One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the US Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan
October 5, 2015
Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept & Medicines sans Frontieres
Early this morning, in the Afghan city of Kunduz, the US dropped bombs on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)). The airstrike killed at least 9 of the hospital's medical staff, and seriously injured dozens of patients. "Among the dead was the Afghan head of the hospital, Abdul Sattar." Plus: Updates from Medicines sans Frontieres.
One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the US Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan
Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept
(October 3 2015) -- Yesterday afternoon, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power marched to Twitter to proclaim: "We call on Russia to immediately cease attacks on Syrian oppo[sition and] civilians." Along with that decree, she posted a statement from the US and several of its closest authoritarian allies -- including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UK -- warning Russia that civilian casualties "will only fuel more extremism and radicalization."
Early this morning, in the Afghan city of Kunduz, the US dropped bombs on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)). The airstrike killed at least 9 of the hospital's medical staff, and seriously injured dozens of patients. "Among the dead was the Afghan head of the hospital, Abdul Sattar," reported The New York Times.
Jason Cone, MSF's Executive Director, said the medical charity "condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz full of staff and patients." He added that "all parties [to the] conflict, including in Kabul & Washington, were clearly informed of precise GPS Coordinates of MSF facilities in Kunduz," and that the "precise location of MSF Kunduz hospital [was] communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over past months, including on 9/29." Worst of all, from MSF itself:
MSF International @MSF
Bombing continued for >30 minutes after American & Afghan military officials in Kabul & Washington first informed of proximity to hospital.
2:13 AM - 3 Oct 2015
For its part, the US military in Afghanistan issued a statement acknowledging that it carried out airstrikes, claimed they were conducted "against individuals threatening the force," and conceded that "the strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility." But the NYT reported:
"From early on, the Taliban had respected the hospital's request not to bring weapons inside, according to staff members, and the hospital had been a refuge in the shattered city of Kunduz. It was a place where the wounded from all sides were treated."
The medical organization noted that "our hospital in Kunduz was the only one of its kind in NorthEastern Afghanistan." It referenced a now-poignant tweet it posted earlier in the week:
Our hospital was overwhelmed with wounded after heavy fighting in Kunduz, #Afghanistan
. . . pic.twitter.com/JfsJ8pq5Hd
Since early Monday morning, our medical teams in Kunduz, #Afghanistan have treated 252 wounded, including 53 children pic.twitter.com/hjmhYMSdpS
11:01 AM - 30 Sep 2015
Now, however, the Twitter accounts of various MSF branches are filled with horrific photographs of their staff traumatized and their hospital burning as a result of US bombs:
MSF UK Press Office
Photos of aftermath of the bombing that left 3 staff dead & many ppl wounded. #Afghanistan
MSF's full, frequently updated, hard-to-read account of all of this is here [See complete report below -- EAW.]
This strike on a hospital in Afghanistan comes days after the Saudi-led coalition bombed a wedding in Yemen that killed more than 130 people. After days of silence from the US Government -- which has actively participated from the start in the heinous bombing of Yemen -- Ambassador Power finally acknowledged the wedding massacre, but treated it like some natural disaster that has nothing to do with the US: "Terrible news from Yemen of killing of innocent civilians & aid workers. Urgently need pol solution to crisis," she tweeted.
Her accompanying statement claimed that "the United States has no role in the targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen," but yesterday, the Saudi Foreign Minister told CBS News that "We work with our allies including the United States on these targets." There's no dispute that the US has lavished the Saudis with all sorts of weapons and intelligence as it carries out its civilian-massacring attacks on Yemen.
This last week has been a particularly gruesome illustration of continuous US conduct under the War on Terror banner, including under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who celebrates himself for "ending two wars" (in the same two countries where the US continues to drop bombs).
The formula by now is clear: bombing whatever countries it wants, justifying it all by reflexively labeling their targets as "terrorists," and then dishonestly denying or casually dismissing the civilians they slaughter as "collateral damage." If one were to construct a list of all the countries in the world based on their credibility to condemn Russia for using this exact rhetorical template in Syria, the US would literally be last on that list.
UPDATE: US officials went to TIME Magazine yesterday to announce that Russia will be creating more terrorists than they kill as a result of misguided airstrikes in Syria. "We believe if you inadvertently kill innocent men, women and children, then there's a backlash from that," Lieut. General Bob Otto, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance said. "We might kill three and create 10 terrorists. It really goes back to the question of are we killing more than were making?"
