October 14, 2001
12:02 PM   Subscribe

Anyone else find reports on civilian casualties and the "bomb that went astray"? I've only heard one other corresponding report, on NPR, about a cave full of explosives that detonated for over three hours, killing hundreds. Nothing up front on Cnn.com except this bit of titillation I've just now discovered, and for which I have no words.
posted by mirla (41 comments total)

 
I saw something about the "stray" bomb on Yahoo.
posted by Saima at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2001


It's all over the place. A search on Moreover for "killing civilians" shows that all the wire services and big newspapers have it, and it's being run--at least online--in many smaller dailies around the country.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:20 PM on October 14, 2001


It was just on the Channel 4 news with footage from the journos allowed in by the Taleban - it said the same pretty much as that Reuters report and had some not nice pictures.. No response from Pentagon yet.

Channel 4 story.
posted by Mossy at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2001


Eye witness account from Channel 4
posted by Summer at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2001


Sorry Mossy, didn't see you there.
posted by Summer at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2001


you know, my thoughts about this change constantly, as they have about a number of things since 9/11. but right now at this very moment, i really find myself not surprised by this, yet not overly sympathetic either. a few hundred civilians killed and its "look at how evil and bad america is". i know the whole "eye for an eye = blindness" thing, but we gave time, gave warnings, gave our demands, and they were ignored. someone has waged war on us, and while its not the muslims per se, they are on their soil. war is dirty, and i guess i would find it hard to believe that in trying to deal with the 9/11 incident, no more innocent lives will be lost.
posted by skinjob at 1:18 PM on October 14, 2001


war is hell.
posted by jcterminal at 1:23 PM on October 14, 2001


Is it just me, or is the American news media always a little behind on these reports? I heard about the "bomb that went astray" mid-day yesterday.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 1:24 PM on October 14, 2001


I wouldn't be surprised if this was just something cooked up by the Taliban to sway more people to their cause. There are reports of Iraq slaughtering their own people and blaming the US for it during the Persian Gulf War. This could be the same type of thing.

...until the Pentagon comes out and says that it was indeed one of our bombs that did the damage, of course.
posted by dcgartn at 1:28 PM on October 14, 2001


skinjob - I know what you mean. The Taliban complaining about civialian casualties is extremely hypocritical given how many people they've tortured and killed but that's no comfort for the Afghan man in the street, who has no more influence on the Taliban than we do.
posted by adamsc at 1:28 PM on October 14, 2001


...until the Pentagon comes out and says that it was indeed one of our bombs that did the damage, of course.

The bits of bomb with "US BOMB" and the serial number printed in yellow were something of a giveaway, but I'm rather gullible when it comes to such media stunts. Of course, they could have been bombs previously passed on by the US to the region's various undesirables.

And war is hell for the casualties; but quite often heavenly for the commanders-in-chief, even if they're on the losing side. Take a bow, Saddam Hussein.
posted by holgate at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2001


In absolute terms, the previously held moral high ground is ebbing away. 'Collateral damage' undermines your cause, and the support of neutral or wavering nations is not going to increase as a result of it. Especially in this case, as it is not a state that we are warring with, it's vital civilian casualties are minimal from a political point of view.
posted by boneybaloney at 1:43 PM on October 14, 2001


I know most of you know this, but the Afghan people are not the Taliban. They are primarily on opposite sides, and our bombs have now slaughtered innocents -- the same ones we're "dropping food" for. The Taliban doesn't really give flying pigeon doo-doo about what happens to its own citizens, which is why we should.

