How President Obama holds himself accountable
As I am sure most DH readers have already heard, Barack Obama said today that he is “accountable” for civilian deaths caused by the U.S. military in Afghanistan:
When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable, just as General McChrystal is accountable, for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed. And that something that I have to carry with me, and that anybody who is involved in a military operation has to carry with them.Jeremy Scahill responded with a series of questions in the virtual pages of The Nation:
And so we do not take that lightly. We have an interest in reducing civilian casualties not because it’s a problem for President Karzai; we have an interest in reducing civilian casualties because I don’t want civilians killed.
That statement is quite remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is not true. How are President Obama or Gen. McChrystal accountable? Afghans have little, if any, recourse for civilian deaths. They cannot press their case in international courts because the US doesn't recognize an International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over US forces, Afghan courts have not and will not be given jurisdiction and Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear that the Justice Department will not permit cases against US military officials brought by foreign victims to proceed in US courts. So, what does it mean to be accountable for civilian deaths? Public apology? Press conferences? A handful of courts martial?Actually, Obama and McChrystal both put a dollar into a jar for each dead civilian. They plan to donate the money to the USO.