It's impossible to fathom what the US media would be saying and doing if Russia did something like this in Syria. By contrast, the reaction to this airstrike by their own government will be muted and filled with apologia, ironically quite similar to the widely vilified caricature of Jeb Bush's comments about the Oregon shooting spree: "stuff happens."
UPDATE II: Al Jazeera reports that the hospital bombed by the US "is the only medical facility in the region that can deal with major injuries." Nonetheless, "officials of MSF . . . told Reuters that they 'frantically phoned' NATO and Washington DC, as bombs rained on the hospital for 'nearly an hour.'"
UPDATE III: The latest casualty figures from MSF:
LATEST: 16 ppl killed - 9 MSF staff, 7 patients (3 children). 37 injured - 19 staff (5 critical) & 18 patients & caretakers. #Afghanistan
Speaking to the nation just three days ago about the Oregon shooting spree, Barack Obama said: "This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months . . . " That applies to a lot more than that incident.
UPDATE IV: Several reports suggest that this hospital has been viewed with hostility because it treats all injured human beings, regardless of which side they're on. "The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked the Afghan security forces," reports the NYT. Al Jazeera notes that "a caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic's medical staff did not favour any side the conflict.
'We are here to help and treat civilians,' Abdul Manar said." That same caretaker added: "Several women and children are also killed in the strike. I could hear them screaming for help inside the hospital while it was set ablaze by the bombing. We are terrified and speechless."
UPDATE V: The UN human rights chief has denounced the US airstrike as "tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal."
This is not the first time this has happened. In 2004, US airstrikes in Falluja, Iraq hit a hospital and "razed it to the ground."
Afghanistan: MSF Staff Killed and Hospital Partially Destroyed in Kunduz
Medicines sans Frontieres
Update 4 October:
Death toll rises
Twelve MSF staff are confirmed killed as well as 10 patients, including three children.
"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.
"Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the US airstrike on Saturday morning. The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and ten patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack.
"We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched. We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law."
Christopher Stokes, General Director, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
Update 3 October:
MSF demands explanations after deadly airstrike
Twelve staff members and at least seven patients, including three children, were killed; 37 people were injured including 19 staff members.
This attack constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.
All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces. MSF demands a full and transparent account from the Coalition regarding its aerial bombing activities over Kunduz on Saturday morning
Update 3 October:
MSF had informed all fighting parties of hospital GPS coordinates
MSF condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz full of staff and patients.
MSF wishes to clarify that all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS Coordinates) of the MSF facilities - hospital, guesthouse, office and an outreach stabilization unit in Chardara (to the north-west of Kunduz).
As MSF does in all conflict contexts, these precise locations were communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months, including most recently on 29 September.
The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed. MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened.
Update 3 October:
Hospital bombing casualties
It is with deep sadness that we confirm so far the death of nine MSF staff during the bombing last night of MSF's hospital in Kunduz.
Latest update is that 37 people were seriously wounded during the bombing, of whom 19 are MSF staff.
Some of the most critically injured are being transferred for stabilisation to a hospital in Puli Khumri, two hours' drive away. There are many patients and staff who remain unaccounted for. The numbers keep growing as we develop a clearer picture of the aftermath of this horrific bombing.
Three staff are confirmed dead and more than 30 are unaccounted for after the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders' (MSF) trauma centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was hit several times and badly damaged during sustained bombing at 2.10am on Saturday 3 October.
Our medical team is working around the clock to do everything possible for the safety of patients and hospital staff.
"We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz," says Bart Janssens, our Director of Operations.
"We do not yet have the final casualty figures, but our medical team are providing first aid and treating the injured patients and MSF personnel and accounting for the deceased. We urge all parties to respect the safety of health facilities and staff."
Treating the wounded
Since fighting broke out on Monday, our staff have treated 394 wounded. When the aerial attack occurred this morning we had 105 patients and their care-takers in the hospital and over 80 MSF international and national staff present.
Our hospital is the only facility of its kind in the whole north-eastern region of Afghanistan, providing free life- and limb-saving trauma care.
MSF doctors treat all people according to their medical needs and do not make distinctions based on a patient's ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.
MSF in Afghanistan
MSF started working in Afghanistan in 1980. In Kunduz, just like in the rest of Afghanistan, both national and international staff work together to ensure the best quality of treatment.
MSF supports the Ministry of Public Health in Ahmad Shah Baba hospital in eastern Kabul, Dasht-e-Barchi maternity in western Kabul and Boost hospital in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. In Khost, in the east of the country, MSF operates a maternity hospital.
MSF relies only on private funding for its work in Afghanistan and does not accept money from any government.
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