Last Wednesday the aid organization Doctors Without Borders called on The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to conduct an independent inquiry into the U.S. military’s airstrike on its charitable hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders views the strike as a war crime, based on the definition established by The Geneva Conventions.
The October 3rd airstrike killed 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients, including 3 children. The airstrike took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the precise GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, September 29, to avoid that the hospital be hit. The brutal attack was sustained for 30 minutes after American and Afghan forces were first informed by MSF that its hospital was being hit by an airstrike. The hospital was repeatedly and precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.
MSF’s hospital was the only facility of its kind in the north-eastern region of Afghanistan and provided free high level life and limb saving trauma care to more than 22,000 patients in 2014. The hospital is now closed.
After such a tragic incident it would be logical to assume that somebody within the chain of command that authorized such a consequential attack would be held accountable (at the very least fired), but even a cursory look at recent history is enough to destroy that logical assumption.
After the United States Senate released a disturbing 6,000 page report on widespread CIA torture conducted after 9/11, an incredible number of zero officials (military or civilian) were prosecuted for implementing a worldwide, systematic torture program. In fact, the only person charged with a crime related to CIA torture was John Kiriakou, the whistleblower who informed the press that torture was happening. An unrepentant Kiriakou says that he’d expose those crimes and go to jail again given the choice.
On December 26, 2009, American JSOC forces killed eight schoolchildren during a night raid (one of many) in Kunar province in Afghanistan. No one was held accountable, due to the secrecy surrounding JSOC operations. And although some might say this only points to one instance of mistaken killings, keep in mind that the Washington Post quoted “two senior commanders” as saying, “JSOC’s success in targeting the right homes, businesses and individuals was only ever about 50 percent.” Presumably neither of those anonymous commanders were fired or jailed for directing such an abysmal program of breaking and entering.
On November 19, 2005 in the western Iraqi city of Haditha, a group of US marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children (all civilians). None of the Marines involved were given jail time. In a military culture that congratulates you on your first confirmed kill of an unarmed man and celebrates a hero purely based on the record breaking number of kills he achieved, this kind of massacre doesn’t seem like it came completely out of nowhere. Because the amount of people serving in the Armed Services is so large (and because I’ve met plenty of good people with military backgrounds), I absolutely do not believe that even close to a majority of military personnel are bad people, even if the institution is being infiltrated by hate groups who want weapons training. But even kind-hearted Marines with noble intentions will openly admit that most of the people they were fighting against in Afghanistan were simply poor farmers who were defending their birthplace. If you think about it, we don’t need half a million active service personnel to set up Marshall law in two countries in order to fight an organization (Al Qaeda) that is comprised of “a small number of dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated individuals.”
The officials who are pulling the strings in this ludicrously expensive network of death and destruction should be held accountable for the untold misery and bloodshed that they have caused (primarily by losing their jobs in such high positions of power). America impeached Bill Clinton over oral sex. Certainly torture merits some political backlash. Or perhaps allegations of war crimes from MSF, a Nobel Peace Prize winning humanitarian organization. Could that have ramifications for someone?
The International Criminal Court cannot bring American personnel to trial because the U.S. is not a party, and it passed an Orwellian bill into Federal law called The American Service-Members’ Protection Act (ASPA, Title 2 of Pub.L. 107–206, H.R. 4775, 116 Stat. 820, enacted by George W. Bush’s signature in August 2, 2002). The legislation “prohibits U.S. cooperation with the International Criminal Court.” The law also authorizes the U.S. President to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any U.S. or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court.”
The motivations for going into America’s many wars are far from benign, as journalist Amy Goodman documents in her book “The Exception to the Rulers.” She exhaustively details the names and faces who are pushing for war on innocent people. None of those people face the threat of prosecution or unemployment for their misguided policies. In fact, many were handsomely rewarded.
Just to name a few of the companies Amy Goodman lists in her brilliant 2004 book:
Fluor Corporation (electrical infrastructure in Iraq)
Campaign contributions, 1990-2002: $3.6 million [those contributions went up in later years].
Total contract value in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2002-2003: $500 million.
Stock price, pre-Iraq invasion (2/13/03): $27.18
Stock price, post-invasion (10/14/03): $40.82
Change in stock value: +50%
Campaign Contributions 1990-2002: $3.3 million. And [those contributions went up significantly.]
Total contract value in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2002-2003: $1 billion
Stock value: privately held.
The Washington Group International (restored electricity, rebuilt roads, and destroyed weapons infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan)
Campaign contributions, 1990-2002: $1.2 million
Total contract value in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2002-2003: $500 million
Stock price, pre-Iraq invasion (3/5/03): $15.26
Stock price, post-invasion (12/4/03): $34.33
Change in stock value: +124%
Vinnell Corporation (training Iraqi army)
Campaign contributions 1990-2002: $8.5 million
Total contract value in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2002-2003: $48 million
Stock price, pre-Iraq invasion (3/11/03): $79.00
Stock price, post Iraq (8/21/03): $97.11
Change in stock value: +23%
Amy Goodman goes on to describe the people from these corporations. How they move in and out of government jobs and influence the decisions of people in power. Also during this time, Jeremy Scahill documented the rise of the multi-million dollar mercenary organization Blackwater [renamed Academi, because apparently they weren’t proud of their brand association]. In 12 years of war, Academi Training Center Inc. received $569 million in contracts, or 31.9 percent of the total of the Pentagon’s $1.8 billion Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities Fund for Afghanistan. The program, known as “DOD CN,” was designed to stabilize Afghanistan by training the country’s security forces to support military operations against drug traffickers and other armed groups. Not to mention the New York Times reporting on $1 Trillion of mineral reserves in Afghanistan and the highly publicized connection between Iraq and oil. When you look purely at the $$$$$ it’s easy to come up with reasons for invasion. And at a cost to the taxpayer of $850,000 per year for EVERY active soldier.
The United States has carried out 118,000 airstrikes in foreign countries since 2001, and the MSF hospital is not the first hospital to be targeted for destruction during that time. This along with the US habit of double tap strikes which target rescue workers attending to the wounded after an initial bombing.
If the MSF hospital incidence can teach us anything, it’s that the people who ordered the attack on this hospital cannot simply be left to operate as if this was an unfortunate error while conducting business as usual. They need to be held responsible (they should no longer be paid to conduct these missions). The reasons that led up to this tragedy go well beyond the debate about who first called in the airstrike on MSF and why. There should be no excuse for coordinating a sustained attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital, and it pains me to see that many Americans defend the attack online. As if civilian deaths were merely an aberration during America’s humanitarian mission to save the world from all evil, and not an endemic feature of militarism. The civilian costs of these wars are well documented, despite the Pentagon’s official propaganda that it doesn’t keep body counts. There doesn’t appear to be anything precise about constant strikes. Maybe it’s time to rethink jingoistic warmongering. Maybe it’s time for some compassion. You can sign a white house petition to support Doctors Without Borders call for an independent investigation here.