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AFGHANISTAN: U.S. 'sub-zero' in world opinion

September 24, 2008 | 12:32 pm

Nations1_2The U.S. military and its allies in Afghanistan have to do a more thorough and public investigation when civilians are killed by multinational forces in their fight with the resurgent Taliban, the former United Nations high commissioner for human rights said Wednesday in San Diego.

Louise Arbour, a Canadian lawyer and former war-crimes prosecutor whose four-year term in the U.N. post expired in June, said the U.S. and NATO forces are deeply alienating the Afghan people and undercutting Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"It's just not good enough for the Army to say, 'We've done an investigation and, contrary to what other people say, it was insurgents who were killed,' " Arbour said in an interview before a speech at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.

Arbour said that civilian deaths, particularly those caused by aerial bombing, may be pushing people to side with the Taliban, even though the Taliban are known for ruthlessness.

The U.S., Arbour said, "can only shelter itself for so long from some kind of judgment."

Arbour is the keynoter at the Kroc center's fifth annual Women Peacemakers Conference, this year entitled "Crafting Human Security in an Insecure World."

U.S. policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, Arbour said, have left U.S. prestige "sub-zero in the eyes of the world."

--Tony Perry, San Diego

Photo: Louise Arbour when she was chief prosecutor at the U.N. war-crimes tribunal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Credit: Reuters