|Civilian Casualties during a Time of War, Unintended Consequence, or a Calculated Military Stratagem
||Bruce G. Richardson
An interview (14 August 1995) conducted with Anatoli and Pavel Sudoplatov, retired KGB officers who years ago were in Boston promoting their jointly-written memoir, (Special Tasks, The Memoir of an unwanted witness…a Soviet Spymaster, 1994), alluded to and subsequently revealed the existence of what they termed an ‘unspoken’ stratagem as formulated by the Soviet military for tactical consideration and subsequent prosecution in Afghanistan. Ranking officers both with Afghanistan experience, the junior member of the family, Anatoli had held the rank of major while Pavel (the senior) achieved the rank of general. According to Soviet-era historians, General Pavel Sudoplatov, then a junior-grade KGB officer, was responsible for the assassination of Trotsky, and, during World War II, was in charge of guerrilla warfare conducted against the Nazi occupation. During the Cold War arms race, Pavel Sudoplatov directed a network of Soviet spies seeking to obtain nuclear secrets in the U.S. with some success. Given their intelligence backgrounds, both displayed a characteristic confidence and well-informed demeanor, yet were entirely forthcoming… quite willing to review Moscow’s Afghanistan policy. (See: Afghanistan, the Great Game Revisited, Edited by Roseanne Klass, 1990, p.246, ‘The Soviet Military Approach in Afghanistan: The Operational Approach’, Yossef Bodansky)
The stratagem of which they spoke and continued to reference during the interview as an ‘unspoken’ one, consisted of systematic and deliberate attacks against the civilian infrastructure. This was the Soviet 40th Army’s daily prosecution of a ‘war of aggression’ hidden from public scrutiny and discourse for obvious reasons of humanitarian concern, negative publicity and in recognition of the substantial corpus of international law in existence which prohibited such prosecution by any country’s military. The motive force behind this decision, according to the retired KGB officers was to intimidate the general population and thereby demonstrate to them that, in this case, the only palpable security available to them was obtained by cooperating with the 40th Army occupational forces and that siding with the Resistance would result not in enhancing their security…but in swift and terrible retribution. This of course had long been the Soviet modus operandi throughout Central Asia during the nineteenth century, during the Cold War, and therefore inarguably in-character. (See: Afghanistan, Ending the Reign of Soviet Terror, Bruce G. Richardson, 1996, 1998, p 104)
Violence against civilians during wartime has occurred throughout recorded history in most international and internal armed conflicts. Historically acceptable and unquestioned, during the 20th century it has been the focus of international humanitarian law. The definitions, categories, and circumstances detailed below are commonly accepted as the guiding principles for determining whether violence against civilians during wartime is legal or illegal and whether those who commit violence against civilian should be tried for their acts:
Those afforded ‘civilian status shall enjoy civilian immunity from attack, as stated in the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions related to the Protection of Victims of International Conflicts of 1977, civilians shall have: general protection against danger arising from military operations and shall not be the object of attack, Jus in Bello principles that applies to how a war is fought). The concept determines the lawfulness of attacks that cause civilian casualties, thus measures have to be taken to limit the harm military actions cause civilian populations.
Intentional Violence against Civilians:
Although international humanitarian law expressly prohibits the use of violence against civilians as an intentional method of warfare, it is a commonly practiced atrocity as the above interview with former KGB officials illustrates. Many cases of intentional of intentional violence against civilians can be found Crimes of War, including terrorism, disappearances, ethnic cleansing, torture, and sexual violence. These acts constitute a large portion of the atrocities that occur during war, and justice should be sought for those who knowingly violate Article 51 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
The subject and investigation of ‘war reparations’ and or ‘war crimes’ to be paid to and prosecuted for fiscal infractions and crimes of violence against Afghanistan by Russia, has been eviscerated from within and without due to the parochial exigencies of certain Afghan politicians and leadership with allegiance and or ties to Russia, and the politically-expedient foreign policy interests of the U.S. army of occupation. An example of an Afghan politician whose actions have led to this evisceration and abrogation of justice and international law is one Dr. Abdullah Abdullah who has unabashedly given blanket immunity from ‘prosecution for war crimes’ to both members of the former Soviet 40th Army contingent and the current NATO/ISAF forces. From an administrative perspective, there exists another unjust dimension…a decided reluctance and or refusal on the part of internationally-chartered and mandated, remedial-oriented international institutions, i.e. (International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN) to pressure Russia to uphold international law and responsibility in considering the prosecution of war criminals and reparations payments to Afghanistan, notwithstanding their recognized world-juried mandate and international posture. Organized for and structured to preside over the aftermath of ‘conflict resolution’, world-body institutions such as the UN are unfortunately deemed instruments of U.S. foreign policy by a majority of the world citizenry based on their lackluster record of resolving problems and issues associated with international conflict.
