Google News 09/20: U.S. drone strike kills 30 Afghani farmers

Innocent civilians are among the victims

Farid Alsabeh

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A group of pine-nut farmers in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan were targeted by a U.S. drone strike last week, in an attack that has angered local residents and provoked fierce criticism from human rights groups.

A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan acknowledged the incident, saying:

“U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against Da’esh (IS) terrorists in Nangarhar. We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.”

An official from the provisional government also stated that ISIS militants were the intended targets of the attack, but neither he nor the American source is confirming that non-combatants — i.e., innocent civilians — were among those killed.

According to a report by Reuters, local Afghanis are adamant that innocent laborers were among the victims and even protested against the U.S. government during their funeral.

It’s likely that these deaths will be categorized as collateral damage, a euphemistic term for all unintended consequences of U.S. military actions. By saying so, our government will be arguing that the death of innocent civilians was not a goal, but rather, a tragic and unexpected consequence of a legitimate military operation.

Of course, that’s a good thing. We might otherwise make civilian deaths an explicit goal (like a terrorist group who wants to maximize their impact) or at least remain indifferent to them (like an ethnic supremacist who regards the lives of certain civilians as worthless).

But obviously, our standards ought to be higher than that of terrorists or warlords. And as last week’s strike reminded us, we need to be vigilant and keep our military accountable for what position they take on the possibility of civilian deaths.

As signatories to the Geneva Conventions, we affirm that civilians are a legally-protected group during war. But as the concept of collateral damage shows us, some degree of civilian death can be accepted so long as the perpetrator denies any intentionality.

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