US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has claimed that in Libya “The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for…But we do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Qaddafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked.” (1)
There’s just one slight problem with this ridiculous propaganda – Gates used exactly the same propaganda line in 2009 after repeated US air strikes killed around 70 civilians in the Bala Baluk area of Farah Province in Afghanistan.
In 2009 it was reported that “A claim by American officials, which was repeated by the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates yesterday in Kabul, that the Taliban might have killed people with grenades because they did not pay an opium tax is not supported by any eyewitnesses and is disproved by pictures of deep bomb craters, one of which is filled with water.” (2)
Gates’ story was also found to be untrue by investigations on the ground by the International Committee of the Red Cross, by Human Rights Watch and by the Afghan Human Rights Commission and Gates was later forced to admit it was untrue. A US military cover up “investigation” that concluded only 25 to 30 civilians were killed used such stringent methodology as counting a grave in which a mother and child were buried as one person (3) – (6).
So claims that no air strikes in Libya have killed any civilians are unlikely to be any more true than in Afghanistan and if you want “the truth of the matter”, don’t take the word of Robert Gates or the US military any more than Gaddafi or his spokesmen.
(1) = CBS 27 Mar 2011 ‘Gates: Qaddafi losing ground in Libya’,http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/27/ftn/main20047619.shtml
(2) = Independent 08 May 2009 ‘Afghans riot over air-strike atrocity’,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghans-riot-over-airstrike-atrocity-1681070.html
(3) = ICRC 06 May 2009 ‘Afghanistan: ICRC confirms dozens killed in air strikes’,http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/news-release/afghanistan-news-060509.htm
(4) = Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission 26 May 2009 ‘Press release:Balabolook incident’,http://www.aihrc.org.af/English/Eng_pages/Press_releases_eng/2009/pre_rel_balabluk_eng_26may2009.pdf
(5) = Human Rights Watch 14 May 2009 ‘Afghanistan: US Should Act to End Bombing Tragedies : Civilian Death Toll in May 3 Airstrikes Shows Previous Measures Inadequate’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/14/afghanistan-us-should-act-end-bombing-tragedies
(6) = Dispatches – Afghanistan’s Dirty War, Channel 4 News (UK) 12 Jun 2009, Afghanistan's Dirty War, http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/afghanistans-dirty-war-watch-clips