After Bombing a Hospital in Afghanistan in 2015:
U.S. War Criminals Judge Themselves “Not Guilty” of War Crimes

May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


At 2:15 in the morning, Saturday, October 3, 2015, the United States carried out a massive, sustained bombing attack against a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (also known by their French acronym, MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Forty-two people died, including courageous hospital staff treating patients in the most extreme circumstances, and helpless patients.

A report in The Intercept described the impact of the attack: “By the time the attack was over, the intensive care unit, the emergency room, and the operating theaters were burned to a husk. The corrugated tin roof had peeled off, and only the walls remained standing, pockmarked with cannon fire. The aircraft had fired 211 shells, killing 42 patients and staff who had trusted in the hospital’s neutral and protected status. Patients had burned in their beds. Six charred bodies awaited forensic investigation to determine their identity; they had been burned beyond recognition.”

Doctors Without Borders administrators had given the U.S. the exact coordinates of their position, so at the very least this attack revealed reckless disregard for the lives of people in the hospital—which defines it as a war crime. Then, the attack continued for at least a half hour while Doctors Without Borders officials were on the phone with U.S. military commanders demanding the bombing stop.

Doctors Without Borders immediately called for an investigation by a third-party international agency with the assumption that a war crime had been committed. Instead, the U.S. military announced they would investigate themselves. On April 29, they announced that they had found themselves not guilty.

In clearing themselves of war crimes, the U.S. military released a 3,000-page report. A Pentagon spokesman said those who ordered and carried out the massacre “were trying to do the right thing.” And that the sustained bombing was just “a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.” The Pentagon announced there would be no criminal charges against the commanders and perpetrators, the identities of the killers would not be revealed, and the so-called “discipline” for 16 people involved would be slaps-on-the-wrist such as “letters of reprimand and admonishment” or “retraining.”

First of all, the U.S. case that this was an accident is basically irrelevant. The reckless disregard for human life revealed by the military’s own account (and that is if you buy the military’s story) by itself defines this as a war crime. Beyond that, whatever the exact circumstances of this attack, it is part of a long-term pattern and policy of U.S. attacks on medical workers and patients in Afghanistan.

For years, Doctors Without Borders has been protesting a series of murderous U.S. and NATO assaults on their hospitals including helicopter attacks, armed raids by U.S. troops, and terrorizing patients and staff. And, Doctors Without Borders has gone on record refusing to coordinate their work with the agenda of the U.S. (or anyone else) in Afghanistan. Instead, they have insisted their mission is to help desperate people in need of medical care.  (“Afghanistan: A Return to Humanitarian Action”). The October 3 massacre of their hospital in Kunduz was a bloody message from the U.S. military that there is an open season on Doctors Without Borders.

The Pentagon’s statement accompanying the release of the April 29 report is a total whitewash. The U.S. military invented its own definition of war crimes and declared itself “innocent.” The U.S. military is burying the essential facts of what happened: that the U.S. by all accounts continued to bomb the hospital long after Doctors Without Borders reached U.S. commanders by phone demanding the bombing stop. And there is no recognition that this crime was part of a whole pattern and policy of the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.

The U.S. refusal to cooperate with a credible independent inquiry as demanded by Doctors Without Borders is outrageous. Refusing to seriously punish anyone responsible is an insulting offense to the heroic medical workers, hospital staff, and patients who were murdered, and their loved ones. And as such, the Pentagon report and the whole U.S. response to charges of war crimes is essentially a green light for more U.S. war crimes.



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