• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

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GUEST BLOGGER: In the wake of a suicide bomb… Pt. 2

Posted By: Rebecca A., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Read Part 1…

Fortunately for Abdul’s family, the family was identified by the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP). The program paid for the younger brother to have training in woodworking and assisted him in setting up his own woodworking shop that could support the family.

If you recall, ACAP was created by Senator Leahy with the help of our own Marla Ruzicka. It helps war victims unintentionally created by the US military and its allies here in Afghanistan.

I visited the house recently and was led into a separate gathering room dedicated to Abdul. The younger son put his new skills to work to build a sitting room in commemoration of the many friendships his older brother left behind. In the room, you can hear the hours of laughing, talking and weeping that take place in that room. It’s a room that represents both the past and the future of one family.

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GUEST BLOGGER: In the wake of a suicide bomb… Pt. 1

Posted By: Rebecca A., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Karim, sits in his salon fingering photographs of his son, Abdul. The love-worn pictures show a striking 18-year-old, his arms thrown around the shoulders of friends, both Afghan and U.S. military. On February 27, 2007, the day of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Bagram Air Base, Abdul was assigned to translate for a foreign civilian woman accompanying the U.S. military. A waiting suicide bomber spotted them in front of Bagram’s gates. The suicide bomber ran up, hugged the woman, and detonated himself. Twenty-three people were killed in the explosion, Abdul among them.

“My son was standing with the woman [who was targeted],” Karim said. “His head, body parts…everything was blown to pieces. All detached from his body…I could only recognize that it was him by the clothes he wore, by his hair, and by his boots.”

No one from the U.S. military offered condolences; no one even assisted in the transport of Abdul’s body. Instead, neighbors and friends collected the remains and brought them to Karim. The violence of the explosion destroyed almost any resemblance to his beloved son.

Abdul was engaged to be married, but now the family began planning his funeral. Having lost its primary breadwinner, they could barely cover funeral expenses. Karim worried about how to feed his family. Too old to work himself, and with one son already married with his own children, Karim saw caring for the three daughters and two sons still at home as almost impossible.

Q and A: America and the Cluster Ban Treaty

Over half the world’s governments agreed last week to a ban on cluster munitions. But not the United States. Our government not only skipped the deliberations, but continues to defend its policy of keeping and using these deadly weapons.

Why won’t America join the movement to ban cluster munitions? Our executive director Sarah Holewinski sat down with a premier expert to find out.Sarah Holewinski Marc Garlasco is senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and a board member of CIVIC. He was instrumental in getting the ban passed and was there at its signing.

Sarah: The US says it can’t support the Convention on Cluster Munitions because its military then couldn’t help countries devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes. Is this true?

Marc Garlasco of Human Rights WatchMarc: This is circular reasoning at its best. First of all, what humanitarian operation uses cluster munitions? The real issue is US ships have cluster munitions on them, and the US was worried their allies who did sign the Convention could no longer work with it because of that. But this is a non-issue. No humanitarian or peacekeeping operation has ever been barred because of weapons.

Take the landmine ban treaty, for example. The US didn’t sign that and yet has worked together with allies like the UK (who did sign it) for years. What’s more, this new Convention allows for those kinds of partnerships, whether cluster munitions are on ships or planes, so this is a non-issue.

Sarah: But the US says it needs cluster munitions to defend the country. Do we really need them?

Marc: We haven’t used them since 2003, so let’s just say they’re obviously not indispensable when fighting a war. There are plenty of other weapons that can defend the country and not indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, who represent the vast majority of victims.

Sarah: The US says it won’t “unilaterally get rid of” clusters.

Marc: The Cluster Munitions Conventions is nowhere near a unilateral effort. There are 111 countries who have agreed to destroy their stockpiles and not use these horrible weapons again, including key NATO allies like the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. If they can do it, so can the United States.

Sarah: So, as a nation, we’re really behind the 8-ball here, aren’t we?

Marc: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

To learn more about the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations, and to take action on this issue, click here.

GUEST BLOG: At the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions

Posted By: Marc Garlasco, Senior Military Analyst, HRW and CIVIC Board Member

Here I am in Dublin at the massive Croke Park Stadium, with nearly one thousand diplomats and campaigners to write the text of a treaty banning cluster munitions. I never would have thought this event was possible just three or four years ago, and yet here we are about to ban one of the most dangerous weapons to civilians caught up in war.

From day one, I had reason to be optimistic. The media was in a frenzy and the Pope came out supporting the ban in this Catholic nation – that was some big news. But even knowing that we would have some kind of ban didn’t mean we’d have the ban we wanted. The treaty we’re here to create could get watered down by the Americans. The United States isn’t formally here (there are no official representatives) but there are surrogates attending, and while nobody will say “the Americans don’t want this” everyone knows it.

Like any conference, the real work happens in the hallways. I’ve spent my coffee breaks and lunches handing off documents and gathering information – like passing notes in high school. To get all 100+ countries here on board, we keep an eye on which country delegates are having coffee together and if their positions change after their caffeine fix.

After a somber week spent arguing about this or that detail we’re finally making some headway. France announced it would destroy all its cluster rockets (about 80% of all French cluster munitions). That’s the kind of leadership we’re looking for! The UK’s Gordon Brown directed his Ministry Of Defence to reassess their current cluster munitions. It just may signal a willingness to get rid of the M85 they used in Iraq and the CRV-7 they are so adamantly defending here. In the past they defended these weapons, but I’ve seen firsthand the civilian harm they cause. And after some Western nations demanded time to use their stockpiled bombs before the ban, the rest of the world rejected the request – first Mexico, then Mauritania, Costa Rica, Cooke Islands, Togo, on and on. For the first time, we actually heard applause break up the dark mood.

I am seeing more and more delegations scurrying off to call their capitals for instructions. We have to get this settled soon… time is short.

Indiscriminate use of force

Posted By: Erica

On March 4, 2007, a US Marine convoy killed 19 Afghan civilians and wounded 50 others in one of the worst incidents of indiscriminate fire on Afghan civilians. Fleeing the scene of a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad city, the Marines fired arbitrarily at passing civilians on the crowded highway, including those civilians who had pulled over to the side of the road to let the convoy pass.
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A sad story…

Posted By: Erica

Today [May 18, 2008] I received the following, very sad story in an email from one of the co-workers at my Afghan NGO:

Today at noontime one of the women who works with our Helmand treatment center as a social worker popped in with a few questions. At the polite – to Afghans – question from someone about her family, she dissolved into tears. Three of them, sons, died from bombs dropped from planes – and for some reason (we didn’t ask, but suspect enmity) her husband was taken away by American troops, first to Bagram and then who-knows-where.