Friday, October 9, 2015

US war crimes: The massacre at the MSF Hospital in Kunduz

"We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds."
Lajos Zoltan Jecs, a nurse at the MSF hospital in Kunduz bombed by the US

Last week, staff and volunteers of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) were treating people in the MSF-run hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan when a US 130 gunship attacked the hospital without warning.

The hospital, holding 180 patients, was deliberately targeted and destroyed, in multiple bombing runs that lasted an hour.

With the attack underway, MSF contacted
its sources in the US military immediately, pleading for the attack to stop, but to no avail. The bombing continued until the hospital was destroyed
Kunduz, in the north of Afghanistan, was recently seized by the Taliban and was the location for fierce fighting as the Afghan Army tried to take back the City. MSF had  informed US and Afghani authorities of the hospital's precise location, something that normally provides protection from attacks.

According to  MSF, the bombing targeted the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward—leaving surrounding buildings mostly unharmed.
Twelve MSF staff and ten patients (including 3 children) were killed and 37 wounded. Doctors, staff and patients were incinerated. Six patients were set in fire in their beds.
The President of MSF said that MSF doctors had to operate on each other:
“One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table — an office desk — while his colleagues tried to save his life.”

MSF labelled the bombings a war crime, as did numerous other commentators. Robert C. Koehlor  wrote:
Bombing a hospital, especially with deliberate intent — apparently at the behest of the Afghan government, which has hated the hospital for treating the injured regardless what side they're on — is depraved and utterly reckless. Not only did the US kill patients and staff members from all over the world, who were working there because of a commitment to give help to those in harm's way, but it destroyed one of the few medical centers in a city with a population of over 300,000.
The US admitted the attack was a US decision made within the US chain of command. But US spokespersons  changed their account of the attack four times, initially claiming that the hospital was collateral damage from an attack  called by US Special US forces. The story changed with the claim that Afghan forces called the attack because they were under fire. The US also claimed that Taliban fighters were firing from within and near the hospital, a claim vehemently denied by MSF. The US military also clamed the attack was a mistake.
US President Obama apologised to the MSF President and promised a full investigation by the very same US military and Afghan authorities responsible for the attack.

MSF were scathing about that commitment, dismissing the proposed investigations  and demanding unprecedented action against the U.S. military by formally launching  a fully independent and transparent investigation of the war  crime by an independent humanitarian commission created for the first time under the 1991 Geneva Conventions.
But these attacks are nothing new. The US consistently attacks civilian facilities.
Jon Schwartz has published this article on a short history of the US military's bombing of civilian facilities. Schwartz writes:

'the U.S. has repeatedly attacked civilian facilities in the past but the targets have generally not been affiliated with a European, Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian organization such as MSF'

Schwartz documents  U.S. attacks on civilian facilities, such as hospitals or schools since the 1991 Gulf War, including:
  • Infant Formulae Production Plant, Baghdad Iraq 1991
  • Air raid shelter Amiriyah Iraq (408 civilians killed) 1991
  • Al Sifa Pharmaceutical factory, Khartoum Sudan (1 civilian killed) 1998
  • Train bombing, Grdelica Serbia (14 civilians dead) 1999
  • Radio Television Serbia, Belgrade (16 staff dead) 1999
  • Chinese embassy, Belgrade (3 staff) 1999
  • Red Cross complex Kabul, Afghanistan 2001
  • Al Jazeera offices in Kabul 2001
  • Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad (2 journalists killed) 2003
  • Palestine Hotel Baghdad (1 journalist killed) 2003
This does not include the estimated 6000 civilians and citizens killed by US drone and missile attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, nor the 458 separate incidents that resulted in as many as 6,481 civilians killed since October 2001 by American forces during the war in Afghanistan.

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