The number of civilians who died from U.S. bombing of Afghanistan from October 7 to December 10 is at least 3,767. This figure is based on a comprehensive study carried out by University of New Hampshire economics professor Marc Herold, who relied on reports from reputable news agency and first-hand accounts. The study did not include any civilians killed after December 10; any civilians who died later, rather than immediately, of bomb injuries; anyone who died from starvation, disease, or exposure because of displacement from the bombings, or the interruption of aid supplies. Nor did the study include military deaths, or anyone killed in the prison slaughters which took place in Mazar-i-Sharif, Qala-i-Janghi, Kandahar airport and elsewhere.
On October 11, two U.S. jets bombed the mountain village of Karam, comprised of 60 mud houses, killing 100 - 160 people. On October 13, an F-18 dropped bombs on the Qila Meer Abas neighborhood, two kilometers south of the Kabul airport, killing four people. On October 31, in a pre-dawn raid, an F-18 dropped a bomb on a Red Crescent clinic, killing 15 - 25 people. On November 28, a bundle of air-dropped “humanitarian” supplies hit a house, killing a woman and child. The U.S. bombed a Red Cross facility, killing 4 Afghan aid workers. The U.S. bombed a second Red Cross food depot on two occasions. More than 60 civilian houses were bombed by mistake in the Afghan capital of Kabul, and hundreds died.
The U.S. used cruise missiles and cluster bombs among other weapons to attack Afghanistan. A cruise missile detonates a 1000-pound warhead upon landing. About one in ten missiles fails to hit its mark.
Cluster bombs widely scatter “bomblets” that are more deadly than landmines. Approximately 60% of cluster bombs can be expected to miss their intended target. An average of 10% of the bomblets fail to explode when dropped. Unexploded bomblets later detonate when touched by humans, causing death and injury, most often to children who are attracted by their bright yellow color. The U.S. dropped food packets of the same color as the bomblets.
U.S. forces have dropped over 600 cluster bombs on Afghanistan. It is estimated that there are now 5,000 unexploded bomblets across Afghanistan.
Many of the weapons that the U.S. used consisted of depleted uranium metal. DU spreads in small particles as dust, and enters drinking water and the food chain. DU has a half-life of more than 4 billion years. It can lead to kidney failure, tumors, hemorrhages, ravaged immune systems, and leukemias. Some critics claim that the birth defects among babies born in Iraq after the Gulf War, including headless victims and others with deformed limbs, may be linked to the U.S. use of depleted uranium. The leukemia rate in Sarajevo, pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years.
In modern warfare, close to 90 percent of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children. A century ago, 90 percent of the dead were army men.
Women face particular hardship during times of war, including sexual assault, health problems, and forcible separation from their families. Whether combattants or civilians, women are exposed to sexual abuse and violence, mutilation, forced displacement, forced separation from families, and limited access to food, water, shelter, and health services.
Faced with the impending U.S. bombs and missiles, an estimated 1.5 million Afghan civilians fled to Pakistan and Iran before “Operation Enduring Freedom” began on Oct 7. The death toll among Afghan populations is climbing to alarming levels as a result of massive displacement, exposure, malnutrition and disease, particularly among the elderly, women and children.
Massive food distribution programs put in place prior to September 11 in response to widespread famine were brought to a halt by the U.S. bombing campaign. Aid workers warned that the decision by the U.S. to substitute these shipments with high-altitude air drops of 37,000 food packets were not just irrelevant to the 7.5 million Afghans in need of immediate aid, but were potentially lethal because they put hungry people at risk of encountering any of the approximately 10 million landmines scattered throughout Afghanistan. These warnings were ignored, and the U.S. refused to suspend the bombing campaign to allow the food to reach the starving.
Inside the air-dropped food packets were items such as peanut butter, strawberry jam, crackers, a fruit pastry, and entrees such as beans with tomato sauce, bean and potato vinaigrette, along with a napkin. A greeting in English was included in the packets: "This food is a gift from the United States of America."
Populations of birds may have been devastated by the weeks of U.S bombing. Tens of thousands of ducks, cranes, and other birds, many of them rare, which depend on Pakistan as a winter habitat and Afghanistan as a migration route, have suddenly gone missing, according to ornithologists. The rare species of cranes, including the globally endangered Siberian Crane, are considered the most at risk.
In May 2001, four months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration gave the Taliban a gift of $43 million, to reward the regime for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God -- though opium was the only crop many farmers could grow for income because of the destroyed infrastructure and the drought. Colin Powell said the administration hoped that the Taliban "will act on a number of fundamental issues that separate us: their support of terrorism” and their violation of human rights. He also called on other nations to join the U.S. in its support of the regime. The gift made the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban.
After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. provided about $3 billion to the fundamentalist mujahadeen rebels, which later gave rise to the Taliban. The oil sheikhs in Saudi Arabia provided another $3 billion. Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul Haq, who received backing from the U.S. and Britain during his 11 years as dictator, created thousands of fundamentalist extremist religious schools, madrassahs, from which the fundamentalist extremists emerged. The 2,500 madrassahs produced 225,000 fanatics ready to kill and die for their faith.
The U.S. war on Afghanistan violated international law. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent only as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can determine what legal action to take.
The U.S spent a billion dollars a month bombing Afghanistan, but has offered less than $300 million for reconstruction over the next year. Fifty million dollars of credit will be given to private companies that want to make commercial investments in Afghanistan. George W. Bush ruled out the use of U.S. troops to serve as part of UN peacekeeping force. Fundamentalist warlords have filled the vaccuum of power after the fall of the Taliban.
In late January, 10 weeks after the Taliban fled Kabul, Afghans are reporting to journalists that they felt safer under the defeated regime than they do amidst post-war mayhem of murders, robberies and hijackings, factional clashes in the north and south of the country, instability in Kandahar, and banditry on roadways.
- The total civilian death toll from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, along with the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, is estimated to be at 3,065.
Sources include: The Frontier Post (Pakistan); National Organization for Women; Boston Globe; Women’s Enews; Los Angeles Times; RAWA; Sydney Morning Herald; New York Times; The Independent; Globe and Mail (Canada); The Hindu; BBC News; The Irish Times; The Guardian; The Lancet; San Francisco Chronicle; Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel.