Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40% in 2008
Biggest Weaponeer Bans Export of Cluster Bombs
On the peace front, there’s good news and bad -- first the bad, on the killing of Afghan civilians, then the good, on the reduced use of cluster bombs. Since wars are vile and bloody real estate deals, one wonders when humanity will get around to trying geonomics, which partitions sites and resources fairly to everybody. This pair of 2009 articles is from the New York Times, Feb 17 on Afghanistan by Alan Cowell, and OneWorld, Mar 13, appending a press release from Human Rights Watch, Mar 12, on banning bombs.
by Alan Cowell, by OneWorld, and by Human Rights Watch
Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40% in 2008
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 40 percent last year, the highest level since the American-led invasion in late 2001 that dislodged the Taliban government.
More than half of the over two thousand casualties were caused by militants’ roadside bombs and suicide attacks, but many were from airstrikes and other actions by NATO and American forces battling the resurgent Taliban.
The United Nations report, compiled by a human rights unit, said the death toll among civilians rose to 2,118 in 2008 from 1,523 in 2007, most in the south of the country where fighting is intense.
The insurgents were blamed for 1,160, or 55 percent, of the deaths — an increase of 65 percent over similar attacks in 2007. The report said 828 deaths, or 39 percent, were caused by pro-government forces, an increase of almost a third over the 2007 level.
Such episodes have reduced support among the Afghans for foreign troops on their soil.
The report said: “2008 saw a distinct pattern of attacks by the armed opposition in crowded residential and other such areas with apparent disregard for the extensive damage they can cause to civilians.”
The report also took issue with “an intimidation campaign that includes the summary execution of individuals perceived to be associated with, or supportive of the government and its allies.”
It said 130 deaths “could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties since, for example, some civilians died as a result of cross-fire or were killed by unexploded ordinance.”
Bomb Ban: One World
US President Barack Obama has signed a permanent ban on almost all cluster bomb exports by the United States (which sells more weaponry than all other countries combined), "[bringing] Washington into closer alignment with international opinion on this terrible weapon.
Cluster munitions are large weapons that release up to hundreds of smaller submunitions. Air-dropped or ground-launched, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. For these reasons, 98% of cluster-bomb victims are civilians and 27% are children, says a study by Handicap International highlighted by the British Independent newspaper.
The US ban on the export of cluster munitions does not prohibit US forces from using the weapons in battle. The US government is reluctant to join the new treaty banning the bombs, which has been signed by 95 countries since December, including most NATO members and other close US allies.
Last month, 67 humanitarian, religious, and medical groups sent Obama a letter pushing him to ban cluster bombs and landmines. " The use of weapons that disproportionately take the lives and limbs of civilians is wholly counterproductive in today's conflicts, where winning over the local population is essential to mission success."
Bomb Ban: Human Rights Watch
The export ban states that cluster munitions can only be exported if they leave behind less than 1 percent of their submunitions as duds. The legislation also requires the receiving country to agree that cluster munitions "will not be used where civilians are known to be present." Only a very tiny fraction of the cluster munitions in the US arsenal meet the 1-percent standard.
This export ban was first enacted in another budget bill in December 2007, but that law mandated it for only one year.
Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch, said, "If it is unacceptable for foreign militaries to use these weapons, why would it be acceptable for the US military to use them?"
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, opened for signature in December, prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, and provides strict deadlines for clearance of affected areas and destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions. The convention was modeled on the 1997 treaty banning landmines.
While the historical record is incomplete, the United States has transferred hundreds of thousands of cluster munitions containing tens of millions of unreliable and inaccurate submunitions to at least 28 countries. Cluster munitions exported by the US have been used by other states in Lebanon, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Western Sahara. Several of these states have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are in the process of destroying their stockpiled cluster munitions.
Campaigners Build Support for Arms Trade Treaty
Pentagon can't find $2.3 trillion, wasted on 'national defense'
The three trillion dollar war
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?