Ten years ago, on October 7, 2011, the United States began its war on the people of Afghanistan. It wasn’t a war on Afghanistan, it was a war on the people of Afghanistan. That’s an important distinction, but one that is often missed in this area where war is glorified.
In accordance with US military doctrine, the air campaign was a “shock and awe” strategy designed to eliminate the ability of anyone within the nation of Afghanistan to frustrate the will of the United States. Thousands of civilians were killed between October 7 and December 10, 2001 in the bombing campaign against military bases and civilian infrastructure. This include communications, electrical generation, and water treatment facilities. A Comprehensive Accounting has a detailed description of that campaign.
What’s the casualty count for Afghanistan, as of August 2010? By one count. . . 48,644 injured, 19,629 killed. Americans, Taliban, coalition partners, and civilians.
An additional 1,841 civilians were killed or injured in 2011, up to the month of June.
The most recent research I can find on the subject is Civilian Death and Injury in Afghanistan, 2001-2011, by Neta C. Crawford, Boston University
dated September 2011, available online at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29643#axzz1N1ER5ob9 .
By this report’s count. . . the death toll is at 45,600 people, one third of whom were civilians, and 15% of those civilian deaths were children. So among other costs of the war, we should count 2,250 children.
Violence is not the only way that war kills people. There are a hundred indirect mortalities of war, and the United States, as the occupying power, has carefully avoided taking a regular census, or doing anything else that might allow people to develop credible numbers about the indirect costs of the war — disease, famine, dirty water, exposure, environmental pollution, etc. In 2006, 80% of school children reported having been displaced at least once by war or economic chaos. 45% had been displaced 3 or more times. “Displaced” means they became refugees, walking or riding along a road taking them away from their homes into the troubled world of the refugees. A 2003 survey of people in one province found that —
- 69% experienced lack of access to food or water;
- 71% experienced lack of access to medical care;
- 62% witnessed the Coalition bombing in 2001 or other bombing;
- 50% lived in a refugee camp;
- 61% had suddenly fled their homes due to the threat of imminent violence.
- More than 40% reported that a family member had died to illness or lack of food.
- 43% of respondents reporting that they experienced 8 to 10 traumatic events in the past 10 years.
No one has ever attempted to count the indirect deaths of this war. General Tommy Franks said, “You know we don’t do body counts.” When it comes to such details, ignorance, as they say, is bliss.
The problem is that from the beginning, the War on the People of Afghanistan was an unjust war. It did not meet the minimum standards of just war theology to qualify as such.
- War was our first resort, not our last.
- Our response was not proportional.
- We initiated violence when the government of Afghanistan was willing to negotiate and in fact had offered to negotiate the arrest and handing over of Osama bin Laden.
- The violence directed at us was the responsibility of Al Queda, not the government of Afghanistan. No one has ever produced any evidence of a direct link between the government of Afghanistan and the violence of September 11, 2011, other than the fact that Al Queda had training camps in remote areas of the country. There is no evidence that the Taliban government knew anything about the Al Queda plot.
- The Constitution of the United States directs that war may only be waged as a result of a congressional Declaration of War. No constitutional Declaration of War was ever voted on by Congress.
- A war on Al Queda would have been a just cause. A war on the people of Afghanistan was not a just cause. The people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with September 11, 2001.
- The consequences to the people of Afghanistan have been horrific.
- The violence we waged in Afghanistan did not discriminate between civilians and combatants. We deliberately targeted infrastructure that the civilian population was dependent upon. The destruction of Afghanistan’s communications, water treatment, and electrical generation systems was the moral equivalent of deploying weapons of mass destruction against the civilian population.
I noted these moral problems in essays in November and December 2001. The December document, dated the Feast of the Holy Innocents, was signed by four Catholic Worker houses and mailed to all the United States Bishops, who in their November voted to declare the War on the People of Afghanistan a just war. No US bishop has ever replied to that document. In that document, I wrote —
The Holy Father has clearly and without ambiguity taught that it is immoral to hold an entire nation responsible for the activities of a criminal gang. He has called for a response proportional to the crime and for negotiations. He has reminded us that the guilt for the Sept .11th attacks is personal, not collective. Yet, the American Bishops continue to support the US government as it holds the entire nation of Afghanistan responsible for the actions of a handful of terrorists, as it refuses to negotiate, as it puts the people of Afghanistan at risk of death and starvation on a mass scale, and as we wield a response that is not proportional to the crime committed against us. Where is the justice in this? It is not enough to simply repeat, as if it were a magical mantra, that “nations have a right of self defense,” as though that justifies any action the United States government deems appropriate.
So it comes to pass, 10 years later, our actions as a nation daily take us closer to the Ash Heap of history. We have flagrantly sown seeds of injustice, and we now await the seven-fold harvest of the consequences of our actions.