And if everyone reads the article, and or heard the same NPR report that I did, the Pentagon as much as admits it was one of our bombs that most likely did the damage.
posted by mirla at 1:48 PM on October 14, 2001


Don't call it a stray bomb, call it a targeting process error.
posted by mmarcos at 2:00 PM on October 14, 2001


The story was reported by CNN yesterday. The military acknowledged it was one of ours yesterday.
posted by owillis at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2001


I heard about bombs missing their targets on thursday - today is the first time that the footage from inside afghanistan was sent out tho
posted by Mossy at 2:35 PM on October 14, 2001


hmm...

if *i* lived in the desert, and suddenly a big giant country mentioned something about BOMBING it sometime soon...

i'd move. to a new desert at least. and anyone whom didn't follow me would deserve whatever happened.
posted by jcterminal at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2001


I am far, far less concerned about accidental civilian casualties in Afghanistan than I am about our military finding/destroying/bringing to justic OBL and his henchmen. If that sounds cold - too bad. As skinjob pointed out, President Bush gave the Taliban (and the world) very explicit conditions & ample time to comply with his request. The fault for any bloodshed (intended targets or not) lies 100% on the Taliban and OBL.
posted by davidmsc at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2001


The Taliban is also now preventing people from leaving the cities, and my first thought when I heard that was that they want to make sure there are civilian casualties.

It's tragic that many innocent Afghan people are going to die in the attacks, but it's simply not possible to kill only the bad guys.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:56 PM on October 14, 2001


This thing's had more than its fair share of news footage and placement within the headline order, not the reverse. It's been dwelled on almost to the point of subverting the natural flow of the news. I was thinking only this morning about the possibility of complaints from the Whitehouse about how far out of all proportion the whole stray bomb story was.. erm.. blown; It felt like old news 12 hours ago - because it was.
posted by Kino at 3:08 PM on October 14, 2001


i'd move. to a new desert at least. and anyone whom didn't follow me would deserve whatever happened.

The growing suspicion among the aid agencies is that anyone able to flee has already fled. That there hasn't been a mass exodus to the Pakistan border surprised them, and they now suspect that most people aren't staying out of a sense of solidarity, or even compulsion, but because the journey is too much for them to complete safely. Y'see, U-Haul hasn't quite reached Kabul yet.

davidmsc: and at what point do we become concerned about the cost in civilian lives? Because if it comes down to "securing" Afghanistan acre by acre, and cave by cave, that question will eventually be asked. Horrible as it may be to reduce it to numbers -- the tactic of grotesque quibblers like David Irving, dear God -- 7,000 innocent lives provide a lot of credit to continue the attacks, but there may be a symbolic point at which that runs out. Let's hope it doesn't come close.

(And to continue my devil's advocacy, since Al-Qaeda has now given ample warning of future attacks on American -- and British -- civilians, should we assume that the fault for any bloodshed lie in the hands of Bush and Blair for refusing to comply with the ultimata presented to them?)
posted by holgate at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2001


I'm horrified by the callous attitudes here. How are the dead Afghanis any different from the victims of the WTC? The people who were personally affected seem to understand this better.
posted by muckster at 3:12 PM on October 14, 2001


"...but because the journey is too much for them to complete safely..."

so which is worse? dying running or dying lying in bed?
posted by jcterminal at 3:22 PM on October 14, 2001


so which is worse? dying running or dying lying in bed?

given that there's been a drought for the past three years, I can't see them sprinting to the border in a manner that would cause Michael Jordan to look twice.
posted by holgate at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2001


Well, in my own defense, my statement concerns a handful of dead Afghans and the response of the western media. 'Up to four' that got killed by mistake. 'Up to four' that were even hard to verify. It feels like some people have just been waiting for tha chance to jump on western mistakes so they got something to tut about as a signal of their poor aching hearts and their holyer-than-thou attitudes to all that will listen - and the media are pondering to that. Some of us are a little less insecure and infinitely more realistic. Whilst hundreds were dying in Nigerian protests with people just killing non-muslims on sight, and countless other seminal events unfolding over the past 36 hours the rolling hours of relegation to the sidelines TV news media in particular have given these stories in favour of harping on with tired old stray bomb mistake gloating is pathetic.
posted by Kino at 3:45 PM on October 14, 2001


How are the dead Afghanis any different from the victims of the WTC?

