Robert Fisk: Civilians pay price of war from above

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Of course there will be an inquiry. And in the meantime, we shall be told that all the dead Afghan civilians were being used as "human shields" by the Taliban and we shall say that we "deeply regret" innocent lives that were lost. But we shall say that it's all the fault of the terrorists, not our heroic pilots and the US Marine special forces who were target spotting around Bala Baluk and Ganjabad.

When the Americans destroy Iraqi homes, there is an inquiry. And oh how the Israelis love inquiries (though they rarely reveal anything). It's the history of the modern Middle East. We are always right and when we are not, we (sometimes) apologise and then we blame it all on the "terrorists". Yes, we know the throat-cutters and beheaders and suicide bombers are quite prepared to slaughter the innocent.

But it was a sign of just how terrible the Afghan slaughter was that the powerless President Hamid Karzai sounded like a beacon of goodness yesterday appealing for "a higher platform of morality" in waging war, that we should conduct war as "better human beings".

And of course, the reason is quite simple. We live, they die. We don't risk our brave lads on the ground – not for civilians. Not for anything. Fire phosphorus shells into Fallujah. Fire tank shells into Najaf. We know we kill the innocent. Israel does exactly the same. It said the same after its allies massacred 1,700 at the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 and in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and after the death of more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza this year.

And if we kill some gunmen at the same time – "terrorists", of course – then it is the same old "human shield" tactic and ultimately the "terrorists" are to blame. Our military tactics are now fully aligned with Israel.

The reality is that international law forbids armies from shooting wildly in crowded tenements and bombing wildly into villages – even when enemy forces are present – but that went by the board in our 1991 bombing of Iraq and in Bosnia and in Nato's Serbia war and in our 2001 Afghan adventure and in 2003 in Iraq. Let's have that inquiry. And "human shields". And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or "terrorists", civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame.

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