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US double standard on war crimes is utterly shocking

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-16 11:18
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Ada Ahmadi, 7, stand with her cousins as they pray by the grave of their relative Farzad, 12, who was a victim of a US drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, in Kabul, Afghanistan November 7, 2021. Picture taken November 7, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

It was shocking to hear US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin say on Monday that no disciplinary action will be taken against the US military personnel involved in the Aug 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children.

Pentagon kept lying to the world about the drone attack, claiming the Hellfire missile “eliminated” an Islamic terrorist who intended to launch a suicide attack on Kabul airport on the penultimate day of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan after almost 20 years of equally chaotic and devastating occupation. While Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley called it a “righteous strike”, Pentagon officials falsely claimed there was a “secondary explosion” after the strike, suggesting a car was carrying the explosives that caused the massive explosion.

But none of these is true. Pentagon ultimately acknowledged the botched drone strike a week after The New York Times published the results of a video investigation into the tragic incident.

Now we are told that the drone strike was a “confirmation mistake”. Since the US military was looking for a white Toyota Corolla, the troops launched the attack when such a vehicle showed up. But a white Toyota Corolla is such a common sedan that using it to identify a “target” belies all logic. Besides, why were the US military officers not able to see the presence of children on the site?

If this sloppy procedure is the norm for the US military to launch a drone strike, then such a “tragic mistake”, as Pentagon later admitted it was, will be repeated time and again. No one knows how many such “tragic mistakes” the US has committed but not made public.

According to studies by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2010 and 2020, US drone strikes and other covert operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia killed between 8,858 and 16,901 people, including 910-2,200 civilians and 283-454 children.

While some have said the US has seriously violated international laws by causing high numbers of civilian deaths through its drone strikes, Pentagon doesn’t believe in accountability when it comes to military attacks carried out by US forces, as its latest decision shows.

Nutrition and Education International, an aid group which one of the 10 Afghan victims worked for, has condemned the Pentagon decision. But the silence of US politicians and mainstream media outlets, such as CNN, has been deafening. Imagine what the reaction of US politicians and media would have been had, say, China launched a drone strike on foreign soil killing civilians and then announced no one will be punished for the incident.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who exposed such US “war crimes”, is still locked up in the Belmarsh maximum security prison in the United Kingdom and is likely to be extradited to the US to probably face 175 years of imprisonment.

George Galloway a former member of the British Parliament, wrote a scathing op-ed last week asking what would have happened if Assange were a Chinese journalist and had exposed Chinese crimes.

Galloway, also a filmmaker and writer, said Assange would probably have won a Nobel Peace Prize, become the main attraction on Human Rights Day on Dec 10, and his photograph would have adorned the background behind US President Joe Biden when he hosted the “Summit for Democracy” last week. Also, Assange’s name would have been the first on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s list of 350 journalists under threat.

To borrow Galloway’s words, what if it China had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, pursued regime change in Libya and launched rampant military drone strikes in a dozen Muslim countries? US politicians would have used every opportunity to call them out as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Indeed, such acts are war crimes, but they have been committed by the US.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

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