Of Oil Tankers and Collateral Deaths

UN AfghanistanIt is now clear, as per the latest statement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal–the US commander in Afghanistan–that all those who died in the NATO bombing of hijacked oil-tankers were not Taliban, and that some civilians were also ‘wounded’ there. I am sure we will be told pretty soon that some civilians also died in this bombing. During the early phases of the coverage of this event, the US media were all in agreement that the bombing had killed Taliban fighters, all ninety-five of them, and that there were no civilians in the area.

Even my liberal NPR station repeated the same hackneyed assertions. Though no one pointed out as to how was it ascertained by the NATO and the US forces that there were “no civilians” in the area. This has now become a pattern in reporting about all deaths in Afghanistan: they are either considered militant deaths or written off as deaths of those in league with the Taliban.

In this case, though, the claims were ludicorous from the very beginning: stupid as Taliban might be, they are not so stupid to employ ninety five of their foot soldiers in stealing oil from oil-tankers.

While the current US administration is focused on winning the war in Afghanistan, their statements still remind me of the Bush administration. It seems for the commanders in Afghanistan killing a few Taliban, even if the action kills quite a few civilians in the process, is an acceptable strategy. And this is made possible because there is neither an outrage from the US public nor any worthwhile investigative coverage by the US media, even when, according to a UN report, the percentage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose 40% in 2008.

It will probably serve the US and Afghan interests better if the lives of Afghan civilians were considered just as precious as those of their American counterparts, or else the distrust and hatred of United States will continue to increase.

Link: Afghan Victims Memorial Project

By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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