While additional American troops are being deployed to Afghanistan, George W. Bush’s misdeeds continue to handicap combat effectiveness there. Past disrespect to the country must be reversed by an immediate apology to the Afghan people and new orders to field commanders to follow the Geneva Conventions on the battlefield.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan began in 2001 as a war of aggression similar to the attack on Iraq. Prior to the start of that war on Oct. 7, 2001, the Taliban government in Kabul offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, if the U.S. provided proof he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Bush deemed Kabul’s response insufficient and he attacked without adequately seeking an alternative or peaceful way to resolve differences…and the UN was not given a proper role. This attack violated Article 2 of the UN Charter that states “All members shall refrain…from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity…of any state…”
Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq attacked the United States, so neither war was based on self-defense. Preemptive war is not an accepted form of self-defense under international law.
The list of U.S. war crimes committed in Afghanistan alone documented in my book include the following:
# The U.S. bombed the children’s hospital in Kabul and a hospital in Herat, resulting in 100 deaths. This violated the Red Cross Convention of 1864 that established even military hospitals as “neutral” and that must be “respected by belligerents.”
# Clearly marked Red Cross warehouses were bombed on three occasions in the Afghan War during October 2001, a violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929 that protects “the personnel of Voluntary Aid Societies.”
# During its 2001 offensive in Afghanistan, at least 1,000 civilians were killed by U.S. carpet bombing. This violates Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions prohibiting “indiscriminate attacks” against civilians.
# While the Hague Convention of 1899 requires that prisoners be “humanely treated,” this was often not the case in Afghanistan where the conditions in the prisons were so shocking that Canadian forces stopped sending prisoners to the American-run prisons at the end of 2005, preferring to send them to facilities run by the Afghan government.
# Although the Geneva Convention of 1949 forbids “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,” captives were murdered in Afghanistan’s prisons. Some were chained naked to the ceiling, cell doors, and the floor. One man, Ait Idr, had his face forced into a toilet that was repeatedly flushed. Another, Mohammed Ahmed Said Haidel, was hit with his arms tied behind his back until his head began to bleed. Another, Ahmed Darabi, was hung by his arms and repeatedly beaten, though he survived---unlike (a) taxicab driver (named) Dilawar, who died from the same treatment.
# Prisoners of war “shall be lodged in buildings or in barracks,” says the POW Convention of 1929 but many cells at American-run prisons in Afghanistan lack windows and adequate ventilation. Some prisons lacked heat during cold weather so that prisoners died of exposure. What’s more, some prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for years.
# Where the Geneva Convention decrees sick or wounded prisoners “shall not be transferred as long as their recovery may be endangered by the journey,” some prisoners transferred in Afghanistan were thrown to the ground from helicopters and badly injured. Still others were kicked or beaten en route and others died while stuffed into sealed cargo containers. Not surprisingly, the deaths of some Afghan prisoners have never been recorded, another war crimes violation.
Aggressive war was first declared to be illegal when the U.S. and France coauthored and later ratified the multilateral Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, thus incorporating that document into what the U.S. Constitution calls ”the law of the land.” Furthermore, the U.S. is a signatory to both the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, and the Tokyo Charter of 1946.