2000-2009 | Afghanistan | Blair's crimes

Blair frustrated at legal concerns over killing innocent Afghans

A US B-1B bomber takes off from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan.
Rebeca Luquin – US Air Force – via Wikimedia.

19 October 2001

On 19 October 2001, during the American and British air strikes on Afghanistan, Tony Blair became frustrated over legal objections to some of the targeting on the basis that innocent civilians might be killed. Alastair Campbell, his Director of Communications, recalled in his diary that the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, commented that Washington was concerned over British objections to targeting on legal grounds. The news displeased Blair who snapped, ‘that if there was any target that we believed should be hit and there were legal problems here, he wanted to know about it’ and he added ‘if I was Bush, I would be going spare about this.’1 Despite his concerns, the predictable deaths of thousands of innocent Afghans during the bombing was not to be a critical consideration. It is estimated that British and American air strikes killed 1,426 civilians in October alone.2 For Blair, these collateral victims, blown apart by smart bombs, were mere accidental occurrences. Over and above these fatalities, were the many hundreds, if not thousands of civilians, who must have inevitably died from starvation or malnutrition related diseases caused by the destruction of crucial infrastructure.


  1. Alastair Campbell and Bill Hagerty, The Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume 4 The Burden of Power Countdown to Iraq, Arrow Books, London, 2013, p. 58.
  2. ‘The Deaths of Afghans: Civilian Fatalities in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2012,’ Afghanistan Database, The Nation, accessed online at url https://www.thenation.com/afghanistan-database/

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