Demand the United States Military Prioritize Civilian Lives

This fall marks twelve years since the invasion of Afghanistan. While many Americans can cite the more than 2,200 Americans killed and the billions of dollars spent on that war, even those who are vociferously antiwar often fail to discuss, or even comprehend, its catastrophic effects on Afghan civilians. In part to remedy this collective ignorance, The Nation created an interactive database detailing Afghan civilian deaths by United States and coalition forces. As both the project and the accompanying issue of the magazine document, the United States military has often been inadequate to the task of accounting for the lives lost in its armed conflicts.  

This reality is reflected in the Pentagon's allocation of resources; the Department of Defense does not have an office dedicated explicitly to tracking and reducing civilian casualties. As a result, lessons are often not institutionalized and the military risks repeating its mistakes. As Robert Dreyfuss and Nick Turse write, “the American people, the media, academia and think tanks all have a role to play in demanding that, in any future wars, the United States place the highest priority on avoiding civilian casualties and, if they occur, on being accountable and making amends.”

It would be nice to live in a world where war and militarization were rare, but, until then, we must demand the protection of innocent life when conflicts happen. Sign our open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking him to implement a permanent office at the Pentagon dedicated to monitoring and preventing civilian casualties. Then, for more information on documenting the human costs of war, visit the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

An Afghan woman approaches US soldiers
Afghan woman and girl approach soldiers from the U.S. Army during a dismounted patrol in Kandahar. (Reuters/Tim Wimborne)

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