In the aftermath of Saturday’s tragic unprecedented bombing of an Afghanistan based Doctors Without Borders hospital, which killed 22, the non profit physician group in charge of operating the hospital has come out swinging accusing the US of war crimes.
The bombing lead by the United States Air Force, continued for over 30 minutes after mission command had been notified of the “error” which the US initially claimed was “collateral damage”.
Saturday’s bombardment in Kunduz has sparked international outrage. It killed 12 medical staff members and at least 10 patients, 3 of them children, Doctors Without Borders said. Another 37 people were critically wounded.
According to AFP, “pressure mounted on Washington Monday to come clean over the US airstrike on the Afghan hospital, an incident the Pentagon chief said was “confused and complicated” but which medical charity MSF branded a war crime.”
MSF general director Christopher Stokes, however, had no intention of waiting:
“Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.”
“This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimise the attack as ‘collateral damage’.”
Even UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein joined in and called for a full and transparent probe, noting: “An air strike on a hospital amounts to a war crime.”
To be sure, the US which has done everything in its power in the past week to divert attention to Russian bombardment in Syria as attacks on Syrian “civilians” and “moderate rebels”, had a canned response: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter expressed sadness over the “tragic loss of life” but warned that the investigation will not be swift.
“The situation there is confused and complicated so it may take some time to get the facts, but we will get the facts, but we will be full and transparent about sharing them,” he told reporters on a flight to Madrid at the start of a European tour.
Then, moments ago after the US government did in fact admit, again, it was at fault, the DWB once again lashes out at the US government with the following statement:
“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”
So far the official US response has been to desperately attempt to deflect and pivot the issue to Russian “war crimes” Syria.
- NATO URGES RUSSIA TO STOP HARMING CIVILIANS, SYRIAN OPPOSITION
In July – just 3 months ago – Reuters reported that Afghan special forces“raided” this exact MSF hospital in Kunduz, claiming an Al Qaeda member was a patient. This raid infuriated MSF staff:
The French aid group said its hospital was temporarily closed to new patients after armed soldiers had entered and behaved violently towards staff.
“This incident demonstrates a serious lack of respect for the medical mission, which is safeguarded under international humanitarian law,” MSF said in a statement.
A staff member who works for the aid group said, “The foreign doctors tried to stop the Afghan Special Operations guys, but they went in anyway, searching the hospital.”
The U.S. had previously targeted a hospital in a similar manner: “In 2009, a Swedish aid group accused U.S. forces of violating humanitarian principles by raiding a hospital in Wardak province, west of Kabul.”
News accounts of this weekend’s U.S. airstrike on that same hospital hinted cryptically at the hostility from the Afghan military. The first NYT story on the strike – while obscuring who carried out the strike – noted deep into the article that “the hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked Afghan security forces.” Al Jazeera similarly alluded to this tension, noting that “a caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic’s medical staff did not favour any side of the conflict. ‘We are here to help and treat civilians,’ Abdul Manar said.”
As a result of all of this, there is now a radical shift in the story being told about this strike. No longer is it being depicted as some terrible accident of a wayward bomb. Instead, the predominant narrative from U.S. sources and their Afghan allies is that this attack was justified because the Taliban were using it as a “base.”
From the very start of the entire debacle MSF made it very clear that none of its staff members at the hospital heard or saw any Taliban fighters engaging U.S. or Afgan forces:
To be clear; not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside #Kunduz hospital compound prior to US airstrikes Saturday morning
— MSF International (@MSF) October 4, 2015
Nevertheless even if they were there – Is it justified to purposefully raze a hospital filled with nurses, doctors, children, and patients to the ground?
See also from the Intercept: CNN and the NYT Are Deliberately Obscuring Who Perpetrated the Afghan Hospital Attack