When is an accidental civilian death not an accident?

Salon
by Mark Benjamin

07/30/07

The magic number was 30,’ said Marc Garlasco, who was the Pentagon’s chief of high-value targeting at the start of the war. ‘That means that if you hit 30 as the anticipated number of civilians killed, the airstrike had to go to Rumsfeld or Bush personally to sign off.’ If the expected number of civilian deaths was less than 30, however, neither the president nor the secretary of defense needed to know. Four years later, the U.S. military still has rules in place that permit the killing of civilians in airstrikes. In fact, the number of anticipated civilian deaths is carefully appraised beforehand in a calculation known as the collateral damage estimate, which is then reviewed by commanders and military attorneys who must decide if the benefits of the strike outweigh the cost in innocent civilian lives. The military’s goal is to reconcile precision-bombing technology with the web of international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, designed to protect civilians during wartime under a legal rubric called the Law of Armed Conflict. But what these rules mean is that killing civilians is legal — as long as the deaths are the result of a strike at a legitimate military target. And it also means that some unknown percentage of civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan are not accidents... [editor’s note: I’ll be interested in seeing whether or not there’s a paper trail of those authorizations — shades of the evidence presented at Saddam’s trial for ordering similar murders of civilians! - TLK]

//www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/07/30/collateral_damage/


Informant: Thomas L. Knapp



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