The Killing Of Children

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Nine Afghan boys, doing nothing but collect firewood, were mistakenly killed by US helicopter gunners in an area soon to be abandoned by NATO anyway:

“We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw the helicopters come,” said Hemad, who, like many Afghans, has only one name. “There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting. They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”

The tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”

Petraeus has offered a rare personal apology. Of course this was a mistake. But it reinforces the human toll of fighting an insurgency you often cannot see in a region you cannot fully control where insurgents and civilians are often interchangeable. At some point, the inevitability of this kind of civilian death makes one reassess the justness of this long, long war - and the chances of "success" whatever that now means.

Can you imagine how we would feel if nine American boys were slaughtered from the air by an occupying power? Does anyone think this kind of mistake - inevitable in such a war zone - can do anything but help the insurgency?

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