad Raza

In the wake of yet another tragedy involving the loss of innocent lives, this time a mass shooting in Oregon, President Obama noted “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Somehow, reports of civilians being murdered whether due to misdirected airstrikes or college campus shootings have become commonplace in the news. Typically, the lost lives of these civilians are dismissively referred to as “collateral damage.”

How can we consistently attack civilians and call it collateral damage? Only two weeks ago, a U.S. AC-130 fighter jet bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the morning of October 3rd, with officials within the organization noting it as a “sustained bombing” that lasted for an hour.

This bombing in Afghanistan is another example in a long series of Obama’s failed foreign policy initiatives to address the War on Terror.

Military officials have changed their story on the reason for the bombing four times in the past few days. These are four different narratives, each a lackluster excuse for the war crime committed by the United States. These actions not only reflect a severely damaged foreign policy, but also demonstrate a resounding lack of integrity in the Obama administration.

The only consistency in these four stories is that the Taliban was using the hospital as a front for their operations. Doctors Without Borders, otherwise known as Médecins Sans Frontières, deny that claim. Jason Cone, MSF’s executive director, also added that “all parties [to the] conflict, including in Kabul & Washington, were clearly informed of precise GPS Coordinates of MSF facilities in Kunduz,” and that the “precise location of MSF Kunduz hospital [was] communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over past months, including on 9/29.”

After the smoke cleared, twenty-two people had been killed, including three children, with  many others wounded. The UN Human Rights chief has denounced this attack, calling it “tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal.”

We should rightfully be outraged by this event; the loss of innocent lives, the incompetence that leads to the bombing of a charity medical facility, the misuse of our military forces and most importantly, the way our government portrays the killing of innocent people by their cold-blooded hands. To add to the outrage, the President has tried to avoid an independent investigation, agreeing only to an investigation by the three parties that jointly committed the act: NATO, The White House and the US Military.

Aside from an obvious conflict of interest, we should be outraged by the refusal of an investigation as well. It just adds to the list of inconsistencies that have officially come out of the White House on this issue.

Even if this issue was contested in a court of law and the government was proven guilty through an independent investigation, the ICC cannot convict the US on any accounts because this War on Terror, which has cost millions of innocent lives over the past fourteen years, is not a war according to the Geneva Accords. The Geneva Accords, which  set up the international rules and standards of war, state that war can only be defined as an “aggression between two states.” And even if the country could be convicted on the grounds of war crimes, the ICC does not have jurisdiction to try the US because they are not a member state. Such regulations and loopholes allows the US to go unchecked in its actions. We must demand the international community to take charge against the well known bully of the world. No one country should ever have so much power that they can routinely get away with actual war crimes. Action must be taken and our government needs to be held accountable.

 

Mohammad Raza is a second-year political science major. He can be reached at razam1@uci.edu.