Obama on Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan: “I Am Accountable”

Jeremy Scahill, of ‘The Nation, asked, how are President Obama or Gen. McChrystal accountable? The fact is that they are responsible by covering them up and blaming the Taliban, but they will not (even though they should) be held accountable. Obama and McChrystal can proclaim how ‘accountable’ they are all they want, but it is just not true.

Why are they not held accountable? Scahill writes:

Afghans have little, if any, recourse for civilian deaths. They cannot press their case in international courts because the US doesn’t recognize an International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over US forces, Afghan courts have not and will not be given jurisdiction and Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear that the Justice Department will not permit cases against US military officials brought by foreign victims to proceed in US courts. So, what does it mean to be accountable for civilian deaths? Public apology? Press conferences? A handful of courts martial?

Today, Obama and Afghan President Karazi held a press conference, during which, Obama said:

“Because of Gen McChrystal’s direction, often times they’re holding fire, they’re hesitating, they’re being cautious about how they operate even though it would be safer for  them to go ahead and take these locations out.”

Scahill asked, how does that square with recent, heinous instances of civilian killings in Afghanistan? Citing examples, such as, Scahill writes:

In February, for example, US special forces shot and killed five people, including three women who collectively had 16 children. The US military tried to cover it up and blame it on the Taliban, saying coalition forces “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.” The New York Times reported that military officials had “suggested that the women had all been stabbed to death or had died by other means before the raid, implying that their own relatives may have killed them.”

Later, General McChrystal’s command admitted US-led forces had done the killing, saying it was an accident. This was hard to square with reports that soldiers may have dug bullets out of the dead bodies to try to cover it up. The head of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven, eventually apologized to the family of the dead Afghans and offered them two sheep as a condolence gift. Was this accountability?

It must be easy to say you are ‘accountable’ when you know there is no possible way to actually hold you accountable.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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