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Kunduz Hospital: Just Another War Crime October 21, 2015

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights, South West Asia.
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On Saturday, 3 October 2015, the US apparently with deliberation attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan (like most places there they have intriguing histories). This event, although egregious, is part of a pattern of international criminal impunity.

There are seldom first hand reports. There was one Australian working in the hospital. Helen Thomas said that the MSF staff believed the hospital was the safest place to be. Its coordinates were given to both sides in the conflict in Kunduz, and were known to the Americans. She provides an account of what happened, reported by the ABC:

“The very foundations on which Médecins Sans Frontières’ Kunduz Trauma Centre stood were physically and metaphorically destroyed as a shower of heartless, relentless bombs landed with precision on their intended target — our hospital.

“As the hospital burnt to the ground, it took with it the lives of many of my friends, colleagues and patients and injured countless others.

“These were colleagues who I had worked side by side with continuously since the beginning of the heavy fighting in Kunduz.

“As the war raged around us, we huddled together, taking comfort in the fact that both warring parties respected our hospital’s neutrality and impartiality, understood our rules, which aligned with those of international humanitarian law, and knew our GPS coordinates.

“We all believed the hospital was the safest place to be.

“The events that unfolded that early morning can only be described as a nightmare.

“The staff that had tireless looked after victims of war trauma for the past six days had now sustained the same injuries as their patients — limbs blown off, shrapnel rocketed through their bodies, burns, pressure wave injuries of the eyes and ears.

“Our colleagues didn’t die peacefully like in the movies. They died painfully, slowly, some of them screaming out for help that never came, many alone and terrified knowing the extent of their own injuries and aware of their impending death.
“Trapped, fully conscious patients were engulfed in flames and burned to death in their beds.
“Those that didn’t die sustained major injuries which will render them severely disabled for the rest of their lives.

“Kunduz city has lost its only functional health care facility, leaving wounded civilians with nowhere to get medical treatment.

“I simply cannot comprehend how or why this happened. But I do know that it is completely inexcusable.
“The US military cannot show such utter disregard for international humanitarian law and get away with it. There must be accountability for this brutal event.”

Her family are reported to be angry that the Australian Government has done nothing. What ever happened to our new “you beaut Prime Minister”? It seems Malcolm was missing in action, or inactive and missing.

This critical issue in relation to whether a war crime was committed is the question of deliberate intent. It is possible that an accidental bombing of a hospital, in some circumstances, may well be a war crime. How might a working hospital constitute a strategic military target?

Last Thursday, Jim Miklaszewski reported on NBC Nightly News that according to the taped recordings the crew of the plane questioned whether the hospital should be attacked, and then went ahead and bombed it (via World.Mic). The legal reference here is to the judgement made at Nuremberg. The audio tapes and video footage will never be made public from official sources.

The Guardian reported that eleven days after the bombing a armoured vehicle with American and Afghan personnel entered the bombed hospital and destroyed evidence. One crime leads to another. It has to be said that President Obama did offer compensation to the victims

The fact that, as it might be expressed in biblical phrasing, crime begets crime is exactly the problem. There is no legal accountability. President Obama has promised there will be an investigation, and in fact there may be multiple investigations, and they will inevitably conclude that this was an accident. Much like mass shooting in the US, these crimes, as those associated with the drone deployments and assassinations, are accidents waiting to happen.

Libertarians, who to their credit oppose the war industry and the imperialism that follows, leading to the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and most recently Syria, will not agree the problem is a failure of government. When national governments act with disregard to the rule of law and human rights, then they will have to subordinated to an independent and impartial judgement of global government. The US is not the only nation, that despite protestations of its integrity, has sunk to a repulsive and contemptuous level for which there can be no excuse.

It is risible that nation states can conceive of themselves as gated communities when framed by the psychopathic economic policies designed to create extravagant inequality, while ignoring technologically created realities, except as systems of repression. The fact that these crimes are repeated serves to reinforce in the distant minds that some people are less human than others.

A sense of human decency is a precondition for justice. As the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta may serve to remind us, historically it has been governments, not corporations, that create and sustain the institutions of justice.

It is not clear why the hospital was attacked. Wilf Blizer interviews Jason Crone, Executive Direction of Doctors Without Borders:

UPDATE:

Mujib Mashal at  The New York Times reports that there will now be a military enquiry.

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