US War Crimes: 10+ Years of Death and Destruction in Afghanistan, 8+ Years of Death and Destruction in Iraq

US War Crimes: 10+ Years of Death and Destruction in Afghanistan, 8+ Years of Death and Destruction in Iraq
Jonathan Gillis
August 15 2011 (Updated October 13, 18-21 2011)

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by
conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them,
then he is always stirring up some war or other,
in order that the people may require a leader.


It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to
think with the masses or majority, merely because the
majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is,
or is not, believed by a majority of the people.

––Giordano Bruno


The United States attacks of Afghanistan and Iraq, beginning October 7 2001 and March 19 2003 respectfully, and subsequent occupations, were, and are distinctly “Crimes against Peace” pursuant with international law. Both are imperial wars of aggression initiated and continued to expand and maintain US hegemony; both wars are illegal and immoral (given the premise, and to any extent, that any war might be deemed legalized or moralized). The War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity resultant (putting aside the initial aerial bombings and the ground invasions themselves), including among a torrent of others, Abu Gharib, Fallujah, Nisour Square, the insurgency, the counterinsurgency, the doubling of malnutrition of children (all in the case of Iraq alone), from the US occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, unveil any rhetoric of beneficence and erode any proclaimed justifiable pretexts in absolution, in terms of any acceptable level of fundamental morality.

The US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq––which are both criminally and immorally ongoing, with the stewards of US Empire, from the Bush to the Obama administrations, and preceding regimes of the plutocracy, maintaining a continuity of policy with seeming impunity, a policy which has inflicted vast carnage and created a climate of mass death and destruction––contain within them specific examples of death and devastation, and apologist doctrinal reactions to them, so prevalent, it is difficult to view the institutional dominant culture as anything other than a psychopathic maniac. On the merit of detailing such crimes, it is not possible to go beyond a perfunctory look to encapsulate the systemic depravity, a depravity which must be stopped and reversed if we are to look in the mirror and distinguish the morality of humanity.

The death and destruction inflicted upon the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq, has happened, and is happening, for, among many other reasons, some perhaps not as apparent as others, oil and control of production, as well as the privation of war-making and profitable war ventures. Though US imperial terrorism is certainly not limited to Afghanistan and Iraq, in the interest of endeavoring some concision, the criminal and immoral US actions against Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and so forth, shall have to be put aside.

It’s important to mention that Crimes against Peace, namely that of war of aggression, is considered “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” according to the principles of Nuremberg. In other words, all the violence that has occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq is the summary responsibility of the occupying and colonizing power, apart from those individuals and factions that have actually committed the violence; to the extent that any responsibility, and justice, is real, substantiated, and pursued through moral and legal frameworks already existing or in need of being established. Aggressors have no rights, only responsibilities to their victims, if culpability is real, substantiated, and meted out in a legalistic and moral framework along the lines of universal principality.  

The dominant culture’s “enemies”, which change quite hurriedly along with US hegemonic interests (Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Mumanar Quadafi, and their followers in allegiance, are all prime examples that come to mind, in that they were all US allies given military and additional support, to varying degrees for varying periods, before being vilified for one imposing pretext or another), have operated, and are operating in a context which was created, and will remain, so long as US forces and its axis of the imperial willing occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, and pursue and impose neoliberal and neoconservative policies.

With few exceptions, there has been virtually no serious discussion in the mainstream media, of the illegality and immorality of the US attack, invasion, subsequent and concurrent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq––a predictable and regimented consequence of the highly concentrated corporate doctrinal system. The cover of Time magazine, July 28 2008 proclaims, “Afghanistan: The Right War Why the West is failing there, and what to do about it”. The question of the legality or morality of the Afghanistan war is not allowed within the narrowly defined scaffold of doctrinal discussion; why the West, namely the United States is “failing” there, with the premise of “failure” undoubtedly permissible, by virtue that it is accepted, in the highly constricted spectrum of elite educated discussion, is a question that may be asked, and conveniently answered, the answers being not of moral, but of economic, political and tactical significance.

For “too big to fail” defense contractors, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman and Boeing, the West, more specifically, the United States, is not “failing” in Afghanistan, nor in Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with “the Pentagon’s voracious appetite for expensive weapons systems, and the lack of competition among the remaining contractors — have been a gold mine for the Big Five”.[1] Among plenty of other corporations including the infamous Blackwater, since rebranded Xe Services, which as of a few years ago had “more than 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries, including in the United States” and maintained “a database of 21,000 former Special Forces troops, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents on whom it could call at a moment’s notice” as well as “a private fleet of more than twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships” as reported by Jeremy Scahill in his award-winning book Blackwater.[2] Private contractors in Iraq (seemingly as well as in Afghanistan) operated, and continue to operate, with complete impunity thanks to Order 17, which L. Paul Bremer, the US “Administrator of Iraq” from 2003-2004, issued on June 27 2004. The man who created this private army, the infamous Eric Prince, an ex-seal, “radical right-wing Christian mega-millionaire”[3] is well received by many within the establishment. At an October 2 2007 congressional hearing–– prompted mainly because of the massacre at Nisour Square on September 16 2007 when 17 Iraqi civilians were killed (murdered would be a more accurate term) and at least 24 were wounded, after a convoy of Blackwater mercenaries indiscriminately and without provocation fired heavy weapons in multiple directions[4]––the Nisour Square massacre was not allowed to be brought up in the line of questioning. Incidentally, to describe this event as anything other than a massacre is disingenuous at best.

Conveniently, the night before the hearing, “Alberto Gonzale’s Justice Department announced it had launched a criminal investigation into the incident”, not exactly timely for the victims of Nisour Square, but then, the victims of US crimes are not what really matters. Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the congressional hearing, complied with the “Justice” Department’s request, though some important remarks and questions were offered, perhaps some of which were in lieu of those that may have been offered concerning the killings at Nisour Square, were they allowed to be discussed.[5] In Waxman’s opening comments he stated that as of “2000, Blackwater had just $204,000 in government contracts. Since then, it has received over a billion dollars in federal contracts. More than half of these contracts were awarded without full and open competition.” Waxman also mentioned the incident of December 24th, 2006 when an off duty “drunken Blackwater contractor shot [an on duty] guard of the Iraqi vice president [to death].” The murderer, enjoying impunity for his crime, was merely one of “122 Blackwater employees”, which at the time was “one-seventh of the company's… workforce in Iraq”, that had “been terminated for improper conduct.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich acknowledged that he was “deeply concerned that the Department of State appears to have attempted to cover up Blackwater's killings rather than seek appropriate remedies.” A pertinent observation taking into account, that Blackwater’s contractual obligations include[d] the security of many diplomats including from the State Department, their employer. He further stated, that palpably if “war is privatized, then private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going.”[6]

When Bush took office, “defense” (the term is in quotes because it’s a misnomer given the Orwellian connotation) spending was some $300 billion annually. By 2004 it was just over $400 Billion. Currently, US “defense” spending is over $700 billion a year.[7] Though all these figures are misleading because they do not include nuclear weapons programs and proliferation by the Department of Energy, the budget of the Department of Homeland Security, the billions of dollars in “foreign military aid” to Israel among many other recipients, and so on, all which, if an accurate accounting were to be arrived at, would be included in the total “defense” budget. Economist Robert Higgs arrived at somewhat different sums for the “defense” budget for the fiscal years 2002 and 2004 which certainly put things in a more calibrated perspective. According to his calculations, almost $600 billion dollars was spent on “defense” in 2002. Moreover, he articulated that “the super-grand total in fiscal year 2004 [would] reach the astonishing amount of nearly $754 billion—or 88 percent more than the much-publicized $401.3 billion—plus, of course, any additional supplemental spending that may be approved before the end of the fiscal year.”[8] It follows, presently, the US is likely spending over a trillion dollars on “defense”, or more accurately, global military hegemony. It’s rather striking, and disconcerting, given that the US almost spends more on militarism than the entire rest of the world combined. China, with the world’s second largest military, spends an amount that is dwarfed by comparison, though that number is steadily growing apace. Moreover, it would not be astonishing to learn, that the US is the largest supplier of arms in the world, were it something which was discussed, not a fact to be overlooked when accolades of “national security” and “regional stability” are trumpeted along the halls of the castles of power. 

