Two items appeared in the news on the same day this month, March 22.
One was that, finally, months after having denied responsibility, the commander in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., went to Kunduz, Afghanistan, to apologize for the U.S. bombing of a hospital there run by Doctors Without Borders. That bombing last October killed 42 people, including doctors, nurses and patients.
Also on March 22 came reports that suicide bombers had set off explosions in Brussels, at the airport and in the subway system, that killed at least 34 people and wounded many more. The Islamic State group is reported to have claimed responsibility.
The report about Nicholson’s apology was not on the front pages or top of the news.
The Brussels attack was the lead story in every media outlet, and undoubtedly will continue to be prime news in the U.S. and Europe, especially as the victims’ stories become known.
This dual standard on the value of human life is normal fare for the imperialist media. It is an attitude that fits the needs of a ruling class that for generations has treated peoples and whole countries as nothing but raw materials for its far-flung profit machine.
But wait a minute, apologists for imperialism might say. Didn’t the general apologize, and wasn’t that bombing just a mistake? No, it wasn’t a mistake. It flowed from the fact that U.S. planes, piloted and drones, are attacking people in Afghanistan all the time, and most of it never even gets reported.
The U.S. and NATO have been waging war all over the Middle East and North Africa ever since the first Bush administration unleashed its assault on Iraq in 1990-91. Regime change is the lofty phrase they give their goal, but what it means is trying to impose the will of conquerors through hellish, bloody, military assault. The number of people killed, injured, driven mad, displaced from their homes and/or reduced to a life of starvation on the streets, from Libya to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, has climbed into the many millions.
These conditions breed a kind of desperation virtually unknown here. How else can one explain the mass exodus of refugees, whole families risking their lives, trying to reach Europe?
And while the answer pushed by every imperialist politician, especially those on the far right, is to strengthen the repressive power of the state to both keep out immigrants and also prevent bombings like those in Brussels, the truth is that once there is a movement of oppressed people who feel they have no other recourse except to give up their own lives for a cause they believe in, such acts will continue. We don’t have to agree with their ideology to understand their extreme suffering and acknowledge their sacrifice.
There can be no peace without justice. It’s a familiar slogan: “No justice, no peace!” For the peoples of the Middle East, justice starts with an end to the wars and occupations ravaging their countries. For the sake of innocent victims on both sides caught in the crossfire, we must fight like hell to eradicate the predatory system of monopoly capitalism that views war as a necessary and even desirable strategy in its insatiable quest for superprofits.