Civilian casualties in Afghanistan – intent and outcomes II
Further to the post below, another useful frame of reference for these events is the comparison between the ‘domestic’ and the ‘foreign’. Writing from a non-Afghan perspective, this simply requires us to imagine how these events might be conceptualised if they happened in our own country – or, for example, if agents of the US Government had inadvertently killed 47 American people, including 39 women and children. A similar comparison is used by Prof Michael Schwartz in his essay Precision Killing in Iraq published in the Asia Times Online in Jan 06.
The utility of this approach goes beyond consideration of the victims of the attack to highlight also our expectations for the response by the perpetrators of such an attack to the revelation of this outcome. Subsequent assertions that ‘NATO does all it can to avoid civilian casualties’ and ‘our enemies are even worse’ can sound complacent – as if there is nothing more that could be done … no investigations needed, no internal learning, no improved accountability. Whatever the actual internal reviews undertaken in response to such incidents, this sort of rhetorical orientation would be wholly unacceptable if the actions were domestic rather than foreign.
Such incidents open up an ‘accountability gap’ for foreign forces purporting to operate on behalf of the host government and population. In consideration of the use specifically of explosive weapons, this brings us back to hypothesis 2 – that they explosive weapons are not generally considered appropriate for use amongst the domestic population.