Afghan girl killed by Royal Air Force leaflet drop

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Over at Wired's Danger Room blog, news that

The Royal Air Force accidentally killed a young girl in Afghanistan -- by dropping a box of leaflets on her. The British Ministry of Defence is carrying out a full investigation. Meanwhile, the seemingly-antiquated practice of leaflet bombing continues. In the 21st century, it remains one of the primary tools of psychological warfare; U.S. Special Operations Command is even looking to build leaflet-carrying missiles.
(thanks, Noah Shachtman)

42

  1. Accidents happen in war zones, but doesn’t it seem like Afghanistan has had far more than its share of “accidents”?

    These incidents hurt the cause of the forces fighting the Taliban more than the Taliban’s own guns and bombs.

  2. Somehow I always thought the leaflet drops involved scattering individual papers to the wind, not dropping a crateful in one spot.

  3. One of the few situations that has legitimate grounds for a lawsuit.

    That girl’s family deserves to be compensated.

  4. Well, that will not have achieved the desired effect.

    I do recall that in ‘Tintin In the Land of Black Gold’, the character Bab El Ehr laughs at a psyops leaflet drop, proudly claiming that “The joke’s on them – none of my men can read!”.

    In the next panel an unwrapped block of leaflets knocks him to the ground.

    See here for the aftermath:
    http://tintin.eugraph.com/tqsect/feature/lobgtran.jpg

    From an interesting article in the use of Arabic in that book:
    http://tintin.eugraph.com/tqsect/feature/lobg/index.html
    They translate every bit of Arabic in LOBG. Which is a wonderful thing.

    (My main MA project was on the depiction of the Middle East in European Children’s Lit, so when I heard of this tragic event I spent most of the day feeling I’d seen something similar somewhere before…)

    Here is the entire page:
    http://issuu.com/agarwam/docs/tintin_and_the_land_of_the_black_gold/19

  5. I don’t think so, Pinehead. I imagine it weighs very heavily upon everyone involved in this, or any other tragic wartime accident. The psychological impact of the war on all sides must be staggering. The loss of life is one thing. The trauma sure to live on in the minds of the survivors another. I don’t know which is worse.

  6. If your child was killed by a falling object deliberately tossed out of an airplane, what would your reaction be? This is really unfortunate

  7. Trust the military to not remember the step of taking the leaflets out of the box…

    Yeah, I’d say we owe them blood money. FAST. It’s about the only thing we can do to express regret in a form that will be semi-believable.

  8. Meanwhile, the seemingly-antiquated practice of leaflet bombing continues. In the 21st century, it remains one of the primary tools of psychological warfare…

    “Seemingly-antiquated?” What would be better? Twitter perhaps?

  9. “The Royal Air Force accidentally killed a young girl in Afghanistan — by dropping a box of leaflets on her.”

    O_o Epic fail!

  10. Somebody must have played a Battlefield game. I got a lot of points through supply drops on stationary enemies in BF2.

  11. Isn’t it enough that the west had to have it’s turn at raking over the ashes of this once beautiful country? Or isn’t the destruction complete until Afghan culture is forced into lock-step with and transmuted into the shallow, meaningless mockery of culture that suffices us mighty westerners?

  12. I feel that a lot of these comment are too lighthearted, given that this girl dead. I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with where she’s from…

  13. Soon enough we will just start editing Iran’s Wikipedia page to get the same effect.

    But really, who reads a leaflet that drops from a military plane and is convinced of something. Ispecially since there is no front in this war and no real barrier keeping military folks from just handing out said leaflets.

  14. On topic, it’s an awful thing: every death diminishes, but the death of children in war is absolutely diminishing. Those of us who are old are, I think, particularly aggrieved and diminished.

    Slightly off-topic: Is it just me, or are Afghan women indeed notably beautiful?

  15. @29 Buddy66- I’m with you there. Mix of genes from the Indian subcontinent, Europe, Asia…gotta love what hybridization does.

  16. the death of children in war is absolutely diminishing

    But don’t you consider the soldiers themselves to be children? I don’t mean that patronizingly, they do just seem to be impossibly young. At least too young to be dying, anyway. You see their pictures on the Newshour. They leave behind their mothers, children. It’s all really unbearably sad.

    I know we are the invading army and everything, but I have nothing but compassion for every person fighting there. It’s an impossible situation. Let’s not forget all the militants that we’re fighting have mothers and children, too.

    War and bloodshed is just never okay. IMO

  17. But don’t you consider the soldiers themselves to be children?

    It is of course tragic that anyone dies because diplomacy becomes violence. Soldiers (or those soldiers not coerced into being soldiers) have some personal responsibility for their role, some awareness of and training for the violence, and if they die they have died after some self-actualization, however brief. They share some of the burden of the responsibility for their death.

    Civilian adults who die in war share less responsibility for their deaths than do soldiers, but at least have had a chance to become an active member of society and been able to make decisions that affect the world around them, even if only in a small way.

    When a young child dies, none of these things are true. All of the potential contained within that child dies unrealized, and all of the responsibility for that death lies with us and our failure to find a better way. This is why buddy66 was wholly correct to say “the death of children in war is absolutely diminishing.”

  18. Well, then. I agree, Dan. We owe it to this little girl and all the other children who don’t deserve to die to find a way to END THE WARS in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe it to the kids orphaned by the war, too. We owe it to ourselves.

  19. @33-34 hmm. putting different values on human life feels wrong.

    like, how old does someone have to be to qualify as a ‘child’, how does that value decrease over time? is the decay linear or exponential ? is a child worth two doctors, or five nurses, or ten teachers ?

    I used to think the omg-think-of-the-children was just south park, but rly, your argument “All of the potential contained within that child dies unrealized” feels like it leads to abortion being a bad thing, and even contraception?

  20. This has happened before. People get used to running toward the helicopter anticipating a relief/food drop. Leaflet boxes are designed to turn inside out when they are tossed, but since they are based on a static line (rope attached to the bird) when the package breaks free the process is f**kd. Unfortunately, someone can die from this accident, but it does happen. Obviously, the psyop effect is totally lost and damage control goes into action. (I wonder if RAF can afford damage control).

  21. @octopod

    I made no statement about, nor meant to imply any difference in the value of any human beings, or that one death “means” more than another.

    My statement says exactly what I meant, that the death of a child in war is a tragedy not of its making, produced by events it has yet to have had a chance to influence.

    The fact that you “feel” something else in it comes from your worldview, not mine.
    Your clumsy attempt to tie my regret that this kid died because someone dropped a box of pamphlets on her to some bizarre idea about it being an anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive statement is absurd on its face.

    And if you really think that regret about this kids death is the equivalent of an “omg-think-of-the-children” parody from South Park, you really need a humanity transplant.

  22. that’s so sad and this thread is almost as sad… to me anyway… anybody else see a pattern here?… I wish I could explain it maybe it’s got something to do with information going in through the eyes bypassing the heart… yeah I guess thats what it is we’re all seeing the same thing like one but our hearts don’t feel it anymore i know i should speak for myself and my heart has gone numb its worse that way than feeling pain… my eyes feel like pixels…dead pixels god i want to throw up

  23. That really really sucks. a great deal. Civilian casualties may be unavoidable but this wasn’t meant to be and attack with lethal weapons.

  24. Brainspore @9 Somehow I always thought the leaflet drops involved scattering individual papers to the wind, not dropping a crateful in one spot.

    As guidedbyVOIP @36 pointed out, “Leaflet boxes are designed to turn inside out when they are tossed”. This particular box failed to do that for some reason.

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