By Qian Feng
The international media, including American media, have repeatedly reported on the egregious rap sheet of human rights violations committed by the US military in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. The world’s only superpower has not only seriously damaged the life, property and social stability of the Afghans and left them in ruins and devastation, but has also committed an indisputable war crime that will bring endless repercussions to the world. The international community should hold the US accountable for what it has done to Afghanistan.
War crime has always been considered one of the most serious international crimes that, according to relevant international documents, should be resisted, fought and sanctioned. Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) adopted in 1998 states that at times of military occupation and international armed conflict, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, namely any of the following eight types of acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention, would constitute a war crime and the perpetrator should be held criminally accountable. The acts include willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, biological experiments, serious injury to body or health, extensive destruction and appropriation of property, compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, unlawful deportation or transfer or confinement, and taking of hostages.
The Rome Statute also lists 26 types of other acts that constitute a war crime, including intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population and civilian objects; causing excessive losses to civilians or damage to civilian objects or damage to the natural environment; employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices; committing outrages upon personal dignity; committing sexual slavery or sexual violence, and so on.
In the past 20 years, the US military has slaughtered innocent Afghan civilians and children on the excuse of counter-terrorism, employed all sorts of inhuman torture on prisoners; it has used the “Mother of All Bombs” - the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast that can burn up oxygen within a radius of 300-500m down to 1/3 concentration, incinerated or humiliated the bodies of Taliban members, and sexually abused prisoners. The crimes it has committed in Afghanistan are beyond words and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.
In 2008, an airstrike by the US military hit a village in Herat province in western Afghanistan, killing about 100 civilians, including 50 children and 19 women. In 2010, American troops stationed in Afghanistan formed a killing group that shot innocent civilians for “entertainment” and cut down their fingers as trophies. In 2012, American soldier Robert Bales sniped 16 civilians near his base, mostly women and children. The latest information from the international charity organization “Save the Children” showed that nearly 33,000 children were killed or injured in the war in the past two decades.
The US, regarded as “most bellicose in human history” by a number of historians, was born and bred out of war, slavery and massacre, through which it has emerged as the superpower that it is today. In only 16 years out of its 240-plus-year history, it didn’t fight a war. Incomplete statistics show that of the 248 armed conflicts that happened on earth from the end of WWII to 2001, 201 (81%) were waged by the US. During the 76 years since the end of WWII, all American presidents but two – Ford and Carter – waged or engaged in a war during their term.
As the world is going through profound changes never seen in a century, American politicians’ obsession with force and their forceful export of American-style democracy are doomed to fail. Now the Afghan people are suffering in hell that was created by the US, but politicians in Washington are busy calculating their own gains and losses and racking their brains to shift the blame somewhere else. Feeling not the slightest remorse, much less reflecting on their crimes, these people are still blabbering and engaged in in-fighting to protect partisan interests and their hegemony. But people in the world know what justice means, and they will never forget the crimes committed by the US military in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have been forced to go through an unimaginable ordeal and are now left with an uncertain future. The US should not just pack and leave. It must be held accountable.
I suggest that after the Afghan government is officially established, the international community should support it in conducting a thorough investigation into the 20-year-long Afghan war, and a just third party shall be brought in to hold the US accountable for its myriad of crimes. Not only should the soldiers directly committing the crimes be brought to justice, but also those commanders, as stated in Article 28 of the Rome Statute, who “either knew or should have known that the forces were committing or about to commit such crimes, but failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution”. The US military owes the world an answer. They owe the Afghan people an answer. Justice may be delayed, but it will never be denied.
Editor's Note: The author Qian Feng is research director at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University, senior researcher of Taihe Institute. This article is originally published on the huanqiu.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.