American Opinion: On casualties of war
An excerpt from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States:
From The Associated Press
On casualties of war:
The difficulties of fighting wars from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan became evident again recently when NATO claimed an airstrike killed at least 12 insurgents while Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the victims were civilians.
It also again shows the weakness and corruption of the Afghan government.
Such headlines are an almost daily occurrence. Karzai needs the alliance to prop up his government. But he also needs to kowtow at times to the Taliban in order to keep his job, if not his head, after the U.S planned pullout next year.
Were the victims members of the Taliban -- NATO says one was a Taliban commander -- or were they campaign workers as Karzai claims? And therein lies one of the big problems in this sort of war. The enemy blends in with the civilians. And, tragically, too often civilians are caught in the crossfire.
There have been civilian casualties in all wars. Until Vietnam, however, soldiers dressed as soldiers. There were formations and lines. Civilians were rarely targeted -- with Nazi Germany being a dark exception.
The U.S. military faces a growing problem in its military operations. Commanders in Afghanistan have issued orders for troops to minimize civilian casualties. Those doing the fighting, however, know that such caution can lead to casualties among their own comrades.
Further, as the U.S. learned in Iraq, for every innocent civilian killed, there is the potential to create more terrorists. Revenge is a strong motivator.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has promised an investigation. Karzai uses the incident for political gain. The Taliban uses it for recruitment. And it's a good bet the same thing will happen again and again.
-- Tulsa (Okla.) World