When Children Are “Viable Targets” for the U.S. Military
As women and mothers, it is difficult sometimes to face the fact that some people and cultures do not view life the same way we do – do not place the same amount of value on human life. But that harsh reality is faced by U.S. soldiers on a daily basis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has apparently been following in the footsteps of the Viet Cong by enlisting children to plant bombs to kill American soldiers.
When Marines in Helmand province sized up shadowy figures that appeared to be emplacing an improvised explosive device, it looked like a straightforward mission. They got clearance for an airstrike, a Marine official said, and took out the targets.
It wasn’t that simple, however. Three individuals hit were 12, 10 and 8 years old, leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to say it may have “accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians.”
But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were “innocent.” Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission.
The previous was from a report in the Military Times, which explains the fact that our military now has to seriously consider whether or not children are sometimes legitimate targets. While it may seem a cold and inhuman response to the situation, this is not a new problem for our military. As mentioned previously, our soldiers have been facing opponents that use women and children as pawns or shields, counting on the American ethical view that they shouldn’t be attacked by merit of their age or gender alone.
And the enemy in Afghanistan is right to assume that there will be some degree of protest from American citizens when it comes to our military treating children as targets, regardless of how they are being used by the Taliban. Even Reason.com has chimed in suggesting that we need to rethink our involvement in that country if we must resort to killing children to protect our troops from attacks. Of course this is armchair quarterbacking far from the battlefield, by people who arguably have little or no understanding of the nature of war, outside of what they’ve been taught in the classroom. It also bears mentioning that the largely Libertarian-leaning Reason.com admits freely that at least on this item, the writer – Brian Doherty – was greatly influenced by the legendary left-wing publication The Nation. Again, it is not a fair assessment, because it does not take into account the thoughts of anyone with combat experience.
Using “human shields” is a conscious attempt to use our moral values against us. It works on several levels. It causes the warriors to hesitate – do we fire or not on that house even though we are taking fire from it? Assuming they do fire – and the law of war would support it in many cases – our own society, in the form of the media, will attack us. Keep in mind this sort of thing is often called a “war crime” even though it conforms to the actual, recognized law of war. “War crimes” are detached from any objective meaning – they are attached to whatever the U.S. forces do and never, ever to the enemy.
I spoke to Kurt Schlichter, a well-known conservative voice, who offered that explanation of the truth on the ground, as far as the soldiers are concerned. Instead of purely focusing on protecting themselves, military leaders on the ground unfortunately have to take into account the repercussions of their choices back home in the press. Contrary to anything the left-wing media might say or think about these difficult military decisions, there is a moral dilemma involved for our military. And unfortunately, part of the equation used by the military in making these decisions is the media response back home. It is doubly frustrating when the media turns a blind eye on real shortcomings in the U.S. government’s involvement overseas, such as the breakdown in security at Benghazi that lead to the deaths of our Ambassador and three members of his security staff. As for the military killing children in Afghanistan, it is a tragic reality, but it is not due to the callousness of our soldiers. It is the direct result of children being recruited by the Taliban to engage in military actions or act as shields for them. The real war criminals in this equation are not wearing U.S. military uniforms.