US-UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, a punitive measure because Saddam Hussein stepped out of line; with the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he was no longer a staunch US ally (to be given military and other aid), at least in the public limelight, at which point he was an “enemy” to be dealt with. Estimates of Iraqi fatalities caused by the sanctions regime range from several hundred thousands to over 1.5 million deaths. In a May 12, 1996 interview for 60 Minutes, when asked if the price of U.S. sanctions against Iraq was worth it, namely that 500,000 children may have died, meaning “more children than died in Hiroshima”[9], Ambassador Madeline Albright, whom was appointed as Secretary of State for the Clinton administration in December of that year, responded by saying, “…this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”[10]

With minor exceptions, there’s virtually no coverage of the interview or US-UN sanctions against Iraq. One study that seems to have gone unreservedly ignored concluded that there were 227,713 “excess” deaths of Iraqi Children from 1990 through 1998.[11]

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University published a mortality study of Iraq spanning 2002-2006. Findings revealed that from March 2003 “…through July 2006, there have been [an estimated] 654,965 excess deaths in Iraq as a consequence of the war from all causes.” An estimated 601,027 deaths were attributed to violent causes, while 53,938 “excess” deaths were due to non-violent causes.[12] These deaths are deemed “excess” because they would not have occurred were it not for the US attack and occupation.

According to a survey conducted by the London based Opinion Research Business, an estimated 1,033,239 Iraqis had been killed between March 2003 and August 2007 as a result of the US attack and occupation.[13] Which means, over a million people, wouldn’t have been violently killed, if not for the US bloodlust for oil, other resources, pipelines, strategic control of the global energy market, and so on and on, between the time periods for which the survey was conducted.

A mortality study published in the prestigious UK medical journal, The Lancet in 2004 concluded that “[m]aking conservative assumptions…about 100 000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”[14] It’s evident that prior to the US invasion, violence was not the primary cause of death for Iraqis. The authors articulated succinctly that “[t]he Geneva Conventions have clear guidance about the responsibilities of occupying armies to the civilian population they control. The fact that more than half the deaths reportedly caused by the occupying forces were women and children is cause for concern. In particular, Convention IV, Article 27 states that protected persons ‘. . . shall be at all times humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against acts of violence . . .’. It seems difficult to understand how a military force could monitor the extent to which civilians are protected against violence without systematically doing body counts or at least looking at the kinds of casualties they induce.”[15]

On March 18 2002, at Bagram Air Base, Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the Afghanistan war at the time, is reported to have stated that “…we don't do body counts."[16] Whether its true that the Pentagon does not account for how many human beings the US has killed in Afghanistan, and Iraq, or not––perhaps not an unlikely scenario given the gravity with which “successful” conventional warfare is measured within the doctrinal system, namely a greater ratio of “enemy killed”––there is a precise count of the US and allied dead. It should be mentioned, the US ensures that those it targets do not have a “level playing field” so it’s reasonably logical that a “body count” of the “enemy” would be erroneous, at least from a perspective internal to the doctrinal system. Air Force pilots, wearing their issued flight suits, operating sophisticated computer hardware in Nevada, controlling predator drones thousands of miles a way, fulfilling the ambiguous agenda of a global targeted campaign of assassination, which has resulted in thousands of women, children, and men (in Libya, Syria, and so on) being violently destroyed, including citizens of the US; one of many examples of how US war is waged utilizing an unprecedented amount of force, while bunkering behind high-tech weaponry. Given that among many other considerations, it is reasonable to assume that to “do a body count”, from within the war-waging apparatus would be an unessential exercise due to the astronomically disproportionate, and indiscriminate, killing of civilians, and armed resistors of US occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere. That is to say, there are simply too many bodies to count, and many of the victims of US carnage are obliterated to such a decree, there is no body to count.    

Throughout the initial US bombing campaign of Afghanistan in late 2001, in one incident at least 100 civilians were killed as their village was “wiped out” when a 2000lb bomb fired from a US jet “missed” its target.[17] In July of 2002, as many as 48 civilians were killed and as many as 117 injured, many if not most of whom were women and children, when a US AC-130 gunship attacked an Afghan wedding; the US did not offer an “apology” because of “differing accounts of what happened”.[18] In the early months of 2003, eleven civilians, seven men and four women, were killed when a US Harrier AV-8 jet “dropped a 1,000 pound laser-guided bomb” apparently missing its intended target[19], the “price” of the deaths, while a “mistake”, being of course “worth it”.

Early in December 2003, nine Afghan children, including seven boys ages 8-12, and two girls ages 9 and 10, were killed during a US attack. The boys “were playing marbles” in front of a house, and the girls, Bibi Toara and Bibi Tamama had been fetching water from a nearby stream “when two American A-10 attack jets [fired] rockets and machine guns”.[20] In early 2004 as many as 11 Afghans were killed, including four children and three women in yet another US air raid.