“The commander-in-chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership, even if . . . he’s not the one that pushes the button or said, ‘Go,’ on this.”
— US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, 28 August, 2013
Let’s all remember this assertion at the next war crimes tribunal when the commander-in-chief of the US military is held responsible for things such as the Granai massacre, which you probably haven’t heard of because it was not’t carried out by an enemy state, but by America’s own forces of freedom and stable petroleum supplies.
According to investigation conducted by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, as reported by the New York Times, “at least 86 women and children” were killed by US forces who bombed their village in Afghanistan, not long after President Barack Obama announced his surge there. Altogether, “as many as 97 civilians died,” the commission found (the Pentagon described the report as “balanced” and “thorough”).
Then, of course, there’s the hundreds of civilians that have died in the US drone war in Pakistan, including attacks on first responders, which the US commander-in-chief unilaterally escalated. And the dozens of women and children in Yemen who died in cluster bomb attack authorized by the head of the US military. And so on.
One gets the feeling that Ms. Harf did not mean to suggest that her boss, US President Barack Obama, should be indicted for the murder of innocent civilians. But international law and the responsibility to protect demands we act in response to this moral obscenity, lest he feel emboldened to kill yet more people. Basic human decency requires it.
(A shout-out to Twitter user “Nick,” who was the first I saw to post the quote.)