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Monday, October 22, 2007

"Collateral Damage" is No Defense

Glorious victory in Iraq, where things just keep getting better and better.

BBC News:

Forty-nine Iraqi "criminals" have been killed in three separate raids in Sadr City in the capital, Baghdad, the US military says.

"The operation's objective was an individual reported to be a long-time Special Groups member specialising in kidnapping operations," it said.

Among the criminals, righteously removed from existence by the forces of freedom and democracy, were "a woman and three children." Associated Press tells us of "the bodies of two toddlers, one with a gouged face, swaddled in blankets on the floor of the morgue. Relatives said they were killed when helicopter gunfire hit their house as they slept. Their shirts were pulled up, exposing their abdomens. A diaper showed above the waistband of the shorts of one of the boys."

The US military, however, claims absolute perfection. "Ground forces reported they were unaware of any innocent civilians being killed as a result of this operation," the military said. Clearly, the babies were insurgents, since they weren't innocent.

"We were waking in the morning and all of a sudden rockets landed in the house and the children were screaming," a witness said.

When you go to war, this sort of thing is literally impossible to avoid -- you're guaranteed to kill innocent people. The military always makes a point to say that it wasn't their intention to kill these innocents, but it's hard to think of a real good reason to give a damn what their intentions were. Dead is dead -- intentions are irrelevant.

Besides, how truthful is the claim that innocents killed in war are unintended consequences? If you take a course of action in which you know for an absolute fact that innocent people will die, can you really say later that it wasn't your intent to kill innocent people?

I'm saying no. Not with any honesty, anyway. We may not have intended to kill these particular people, but we knew innocent people would die. Far from being unintended, it was deliberate. You can't say that you didn't know non-combatants would be killed. The only thing you can say with any honesty at all is that you decided at the outset that these deaths would be worth it.

Someone's going to claim that these people were being used as human shields. The only logical answer to that is, "So freakin' what?" What difference does it make? People who make these arguments seem to see the US military as a supernaturally flawless force. No tragedy is ever their fault, because they cannot, possibly ever make a mistake. We knew at the outset that there would be a civilian death toll and we thought the action would be worth the price.

If you support this war, you support this kind of pointless, stupid death. Cowboy up and deal with it. You're probably a conservative, so take some damned personal responsibility. You knew it would happen and you thought we should go in anyway. If you want war, you want dead civilians. They go hand in hand and you can't have one without the other. The ends justify the means, right?

Even if the means are indiscriminate killing.

We can talk our way around this. We can put the blame elsewhere. But nothing will change the fact that it was American arms and an American trigger finger that put these kids into the hereafter.

This post is turning out to be a lot shorter than usual. I guess it's because it's such a simple concept. The gangster doesn't get off for shooting innocent people in a driveby because they weren't his targets. He'll get murder one for each, because he planned to kill.

The same principle applies here. We knew it would happen and we went in anyway. We can't say we didn't plan to kill innocents.


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