Wali Jan Sabri, a parliamentarian from Helmand, Afghanistan, claims that NATO bombing raids killed 50 – 60 civilians yesterday.Â
In response, Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo, spokesman for the British forces in Helmand, said this:
“Because the Taliban don’t wear uniforms like us, as soon as they are killed, they are called civilians, the key is are they male or female and if they are male, what age are they?”
In other words any male between certain ages is by definition Taliban.
Â While this is arguably a reasonable policy for colonial-style administration, it’s counter-productive in post-modern warfare because it plays right into the hands of the militants.Â It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: when all young men are considered militants and therefore subject to indiscriminate killing, they are likely to become militants.
UK is not the only military to adopt such counterproductive policies. When I went to Batticaloa, Sri Lanka in 1998 while the city was under siege by the LTTE, I found similar absurdities. The relatives of civilians killed by the government were eligible for compensation. But if they claimed their relative was killed by the government, they would get no compensation because “the government only kills LTTE” so if they were killed by the government they were clearly LTTE. The relatives would therefore claim the victim was killed “in crossfire,” whereupon they would get their compensation. The government, meanwhile, would report the deaths as caused by the LTTE, because “the government doesn’t kill civilians.” Thus, hundreds of government-caused deaths were attributed to LTTE– and the populace was systematically alienated from the occupying gornment forces.