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Who will guard the ‘knights’?

The western knights who are going hell for leather to condemn Sri Lanka to the stake for 'war crimes' find themselves in an unenviable position. They are in the same predicament as the proverbial cat that defecated on a rocky surface and had no way of covering up its stinking mess. In Afghanistan, they have laid bare their true faces usually hidden behind the human rights masks, once again.

On Monday, American troops stormed through a hospital in Central Afghanistan tying as they did health workers in search of wounded Taliban combatants there. That civilian medical facility is run by a Swedish charity, which has let out a howl of protest against the US action. A spokesman for the charity has said the US soldiers came late at night last Wednesday, kicked in doors, tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients and forced patients out of beds during their search. They had occupied the hospital for about two hours before leaving empty-handed as there were no terrorists being treated there, with a dire warning that it was they who decided if wounded Taliban cadres could be treated.

This unfortunate incident happened close on the heels of US air strikes on two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban. About one hundred civilians perished in the attacks. In a war against terrorism, terrorist assets need to be destroyed but why on earth did the US jets target the two fuel bowsers with civilians in the immediate vicinity? The US claims to possess the best of technology in the world and, therefore, cannot claim it was unaware of a heavy civilian presence near its highly inflammable targets. It is patently clear that the US military did not care a damn about human lives and went for the kill out of desperation. With the US-led forces being mired in the Afghan bog deeper, the ferocity of their counter terror operations is sure to increase manifold; civilians will continue to perish. And the world leaders will look the other way.

It is intriguing that Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Sweden, to wit, David Miliband, Bernard Kouchner and Carl Bildt respectively, who cried blue murder about the civilian casualties during the final stages of Sri Lanka's war on terror have not rushed to Afghanistan to protest against the US and its allies unleashing hell in that country. At least Bildt should have taken the red eye to Kabul last Thursday immediately after the hospital raid by the US military because of a Swedish charity's involvement with that health facility.

In what looks an interesting development, Germany and the US have crossed swords over the civilian casualties in American air raids. Although the German troops that called for air strikes at issue have defended the US action, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised the attack. This kind of political reaction has prompted US General Stanley McChrystal commanding US and NATO forces in Afghanistan to rebuke Germany. Rifts among the coalition forces seem to be widening with the Taliban stepping up resistance.

British lawmakers who have taken upon themselves the task of protecting human rights and preventing war crimes in the world have not made a whimper of protest against the tragic drama unfolding in Afghanistan, where civilians continue to die in large numbers. The UN Chief is behaving like the three proverbial monkeys, hearing no evil, seeing no evil and speaking no evil. How articulate he was when he commented on Sri Lanka's war and looked for evidence of war crimes! Maybe he is wary of pitting himself against big powers capable of making his head roll in New York. Who doesn't like his or her job?

If the brutal atrocities that the US-forces are committing in Afghanistan are not war crimes, what are they? How many people should die in a deliberate air attack on fuel tankers surrounded by civilians for it to be called a war crime? Isn't it a war crime for an army to storm a hospital, force open doors, manhandle its staff, drag patients out of beds and threaten doctors not to treat the wounded enemies?

One's gorge rises at the shameful conduct of the western Knights crusading for human rights and global democracy. Who will guard the western knights on the rampage?

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