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Suppress and forget

In recent years, numerous civilians have been killed by US airstrikes in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Somalia. Sometimes the US military claims to want to investigate them. But this too, as expected, is a Farce, as a new study makes clear.

In mid-September, US drones targeted a group of people in the remote region of Wazir Tangi in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. At some point in the night, the fire of the Hellfire missiles began. At least thirty civilians were killed in the massacre and dozens more were injured. The US military and its Afghan allies in Kabul claimed that the victims were " IS fighters.” This claim was a lie, which quickly became clear. All the victims were farmers and local harvesters. In Nangarhar, the peak of the pine nut season was at that time. The farmers therefore addressed the provincial government in advance with a letter and demanded, among other things, that no air strikes be carried out in the affected regions. In recent years, Nangarhar has been one of the most bombed regions of the US military. In 2017, the so-called “Mother Of All Bombs” was dropped here.

Instead, the exact opposite occurred and the pine harvest ended with a drone bloodbath. For many observers, it is obvious that a war crime has been committed here. The US military and its allies have not only accepted the killing of civilians, but have deliberately attacked them. But what happened after that? Was there an investigation by the responsible actors? Was anyone held accountable? Apart from some Afghan journalists, who also work for international media, no one did any research on the ground – let alone the perpetrators.

Not only in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq or Syria, the US military occasionally claimed that “investigations” would be launched to investigate allegations of civilian casualties. What these investigations look like and whether they take place at all was usually completely unclear. Add to this, of course, the fact that it should be generally questionable if the perpetrator – and not an independent actor – wants to investigate his own crime.

A study by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute now makes clear what many had assumed in advance. In the vast majority of cases of investigations by the US military, the crime scene is hardly visited. The researchers of the study focused on a total of 228 official investigations carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria between 2002 and 2015. The locations of the air raids were only visited in sixteen percent of the cases.

The authors of the new report strongly criticize the US military and stress the importance of investigations on the ground. Without this one would hardly understand the nature and extent of the attack. In this context, Interviews with victims and their family members are of course also necessary. However, the US military is not interested in these people. A fact that is also underlined by the report. It has become standard practice that in most cases only military personnel are interviewed in the course of investigations. In 21.5 percent of the cases examined, civilians were interviewed by the US military. Conclusion: it is a Farce to speak of “investigations” at all.

All Afghan drone victims I have personally interviewed so far have never been visited by representatives of the US government or the military. They received neither compensation nor any form of apology. This also affects the farmers from Nangarhar, who were allegedly thought to be IS extremists.

However, repressing and forgetting is not a coincidence, but has a System. The victims of the” War on Terror " do not count. You don’t have to be interested in them – and as soon as allegations and even clear evidence are in the room, they are simply ignored. Eventually it comes to the next attack, and the same scenario plays out again.