Sacrificial lambs in the Afghan war
By ANDREW OLSEN
Many of us have heard stories of friendly fire being reported in the news during the Gulf War, Yugoslavia, and now Afghanistan.
The recently reported case was that of an American pilot mistaking Canadian infantry/artillery night training exercises for hostile surface-to-air fire. He dropped a 500 lb. bomb without authorization, in what he presumed to be self-defense, and killed four Canadians and injured eight more.
Following intense political pressure from Canada, the United States charged the pilot and his commander with three criminal counts, including involuntary manslaughter. Combined, the charges could lead to each of them spending 64 years in prison.
When I first heard this story I was surprised that the U.S. military would press charges and quite satisfied that someone was being held accountable for the deaths. However, we’ve recently learned more about the incident. Factors including extreme sleep deprivation, use of amphetamine stimulants distributed by the Air Force/Air National Guard, and paranoia induced by the rigors of battle have been given as possible explanations for the pilot’s actions, aside from the fact that it was nighttime.
It seems to me that the military has used these pilots as sacrificial lambs in order to divert attention away from their own practices of amphetamine distribution and requiring pilots to fly for long periods of time.
This incident obviously should have been prevented, and I disagree with the pilot’s friends and family who simply say that “mistakes happen,” but I would think that people would at least consider the role the military itself played in the colossal mishap.
Moreover, I’m dismayed by our media completely ignoring the deaths of civilian Afghans and instead focusing attention on a friendly fire incident, which is much more rare. There’s been no attempt by our military to document civilian deaths whatsoever.
When reporters from CNN found a village in ruins soon after a U.S. strike, the military said it would investigate. It hasn’t said anything since.
I’ve spoken to many acquaintances about the inherent nationalism involved in treating American deaths more importantly than those of other countries. However, it seems that we not only treat Americans more importantly than Afghans, we attribute more value to the lives of all Europeans and European descendants (white people) alike.
Repression at Israeli university
The following appeal from the Arab Student Union in Palestine was sent to Youth for Socialist Action. We urge all of our supporters to respond by contacting the Israeli campus authorities listed in the appeal.
As part of an orchestrated campaign of suppression aimed at silencing the voice of Arab students at the University of Haifa, the university authorities have recently decided to suspend two students-Alaa Halaila and Raja Zaatra, chairman of the Arab student committee-from their studies for one semester. Three other student-activists-Fadi Abu-Yunes, Samer Sueid, and Sami Zuabi-were put on probation and threatened with a one-semester suspension.
These decisions punish the students for their participation in an allegedly “illegal” demonstration [in April 2002], and they mark the climax of a school year in which the Arab students’ right of expression was repeatedly denied.
The policy of the University of Haifa seeks to end Palestinian student political activism on campus. This policy will continue unless massive protest persuades the university that it is unacceptable for an institution of Higher Learning.
We therefore call on members of the academic community-students and professors-as well as others, to protest the suppression of political activities of Arab students at the University of Haifa and demand that the university revoke the suspensions imposed on the student activists and respect students’ basic democratic right to express their political views.
Please send protest letters to these university officials: Prof. Yehuda Hayuth, President, and Prof. Aharon Ben Zeev, Rector, Fax no. 8342101; Prof. Aharon Kellerman, Vice President, Fax no. 8343441; Ms. Yael Metser, Vice President for Public Relations and Resource Development, and Prof. Ron Robin, Dean of Students, Fax no. 8240319.
Please send a copy of your letter to the National Arab Student Union and to the Committee of Arab Students at the University of Haifa. For further details, contact: Khulood Badawi: 067469738 or 048678607; Shady Khalilieh: 054214079; Raja Zaatre: 054663857, firstname.lastname@example.org.