This past Saturday (October 3), U. S. Special Ops called-in a series of air strikes on a hospital run by Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The strikes killed 22 people, including staff and patients in the main hospital building, which housed the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and the physiotherapy ward. There were also numerous wounded in these precision bombing runs which, however, left surrounding buildings unscathed.
MSF is an international non-profit organization of mostly volunteer doctors and nurses, who have taken time from their usually comfortable and well-paid lifestyles, to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa, screen and care for those impacted by the potentially fatal sleeping-sickness in an insecure area of the Democratic Republic of Congo or, in this case, provide their life-saving skills to the sick and wounded from the (now 14 year) war in Afghanistan.
As is often the case, the on-going reports of this horrific tragedy have been gradually changing: perhaps somewhat as more information is known, and as various degrees of responsibility are finally being acknowledged. Although I agree with MSF that there is no excuse whatsoever for this series of strikes on a hospital, I do not agree that it might constitute a “War Crime” which, to me, implies pre-meditation and evil intentions. The Medecins sans Frontieres web site, with its various reports, is linked as follows: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news.
The initial finger-pointing, between the Americans and Afghans, each pointing to the other as having responsibility, has stopped. Innocent people have died, and others are seriously wounded. That cannot be changed! Now is the time for corrective action, soul-searching and proper adherence to necessary safeguards to preserve lives.
Just yesterday (October 6), General John K. Campbell, Commander of U. S. Forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that: “Even though the Afghans request[ed] that support, it still has to go through rigorous U.S. procedures” The review and decision to carry-out the air-to-ground attack was, in fact, totally made within the U. S. Chain of Command.
It is imperative that we get beyond any finger-pointing between allies. Now is the time to determine how and why normal safeguards, the so-called “Rules of Engagement”, were not followed. MSF has reported that its GPS coordinates had been made known to the U. S. military as recently as four days prior to the Kunduz bombing, and once again between the several occurrences.
Given the polarized state of affairs within the U. S. Congress at present, I am concerned that the Republicans–especially those in the House of Representatives–might turn what should be a time of remorse and corrective follow-through, into one more political circus. We surely do not need another series of hearings such as those over: the attack on the State Department Outpost in Benghazi, Libya; the political witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, using suspect covert videos; or 50+ failed attempts to repeal “Obamacare”.
I believe that John Lennon described best what it would be like if the United States, and its allies, had not invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Lives not lost, civilian and military healthy rather than maimed, property never destroyed, religious factions never created, nations at peace, etc. This one stanza, from “Imagine”, seems especially apropos to the on-going conflicts in the Middle, if you will, just…
“…Imagine there’s no countries .
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace…”