Evidence of the existence of the’ unspoken’, inhuman and illegal tactic is manifest in a revealing study of Soviet atrocities prosecuted against the civilian population of Afghanistan to include their agricultural base or mode of subsistence. The following statistics were compiled by eminent academician, economist and author Dr. M. Siddieq Noorzoy:
‘During 1987-88, not even the farm animals were spared by the Soviet military. The incomprehensible statistics include the destruction of 11,418 villages, 1,045,212 homes, 11,418 mosques, and 3,261 primary schools and were the result of deliberate Soviet offensives against the civilian population. In addition, attacks were mounted against the agricultural-based society of Afghanistan by Soviet forces which resulted in the killing of: 11,400,000 sheep, representing 65% of the total, 4, 181,000 Karakul sheep, 67% of the total, 1,739,000 cattle, 52% of the total, and 178,000 horses, 31 % of the total. This unimaginable horror visited upon the civilian population by Soviet forces was the result of massive, saturation-air-bombardment and armor-led infantry attacks’.
(See: M. Siddieq Noorzoy, Encyclopedia Iranica, 1997, Volume III, pp. 163-169, Table 8-9, and Table 1, Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan, Unpublished Manuscript. Center for Middle East Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1998-1999, p. 58, (Table 9); Alternative Economic Systems for Afghanistan, International Journal Middle East Studies, Vol. 15, 1983, (pp. 25-45,) especially note 10, (pp. 41-42). Table 2: Reconstruction and Development in Afghanistan, Unpublished Manuscript. Center for Middle East Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1988-1989, pp. 53-54, (Table 7-8)
As with the Soviets in Central Asia, researchers will also note that the U.S. engaged in deliberate attacks on civilian populations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Kosovo, Iraq and now Afghanistan. Currently, the ‘mission-statement’ by the U.S. is to ‘provide a secure environment for sustainable stability’. But ten-years after NATO entered Afghanistan ostensibly to eradicate al-Qaeda remnants, and affect an anti-Taliban oriented regime under the mantle of a U.S.-appointee. A majority of the population has come to see the ISAF as little more than an occupational force. Under scrutiny, and as the following attests, America’s upholding of international humanitarian law fares little or no better than that cited from the Soviet-era. See:
Global Research E-Newsletter, 17 October, 2011, titled Operation Enduring Slaughter, 10 Bloody Years, by Felicity Arbuthnot:
Between 7 October and 10 December 2001, 12,000 bombs were dropped in 4,710 sorties on a population of just 28 million (Globe and Mail, 1/19/02). With 42% of the population aged 0-14, children being the thus raised in unimaginable terror. With the bombs, aid parcels were dropped. They were the identical coloring to the accompanying cluster bombs (CBU). Those who rushed to collect brightly colored yellow packages, in anticipation…so often children…had limbs blown-off at best, or lie blown-away. Excited anticipations turned terminal. Between October, 2001 and early 2002, U.S. aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets, in 232 strikes on locations throughout Afghanistan, according to Cluster Munitions Monitor.
On 11 October 11, 2001, Khorum, a village of mud huts, 29 kilometers west of Jalalabad, was systematically bombed by U.S. warplanes. As many as 200 people were killed, with entire families wiped out. If the above carnage is but a tiny snapshot, what is the true cost 3,650 days later?
America’s indiscriminate and reckless use of the so-called Drones (*Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UAV, General Atomics UAV, MQ-1, ‘Predator’ and Lockheed Martin RQ-170 ‘Sentinel’) have primarily impacted the civilian populations and their property, (140 instances since 2004) not only in Afghanistan but in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan as well. Such high levels of civilian casualties and destruction of their property… could not possibly escape the notice of policy makers in Washington… just as they failed to escape the notice of policy makers in Moscow. While the world is constantly appraised of the U.S. mission statement in humanitarian terminology, most categorically reject the term ‘collateral damage’ as it implies accidental or unintended consequences. There can be no doubt of the fact that both the U.S.S.R. and now the U.S.-led ISAF contingents were and are cognizant of the death and destruction reaped upon the civilian population by their respective military.
