As tensions dramatically escalate in the Middle East and the United States begins to build yet another coalition for conflict in the Middle East, the grim death toll of the wars we’re already fighting continues to grow at a horrifying rate.
Afghan officials have announced that a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province meant to hit an alleged IS hideout instead murdered 30 civilians and injured 40 more.
The victims were pine nut farmers sleeping in tents after a hard day’s work. “The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” mourned tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul to Reuters. “Some of us managed to escape, some were injured, but many were killed.”
A spokesman for the United States’ Afghanistan coalition dismissed the reports, saying that “we are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts” and went on to somehow blame the Taliban for the deaths: “We are fighting in a complex environment against those who intentionally kill and hide behind civilians, as well as use dishonest claims of noncombatant casualties as propaganda weapon.”
It is unlikely that any responsibility of wrongdoing will be ever be taken for this attack; the Pentagon is notorious for under-reporting and misrepresenting the number of civilians that die in the endless barrage of bombs it pummels Muslim nations around the world with.
Under President Trump, the death toll of innocents has skyrocketed as the Commander-in-Chief’s callous disregard for human life is adopted by his underlings. Looser rules of engagement and a dramatic uptick in bombing runs have led to the United States killing more people than the Taliban in the first half of 2019.
Civilian casualty monitoring group AirWars reports that the Trump administration’s bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria killed 6,000 civilians in 2017 alone and killed anywhere between 8,148 and 13,097 innocents over the past five years as a whole. Since 2009, the war in Afghanistan has killed over 16,000 civilians and wounded 30,000 more.
The fact that this massacre — likely the deadliest bombing since a 2017 airstrike on Mosul killed 200 people — will get nothing but meager media coverage and almost certainly no acknowledgment from the military, the government or either side of our political establishment is yet another repulsive reminder about how normalized and desensitized we have become to the mass murder of innocent people of color by the American imperial machine.
It is so easy to read this and be upset or shake your head and still see it as an abstraction. But take a second to play through a missile from, say, Iran landing in Iowa and killing 30 farmers and what that would do to domestic politics. https://t.co/3TMyIVOOBV
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 19, 2019
The refusal of the mainstream media and political leadership of either party to challenge or even acknowledge the slaughter being carried out in our name is an affront to human rights and to the values that the United States is supposed to stand for. The American failure to recognize and mourn the lives of the Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Afghans killed by our bombs contributes to their dehumanization and feeds into right-wing Islamophobic tropes that paint all Muslims as terrorists who deserve their deaths.
Through three Democratic debates, there has not been one question about the killing of civilians by the United States military. Foreign policy is barely mentioned, and when it is, the questions are always couched in terms of “national security,” demanding to know which candidate will be the most hawkish in their confrontation with the threats that the military-industrial complex has laid out for us. Perhaps foreign policy questions don’t get the ratings that clashes over healthcare might, but literally thousands of lives hang in the balance and the refusal to take them seriously is unforgivable.
But nothing shows how little Americans value the lives of Muslims overseas more than the contrast between the performative temper tantrum thrown by both conservatives and liberals last week at President Trump’s invitation of the Taliban to peace talks at Camp David and the collective silence that will greet the news that 70 sleeping workers have had their bodies torn apart in a hellish whirlwind of superheated metal shards, all paid for by the taxpayer.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.