David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Innocent Lives in Afghanistan and Gaza

January 10, 2014
A four year old boy was inadvertently killed by US Forces in Afghanistan. Omar Zwak spokesman for the US Marines said he was thought to be an enemy combatant “and as a result of mistaken fire he was killed. All possible measures were taken to avoid civilian casualties”.

December 12, 2013
US drones kill 15 people in Yemen on their way to a wedding. They were mistakenly thought to be an al Qaeda convoy.

January 1, 2012
President Barak Obama explains that drones had “not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”.

A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in England reported that 56 children were killed by US drones in Obama’s first 20 months in office.

In 2009 the Brookings Institute wrote that “for every militant killed ten civilians also died”.

Has there ever been a headline “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu condemns killings of civilians by US forces” in their war against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen? “America must demonstrate greater restraint said Netanyahu to avoid harming the innocent especially children.”

In the twelve years that US Forces fought in Afghanistan more than 18,000 civilians were killed.

While protests raged in cities throughout the US, President Bush followed by President Obama continued the war knowingly resulting in the deaths of civilians. President Obama stated that “it’s important for everybody to understand that this thing (drones) are kept on a very tight leash.”

Would a less tight leash result in an even greater number of civilian deaths?

Apparently yes the theory goes. In other words, we have to expect the deaths of civilians in a war zone.

President Obama declared on August 20, 2012 that a red line for the US will be for the movement of chemical weapons by President Assad of Syria. That he warned would “change my calculus, change my equation”.

The US confirmed that Assad used chemical weapons in Syria not only against rebels but killing thousands of civilians as well.

Since the sectarian conflict began in Syria in March 2011 more than 180,000 Syrians have been killed.

An estimated 75,000 have been civilians.

Aside from condemning, deploring, rebuking, reproaching, castigating, denouncing, re-probating, reproving, upbraiding, denouncing and otherwise expressing outrage – what has the US done to stem such mass killings of civilians?

It is very tragic that to date 1363 people have died in Gaza. Though importantly, while the media often describes the majority as mainly civilians – since the informants are very often Hamas government members – there is no clear way to truly know.

No one would argue that the killing of civilians is most tragic.

“When we intervene in people’s countries to chase small cells of bad guys, we end up alienating the whole country and turning them against us”.

This was not said by a spokesman for the Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF). It is counter-terrorism expert David Kilcullen discussing America’s war against al Queda.

On January 15, 2014 American troops killed seven children in a military operation in eastern Afghanistan. An American military spokesman expressed regret that civilians were killed.

America is fighting a battle against radical Islam on soil 6,000 miles away to prevent its citizens from being killed on American soil.

Israel is fighting a battle against radical Islam on its own soil to prevent its citizens from dying on its soil.

Israel is fighting on its home front not 6,000 miles away.

No rational soldier wishes to harm a civilian let alone kill a child. (Unless of course you are Hamas. They celebrate the death of civilians. They are their chief target.)

No battle tested leader denies that innocent civilians including children will be killed. A state of armed conflict between different nations is the definition of War.

In a war, tragically innocents die.


About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.