Monday, March 31, 2008

"Collateral damage" means dead civilians; let's call a spade a spade

Last week in my Iraqi geography post I pointed out the location of Hillah without saying why I mentioned it. Amid the many posts I was juggling there was mention of some violence there, so I wanted y'all to be able to find it. Well, here is an unhappy follow-up on why I pointed to Hillah.

Jesse Wendel at the Group News Blog has put up a post titled "Children and Others Dying in Iraq Recently" with what might pass for a subtitle: "How Many Dead Babies Does It Take To Make Us Quit Killing Them?" The narrative data shared there are sobering, to say the least. Wendel's goal is to transform our awareness and behavior.

Gorilla Guide, quoted by Wendel, says this:
Babil Governorate:

More than 60 people allegedly all armed were killed in the American aerial bombardment of Al-Askari and Nader in central Hilla but there is a problem:

The problem is that it is a lie. It a STUPID lie. It’s the sort of STUPID LIE that only an American military spokesman would tell.

Were you stupid enough to believe anything the Americans are saying about them knowingly killing women and children?

The attack was by Apache aircraft on al-Askari, Ahmed Nader and Muhaizem neighbourhoods.

Gunmen like the children in the screen grab with caption from the Sadrist site nahrainet [that you see at the top of this post -- Jesse.]

Al Askari, Ahmed Nader, and Muhaizem are all heavily populated areas.

It is physically impossible to heavily bombard a densely populated civilian area without killing a lot civilians.

The Americans killed a lot of civilians.

Civilians like the women and children you see to the left. The caption incidentally cites “dozens” of dead women and children.

Eyewitness accounts speak of seeing 25 bodies, including many women and children. They also talk of 35 people being evacauted as seriously wounded and that again many if not most of these were women and children. Two doctors in the local hospital who refused to be identified said to one of our local correspondents that many of these were expected to die.

According to local people the scale of destruction is enormous, they speak of families being wiped out, there are reports of 6 houses turned to rubble, many other houses rendered uninhabitable and of multiple secondary explosions from the fuel tanks in cars.

It is worth noting that an American base is nearby. It is also worth noting that the local police are members of the Badr brigade and that they have repeatedly been reported as committing serious atrocities in the three neighbourhoods which are very deprived even by present day Iraki standards and are overwhelmingly Sadrist.

UPDATE: The GZG governor is trying negotiate with Sadrist leadership in Hilla. Local sources the fighting is as heavy as ever.

And according to the the American spokesman the people killed were 60 gunmen.
My posting this should not be understood as any kind of attack on American troops. They are caught up in the horrors of war. I pray for our troops, I respect our troops, and I support our troops by calling for decent pay, adequate equipment, proper training, sufficient rest, wise deployment, and top-notch medical and psychological care when they return, with the benefits they deserve. I thank vets for having served. I am in no way attempting to portray them as villains or monsters, nor do I see them that way.

I do wish to hold up the true nature of war, however, and the consequences of it, for those on all sides. The ugly reality is that more than shit happens in war; all hell is unleashed. Participants witness, and often are actors in, horrendous atrocities. Even when one tries to behave honorably that is not always an option. When facing a kill-or-be-killed situation, when defending one's siblings in arms, when trying simply to do a job and live to come home some day, the choices are often limited and frequently there are no good options.

More people should read Chris Hedges' book "What Every Person Should Know About War." It is full of very realistic, frank information. I just read how the tearing of a major artery can lead to sufficient loss of blood in one minute to die. Injury to a blood-rich organ like a liver could lead to bleeding to death within hours. Here is a tidbit to ponder:
How dangerous is war for civilians?
Very dangerous. Between 1900 and 1990, 43 million soldiers died in wars. During the same period, 62 million civilians were killed.... In the wars of the 1990s, civilian deaths constituted between 75 and 90 percent of all war deaths. (Hedges, page 7)
If a factual and cogent argument were being made that dropping bombs in Iraq is making us safer, I have not read it.

It is naive in the extreme to think that every casualty of our actions is a "terrorist" or "insurgent."

The American people needs to be aware of and face the reality of the Iraq War.

--the BB

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