Immediately after the incident in Kandahar involving a US soldier that killed 16 unarmed Afghan civilians, we heard concerns about “Afghan anger” and “backlash.” This approach, emanating from an instinct fear, is precisely the wrong one because it ignores two things:
- The grief and pain experienced by the Afghans who have lost, among others, 9 children, and;
- The tremendous restraint exhibited by Afghans in the face of repeated incidents of civilian deaths, including the infamous Kill Team and other occasions of aerial strikes targeting the wrong people.
The fear-of-backlash approach dehumanizes the people who have been affected by this incident and paints them not as victims but as potential aggressors. This approach, coming from the ISAF troops sent in to protect the civilians, is regrettable at the least and prevents effective interaction with the population. Further, it ignores all historical precedent of how civilians have reacted to such incidents, which is with much restraint.
I am going to write more about this for the UN Dispatch, but for a more expanded version of the above, listen to my interview from earlier today on The Kojo Show.
Update (March 13): My post on UN Dispatch dealing with this subject in greater depth.