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Obama's Facts and Afghanistan's Casualties

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by zrinkill, Aug 15, 2007.

  1. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Obama's Facts and Afghanistan's Casualties

    William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

    Sen. Barack Obama continued his criticism of U.S. national security policy Monday, calling for more resources in Afghanistan. His remarks fueled the continuing debate, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, over his foreign-policy views and political strategy.

    Hardly anyone, however, questioned the premise of what he said, or saw his remarks as an insult to the U.S. Air Force. Yes, the chairman of the Republican National Committee demanded an apology -- but no one from the Air Force did. So let me say it: The senator should be more careful with his facts and more skeptical of his assumptions.

    Here's what Obama said in Nashua, N.H., about Afghanistan: "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there."

    Leave aside the strategic implications of his comments. Is there a shred of evidence that airpower is either responsible for civilian deaths or is deadlier than ground operations?

    I studied this issue earlier this year as a National Security and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. I am also a long-time consultant to the Air Force and a veteran of civilian casualty assessments on the ground in a half dozen countries. And I'm not sure I can safely and accurately answer that question.

    What I do know is that when civilians are killed in war zones these days by the U.S. military, the dominant presumption is that airplanes are somehow responsible. Partly the reason is a sheer matter of efficiency, to be blunt. Thousands of Army and Marine Corps and special operations units are patrolling in Afghanistan and Iraq every day. In the course of this fighting -- and this is neither remarkable historically or necessarily the "fault" of those forces -- civilians get in the way and are killed.

    In the vast majority of cases, those civilian deaths are "collateral" to a legitimate military mission. If the unit takes all necessary precautions to avoid civilian harm and has no "intention" in killing civilians, the deaths are an unfortunate part of war -- especially this war, because the enemy hides behind and preys upon the civilian population.

    Air power, on the other hand, is much more concentrated and lethal. Aircraft don't necessarily kill more civilians, but the efficiency and visibility of an air mission -- either in "support" of ground forces or independently targeted to remote areas -- generally results in a distinct report.

    Typically, the number of daily missions in Afghanistan and Iraq daily where bombs are actually dropped can be counted on one hand. They might indeed be killing civilians, but the idea that they are responsible for more civilian deaths than ground forces is false. What is true about such deaths is that they are more obvious: We can see and count them.

    Obama's suggestion that civilians are dying in Afghanistan because there are not enough troops on the ground would be difficult to prove. We do not have enough reliable data even to gauge the level of civilian deaths (at U.S. hands, moreover), let alone the "responsible" party within the U.S. military. We also lack reliable historical data to determine whether, when civilians do die, the number exceeds what is to be expected in this deadly enterprise.

    Obama's remarks drew this response from Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee: "It is hard to imagine that anyone who aspires to be commander-in-chief would say such a thing about our brave men and women in uniform. Obama owes our armed forces an apology -- today."

    So much for the RNC. But what about the AIr Force? Did anyone in the Air Force leadership think to call the senator and ask, "Why are you picking on us?" I talked yesterday with military contacts, and the answer seems to be no.

    This might seem like an inconsequential aside. But think about it: If a president believes that airpower is deadlier than ground power, he might subtly (and not so subtly) make decisions that would place more American troops on the ground on the theory that it was the more humanitarian thing to do. Moreover, he might hold back on the use of air power when it is so much more efficient and capable.

    Someone in the Air Force should pick up the phone -- not to bad-mouth the other services, but because Obama needs to understand that his offhand remark paints the wrong picture. "We" are not killing civilians in Afghanistan because there are not enough forces there, and "they" -- the Air Force -- are not killing more civilians because they are inherently more deadly or less sensitive. If more civilians are dying -- a questionable proposition -- we should learn why.

    I don't mean to lecture Obama about getting his facts straight (although he should). I just wish the independent and nimble-thinking senator wouldn't fall into the trap of repeating what he has heard and read, especially when he is so skeptical of conventional wisdom. And It would be nice if someone in the Air Force (or at the Pentagon) thought to take advantage of this teachable moment.
  2. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    How about starting to provide links to articles...it is common practice.

    LINK



    By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Tue Aug 14, 5:20 PM ET

    WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama said it, the Republican Party pointed out in a screaming headline Tuesday that highlighted the presidential candidate's comments on Afghanistan and the killing of civilians.

    Behind the scenes, Obama's rival campaigns buzzed about his statement uttered Monday during a campaign stop in New Hampshire when he was asked about his plan to move troops into Afghanistan.

    "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there," Obama said.

    THE SPIN:

    The suggestion whispered by Obama's opponents was that he was maligning the efforts of troops fighting in Afghanistan by stating they are "just" out there killing civilians.

    The Republican National Committee simply repeated the comment as one of their "They Said It!" series used to highlight statements by opponents that supposedly put them in a bad light. RNC Chairman Mike Duncan followed up later in a statement demanding that Obama apologize for his "offensive" statement.

    "It is hard to imagine that anyone who aspires to be commander in chief would say such a thing about our brave men and women in uniform," Duncan said. "Obama owes our armed forces an apology — today."

    THE FACT CHECK:

    A check of the facts shows that Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians.

    The U.S. and NATO say they don't have civilian casualty figures, but The Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Tracking civilian deaths is a difficult task because they often occur in remote and dangerous areas that are difficult to reach and verify.

    As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can't be attributed to one party.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the civilian deaths during a meeting last week with President Bush.

    Bush said he understands the agony that Afghans feel over the loss of innocent lives and that he is doing everything he can to protect them. He said the Taliban are using civilians as human shields and have no regard for their lives.

    "The president rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty," Bush said of Karzai. "And I assured him that we share those concerns."
  3. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    anyone could google the title if they think I am making articles up. If thats a ban worthy offense I am sure someone will let me know.
  4. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Deposits a black ball into the jar. :muttley:
  5. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Always have a black ball handy?
  6. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Link to Guidelines

    * When posting an article from another site please give proper credit to the author or owner of the article. Links to the actual site should be provided if at all possible. Plagiarism, or pretending to be the author of someone else’s content, will not be tolerated. Paid content from another site should be summarized, not posted verbatim, per the fair use standards of intellectual property. Anyone who is the author, or intellectual owner, of content posted on this site is responsible for notifying the Staff via private message if there is improper use. Violating this guideline may result in your post being deleted and/or your account being suspended or banned.
  7. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Any politician that accuses another of undermining the troops should be sacked immediately for their demagogic attempts to stifle free speech and to shield the government from scrutiny, accountability, and criticism in military matters. The sacred cowicization of military policy in the US is one of the surest signs that we have become an imperial nation. People of all parties should regard such rhetorical strategies as unacceptable in our political discourse and dangerous to our republican way of life, for it effectively gives government carte blanche to do whatever it wishes on the military front. We need to be more skeptical about our government's use of the military just as our forefathers were.
  8. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    Sorry thought that was enough ..... ban away
  9. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    No need to be defensive about it.

    Everyone else provides the links to the articles. You have also provided links to other articles.

    Why should we have to google to find the link to the articles you are posting?

    I don't think it is too much to ask that people provide links to the articles.
  10. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed Zone Supporter

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    and how many "black balls" do you get for dropping facts that have been disproven already in the thread then utterly failing to address them despite polite question after polite question?

    i don't think BP has any left for zrin at this point. : )

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