These civilian deaths were not intentional. Huge moral difference.

As a general rule, international war convention states that civilians may not be harmed at any time. civilian deaths are, however, acceptable if the following conditions hold: 1) civilians are harmed in pursuit of a combatant target despite reasonable care being taken to ensure that they wouldn't be harmed 2) the civilians are not used as means to take out the combatant target 3) the good effect - elimination of the combatant target - is not exceeded by the bad effect of noncombantant deaths (law of proportionality)

international law considers much more than end results. intentions matter and means matter.
posted by lizs at 3:56 PM on October 14, 2001


shit. call off the war and let's tell them we're really really really sorry. that'll fix it and we can go back to our morally superior, deodorized, Sex-in-the-City fixated lives. until they blow up the next building.
posted by prodigal at 4:33 PM on October 14, 2001


Bravo, lizs -- excellent justification & clarification.
posted by davidmsc at 4:40 PM on October 14, 2001


intentions matter and means matter.

Since we're arguing "just war" theory here, let's get down and dirty. Is a misdirected bomb which causes civilian damage more or less moral if its guidance system malfunctions, or if a slip of the keypad means that it ends up a .01 of a degree away from its intended target, or if an outdated map makes a military base of a village? If you're going to iterate the criteria by which you discriminate a moral military action, could you provide some guidance as to how these might be applied? Are we talking about something analogous to the tort law of negligence? At what point are people be prepared to say "we fucked up"? Because I suspect that all of these conditionals become, in the hands of whoever's doing the shooting and the bombing, ever so much abstract flannel, only to be evaluated by historians, or -- if we're lucky -- war crimes tribunals. Because military actions don't take place with judicial oversight: they don't get the once-over from the lawyers.

And no, I'm not talking about moral equivalence. Because it's a lot easier to work within the ethical framework of criminal law than that of warfare.
posted by holgate at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2001


the Pentagon as much as admits it was one of our bombs that most likely did the damage.

Yeah. A shame, that. What's for dinner?
posted by aaron at 5:11 PM on October 14, 2001



Before I get jumped upon, let me try to clarify that last statement with an analogy: just war theory is to warfare what musicology is to playing an instrument.

Yeah. A shame, that. What's for dinner?

Pancakes dusted with our special icing sugar, I believe.
posted by holgate at 5:14 PM on October 14, 2001


I'm not letting this slip away:

i'd move. to a new desert at least. and anyone whom didn't follow me would deserve whatever happened.

Have ya been to Afghanistan? And better yet, did you live there for any amount of time?

Statements like that are real easy to make when you have paved roads, a democratic government, and freedom of movement.

A BBC correspondent once remarked that the people of Midland Texas seemed to view the rest of the world "as through the wrong end of a telescope...everything is far away and in soft focus."

Rise from your armchair and see the world.
posted by ethmar at 7:49 PM on October 14, 2001


Is a misdirected bomb which causes civilian damage more or less moral if its guidance system malfunctions, or if a slip of the keypad means that it ends up a .01 of a degree away from its intended target, or if an outdated map makes a military base of a village?

I think these are amoral variables (largely because there's no intent) and would be considered neutral factors within the just war framework.

In cases of negligence, malicious intent has to be demonstrated, so unless the slip of the keypad was intentional, or the guidance system was knowingly put together wrong, the map knowingly outdated with no attempt to get a more recent one, and all of this despite "reasonable care" (the violation of which is also a necessary condition for negligence), you wouldn't have a case.
posted by lizs at 7:56 PM on October 14, 2001


At what point are people be prepared to say "we fucked up"?

I don't think anyone's denying that we fucked up. I think they're just making it clear that they didn't mean to fuck up. When reduced to that, it sounds trite, but this is an important moral distinction.

Because military actions don't take place with judicial oversight: they don't get the once-over from the lawyers.