It is no longer a secret that the U.S. plotted for the U.S.S.R. to intervene in Afghanistan, looking for the resultant protracted guerrilla war to hasten or bring about the dissolution of the empire. The effect of that decision resulted in the death of nearly two-million Afghans, a majority being civilians. It is also no longer a secret that the various American administrations are viscerally anti-Pashtun. To this end, the U.S. has allied itself with the Northern Alliance, the worst of Afghanistan’s war criminals, traitors and drug lords in the obvious attempt to subdue the country, their philosophy being ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’
Sadly, though evidence exists that America is knowingly complicit in the commission of numerous war crimes as enumerated and codified in the Geneva Conventions and other humanitarian-based treaties to which they are signatory, it is difficult if not impossible as well to recognize that the world continues to ignore Russia’s as yet unpunished war crimes for which the international community must in good conscience and respect for the rule of law…demand they be held accountable. Accountable not only in the court of world opinion, but by the rendering of war reparation payments in an amount commensurate with the damage inflicted and by referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for their premeditated attacks on the civilian population of Afghanistan…callously and indiscriminately calculated to subdue a sovereign nation.
The difficulty or impossibility in prosecuting individuals for war crimes with high political affiliations or connections is best illustrated by the Belgian Court’s issuance of an indictment of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for directing the massacre of thousands of Palestinian people at Sabra and Shatilla. Both Israel and the United States are blocking the investigation, extradition and trial of this notorious war criminal. The same court has as well issued arrest warrants for members of the George W. Bush Administration for war crimes committed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I cannot but wonder as to how such a tiny justice-conscious and courageous country as Belgium might enforce said warrants.
For additional information regarding definitions, case histories and adjudication of what are termed ‘war crimes’, see: (Documents on the Laws of War, Edited by Adam Roberts and Richard Guelff, Second Edition Revised and Updated, 1989, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.) For additional documentation attesting to Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan see: (Afghanistan, the Great Game Revisited, edited by Roseanne Klass, 1990, Freedom House, NY)
*The General Atomics ‘Predator’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) MQ-1, introduced in 1995, has flown combat sorties over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, over Afghanistan and Bosnia. The MQ-1 ‘Predator’ has a range of 400 nautical miles, can loiter over a target area for 14 hours and return to base. It is equipped with state of the art electronic high definition (HD) cameras and other highly-sophisticated sensors, 2 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and other munitions. The MQ-1 ‘Predator’ is the UAV of choice for the United States Air Force (USAF) and the CIA.
UAV or ‘Drone’ use have heretofore been primarily operated by civilians** and therefore face many legal challenges: Challenges to include questions of the unlawful deployment of non-military personnel in a combat role sans proper identifying insignia/emblem and or uniform, a violation proscribed under international law and covenant, border inviolability and or sovereignty, judicial review for those accused of terrorism, and attorney/client/privilege/representation. **(See: 1977 Geneva Protocol I, Article 44-7)
With manifest, unbridled hypocrisy and double standard extent in Washington statecraft, we have learned that both the Bush and Obama Administrations had and have not hesitated to deploy civilians in a combat role, yet they vigorously contend that insurgents, guerrillas, irregulars etc., as part of the amorphous groups cited in their declared ‘war on terror’ do not have protections under Geneva and other humanitarian-based instruments and covenants due to the fact that such forces do not wear identifying insignia/emblem and or uniform military apparel. (See: 1977 Geneva Protocol I, Article 44-7)
In concept and covenant therefore, the deployment of UAVs as weapons platforms as currently structured while predominantly staffed and operated by civilians (CIA and for-profit contractors) are considered extrajudicial by a number of highly-respected and recognized leading international authors of legal journals, academicians, activists, scholars and jurists from around the world. America’s Drone warfare has therefore diminished a once exemplary universal image as world-champion of human rights, democracy and freedom into a status that has…under ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ and the ‘War on Terror’…morphed into a replication of the 19th century imperialist policies of Great Britain and Tsarist Russia…disquieting, predatory roles, and as war by robotic control has demonstrated…there can be no honor in murder by remote control.