U.S. will not punish troops for killing Afghan civilians

December 15, 2021 - 11:6

TEHRAN - In a new announcement that is expected to trigger global outcry and push calls for an independent international investigation, the Pentagon says no U.S. military personnel will be held accountable for an August drone strike in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul that killed 10 civilians from the same family, among them seven children.

In two decades of America’s alleged “war on terror”, the United States military has killed tens of thousands of civilians, if not more in war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia among others. The State Department every now and again accepts responsibility for the massacres, normally when the killings are picked up by the media but never does the Pentagon ever hold specific military personnel accountable, responsible or punish any of them. The U.S. military claims that it conducts thorough investigations after it kills civilians, but critics have raised question marks about these inquires.

One case has been reported as an exception, which occurred in 2016, when the Pentagon disciplined around a dozen military personnel for their roles in an airstrike back in October 2015 on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that killed at least 42 people. But none of the military personnel faced any criminal charges for raiding a hospital and murdering at least 42 civilians. They were only disciplined. Some received formal reprimands while others were suspended from duty.

Speaking to reporters about the August 29 attack this year in Kabul, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says senior commanders had made a number of recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the fatal drone strikes, none of which include any accountability measures for U.S. army personnel. Kirby says Austin accepted the recommendations. An earlier investigation; again an internal one, conducted by the U.S. Air Force inspector general said the strike was caused by execution errors, interpreting information that supported certain viewpoints, and communication breakdowns. The military previously called the strike a "tragic mistake." Critics say accountability must be held for those murdered in the strike and the countless other civilians murdered by U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The military initially defended the fatal August attack, in the days afterward, but ended up describing it as a “tragic mistake”. None of the military personnel involved in the botched drone strike will face any kind of punishment. Austin is reported to have approved the recommendations from two top commanders. A subsequent high-level investigation was reportedly conducted into the atrocity and found no violations of the law but stopped short of fully exonerating those involved, reportedly claiming that was “commander business.” Which essentially means no severe punishment, otherwise it would have been made public.

According to a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to the New York Times, Austin left the final word on any administrative action, such as reprimands or demotions (which are in essence minor punishments in comparison with the crime committed) to two senior commanders, General Kenneth F. McKenzie the head of the military’s Central Command, and General Richard Clarke, head of the Special Operations Command. Both officers found no grounds for penalizing any of the army personnel involved in the murder of the ten civilians.

Critics of the Kabul attack have pointed to the acknowledgment of the murders, the intelligence failure but at the same time not finding anyone accountable for any wrongdoing as laughable. Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition & Education International, the California-based aid organization, that employed the driver of a white Toyota sedan that was hit by the American drone says “this decision is shocking, how can our military wrongly take the lives of 10 precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way?”

Washington’s acknowledgment of the mistaken strike came a week and only after a New York Times investigation of video evidence challenged the narrative by the American military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Everything senior U.S. defense officials said in the hours, days and weeks after the Kabul drone strike turned out to be false.

As public anger and international outcry intensify over America’s deadly military strikes across the Muslim world, Austin last month was forced to order a new high-level probe into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children. A massacre that military officials went a long way to hide from the public.

This comes following an explosive revelation on Sunday from a probe carried out by The Times which exposed a top-secret American strike cell that launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles in Syria, where commandos sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians.

The American military has been paying “condolence payments” for deaths caused by its military. These are said to have varied widely in recent years. In the 2019 fiscal year, for example, the Pentagon offered 71 such payments, with some ranging as little as $131. Some payments are reported to be a bit higher but no amount of money can bring back a loved one.

The reality is the victims will not see proper justice and the perpetrators will escape any accountability so long as America conducts internal probes into these deadly attacks. An outside international committee should be formed to investigate U.S. massacres over the past twenty years.

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