OOOoooh yes they do. And thank God. Maybe not in every "wartime" scenario but in pre-planned raids (like this one) you can bet there were lawyers in the room during the target selection process.
posted by lizs at 8:10 PM on October 14, 2001


In which case, I stand gladly corrected. I'd feel even happier if there were a more, let's say, tangible sense of this kind of oversight. (Although legislating war is still different in kind, not degree, from executing it.) Certainly, I'm sure that Americans of all people would respond well to the knowledge that "we checked it with the lawyers first."
posted by holgate at 8:47 PM on October 14, 2001


I know most of you know this, but the Afghan people are not the Taliban. They are primarily on opposite sides...

Sorry to disagree with you on this, but not all Afghan people are opposed to the Taliban. The Taliban are comprised mainly from the Pushton tribe (majority in Afghanistan), and it's there that they get most popular support from (there's a sizeable Pushton minority in Pakistan, who you see on tv demonstrating against the US strikes). The groups that oppose the Taliban are the Kazkas, Uzbeks, and the Turks --among other minorities-- who make up some of the Northern Alliance.

The exiled king, BTW, belongs to the Pushton tribe, but is despised by the Taliban.
posted by Rastafari at 9:20 PM on October 14, 2001


I'm horrified by the callous attitudes here.

you know i dont think its that... really. i mean i certainly am not callous about the lives lost. its easy perhaps for me not to feel much sympathy in a case like this, but i certainly wish for no innocent blood to be spilled.

its an extremely touchy subject for sure. i hate war. it saddens me that humans just cannot get along, and must do such horrible things to one another. i dont have much love for bush if any, but you know i have to agree with what he is doing (as does the majority of the world). the terrorists are for real, and they are a threat. they need to be stopped and i think the U.S. is doing the best they can to ensure that we dont harm any more innocents in the process of dealing with them. i mean hell we could have just retaliated like we did when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but we didnt.

it sucks, its unfair, its sad, its hard to come to grips with... but thats what war is. the people that died didnt deserve it any more than those in the towers. its unfortunate, and hopefully its a mistake that wont happen again - but the terrorist threat must be eliminated, and as harsh as it sounds, if some civilians have to die in order for that to happen...
posted by skinjob at 11:49 PM on October 14, 2001


No one seems to have noticed this tiny point about the initial posting: these civilian deaths were apparently caused by "...a cave full of explosives that detonated for over three hours, killing hundreds.... "

Hmm. So it's the fault of the USA if one of our bombs hits their secret ammunition dump, located near a civilian residential area? It seems like the Taliban don't really care about the lives of the Afghan people. If they did, they would locate their explosives someplace away from civilians. Since they didn't, they clearly intend for civilian casualties -- and for those casualties to be blamed on the US.
posted by mooncrow at 6:55 AM on October 15, 2001


CNN is whining about 4 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and we still have over 5,000 of our dead civilians buried underneath the WTC. Sad.
posted by kboyer at 7:07 AM on October 15, 2001


Because military actions don't take place with judicial oversight: they don't get the once-over from the lawyers.

In addition to what lizs said: On the first night of the bombing, the US military located Mullah Omar, one of the people we want almost as badly as we want Bin Laden. And we were about to take him out. But the general in charge (a Clinton holdover) said "the Judge Advocate General (aka The Lawyer) has a problem with it, so don't fire." By the time the higherups overrode him, Omar was gone.

Needless to say, that general's career is pretty much over.
posted by aaron at 9:11 AM on October 15, 2001



But the general in charge (a Clinton holdover)...Needless to say, that general's career is pretty much over.

What crime or ethical/moral failing (aside from the irrelevant parenthetical remark) has this general committed?

From Executive Order 12333 -- signed by that notorious Clinton precursor, Ronald Reagan:

"2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."

While leaders may die during war, targeting a specific individual in a known location is assassination. While the military will acknowledge and even desire the advantage of disruption of enemy command (witness Yamamoto's death in WWII), this general was acknowledging the rules laid down by the civilians who control the military. Would you have it another way?
posted by joaquim at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2001


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