A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths a statistic, argued the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. For the United States and its NATO allies, the killing of 52 Afghan civilians, at least 12 of them young children and two women, May 28 in another airstrike is merely another statistic in the “war on terror.”
And if the killing of civilians in the bombing of a residential compound in Helmand drew angry protests and “warnings” by President Hamid Karzai, they were predictably followed by “sincere apologies” by the coalition saying “top priority is given to prevent civilian casualties and it takes such cases very seriously.” Karzai thunders he has repeatedly warned the coalition against air raids that kill innocents and this is his “last warning” to the coalition. And the White House says it takes “Afghan concerns very seriously,” adding, “we work very hard to avoid civilian casualties.”
We have been here before of course. We have seen many such “warnings” by the Afghan president and many such “apologies” by the coalition. Media pundits and human rights groups will express their “outrage” for a day or two and move on. Little will change on the ground. The farce goes on — until there is another airstrike killing more innocent people.
The truth is, the world has grown weary of this decade-long war and doesn’t really care two hoots whether it’s Taliban insurgents or innocent civilians who are wiped out by the indiscriminate U.S.-NATO bombings.
What’s going on in Afghanistan today is resistance against occupation. And the Afghans will fight for a thousand years without worrying about consequences or the brute power of the adversary. This is a game that no one, including the Russians and British, has won in Afghanistan. The U.S. must learn from history. It’s in its own interest to end this conflict and leave while it can — with dignity. Dialogue is the only way out.
Arab News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (June 2)