When the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was attacked on Oct. 3 by a U.S. AC-130 gunship, it was not a unique event. Hospitals have come under fire during conflicts presided over by the two previous presidents as well as Barack Obama.
The Geneva Convention, to which the United States is a signatory, prohibits the targeting of hospitals. “Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict,” according to the treaty.
After the Kunduz attack, U.S. officials at first said Afghan forces had been taking fire from the building. Obama later apologized for the attack in which 22 patients and staff members were killed. Médecins Sans Frontières has called the attack a war crime and wants an independent investigation.
Hospitals also came under fire during the Iraq War under the George W. Bush administration. U.S. planes bombed a Baghdad maternity hospital in 2003, according to ThinkProgress. Several people were killed in the attack and 27 injured.
Nor were hospitals safe under Bill Clinton’s watch. NATO forces bombed a hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1999, killing four. Technical problems were blamed for the attack. Also that year in Nis, Serbia, NATO dropped cluster bombs on an outdoor market and neighboring hospital, killing three in the hospital.
In 1993, U.S. and Turkish forces bombed the largest hospital in Mogadishu, Serbia, where Médecins Sans Frontières was working. Three patients were killed. The United Nations said the hospital was attacked because it was being used as a hideout by forces loyal to Gen. Mohammad Farah Aidid, the Somali military commander who had taken over the government in a coup.
Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières
The last British prisoner in Guantanamo Bay has claimed that Britain knew flawed evidence, used to justify the Iraq War, had been obtained under torture – and said his lengthy detention was a result of fears that he would go on the record if released.
Shaker Aamer, who is due to be freed from the US military prison after 13 years without charge, said he witnessed British agents at Bagram Air Base when a prisoner wrongly told interrogators that Iraqi forces had trained al-Qaeda in the use of weapons of mass destruction.
The evidence of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, which was later disproven, was used by George W Bush in 2002 during a hawkish speech calling for the removal of Saddam Hussein, in which he said: “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.”
Mr Aamer said that despite guarantees he would be released within days, he feared he would still die in the prison, adding: “I know there are people who, even now, are working hard to keep me here.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose.
Aamer gave statements to the Metropolitan police two years ago in which he detailed the alleged brutality he has faced, that included torture. He said he was interrogated by British agents at Bagram airbase, who knew he and others were being tortured there.
Britain has a long, dark history of torture and it has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide it. A normal functioning democracy would stand resolute that torture of any kind is not just illegal and immoral, it simply doesn’t work.
David Whyte’s recent book “How Corrupt is Britain” covers some pivotal moments in the UK’s history of torture.
In June 1975 an eminent Harley Street doctor flew to Dublin. The patient was suffering from severe angina, a condition which is ‘always associated with the risk of sudden death according to the doctor. The doctor was Dr Denis Leigh, a leading consultant psychiatrist at the Bethlem Royal and the Maudsley Hospitals in London, and more importantly, medical consultant to the British Army.
The patient, Sean McKenna, was a former member of the IRA who had been subjected to so-called ‘in-depth interrogation’ following the introduction of internment without trial in August 1971, He was one of the 14 ‘hooded men’ whose infamous treatment forced the lrish state to launch a case alleging torture against the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Leigh’s medical examination was being carried out on behalf of the Crown to bolster the UK defence that the men had not suffered long-term physical or psychiatric damage as a result of their interrogation.
The ‘in-depth interrogation’ that McKenna and the others were subjected to consisted of five techniques that had been widely used by the British army in counter-insurgency campaigns in Aden, Cyprus, Malaya, Palestine and elsewhere – hooding, white noise, wall standing in a stress position and of course regular beatings.
Dr Leigh found that McKenna’s condition was known to British army doctors before the interrogation went ahead, and ‘it would be hard to show that it was wise to proceed with the interrogation, and that the interrogation did not have the effect of worsening his angina’.
In fact McKenna’s psychiatric condition was such that he had been released from Long Kesh internment camp in May 1972 directly into the care of a psychiatric unit. His daughter described ‘a very broken man, sitting crying, very shaky’. Four days after the June 1975 medical examination Sean McKenna died. He had suffered a massive heart attack.
In 1976 the European Human Rights Commission (EHRC) upheld a complaint by Ireland that the treatment of the ‘hooded men’ constituted torture, and referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights for judgement. The Commission had condemned the five techniques as a ‘modern system of torture’.
Britain was one of the original signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, had been found to have sanctioned torture.
Successive UK governments, rather than comply with their legal obligation to ‘search and try’ allegations of torture, adopted a policy more akin to ‘hide and lie’. This was to have consequences many years later. The inquiry into the 2003 murder of an Iraqi civilian, Baha Mousa, by British soldiers was told that the five techniques had again been used in Iraq by every single battle group in the field.
ln ‘Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture,’ Guardian journalist Ian Cobain provides damning evidence that the UK government did in fact ‘do’ torture, and had been doing so for decades in counter-insurgency wars from Brunei to Aden, and from Ireland to lraq. In June 2013 UK foreign secretary William Hague apologised in Parliament for the torture of Mau Mau suspects in Kenya during the 1950s. Over £50 million was paid out in compensation to some 5,000 Kenyan victims. ln 1972 prime minister Edward Heath had promised Parliament that the ‘five techniques’ torture techniques would never be used again.
As declassified documents now show, prime ministers and cabinet colleagues over the decades actually went to great lengths to ensure that those responsible for torture would not face sanction or prosecution and actively covered up these crimes.
In another case in Afghanistan, among the Britons who were picked up was a man called Jamal al-Harith. Born Ronald Fiddler in Manchester in 1966, Harith had converted to Islam in his 20s and travelled widely in the Muslim world before arriving in Afghanistan. After 9/11, he had been imprisoned by the Taliban, who suspected him of being a British spy. A British journalist found Harith languishing in the prison in January 2002 and alerted British diplomats in Kabul, believing they would arrange his repatriation. Instead, they arranged for him to be detained by US forces, who took him straight to an interrogation centre at Kandahar.
Harith then spent two years at Guantánamo, being kicked, punched, slapped, shackled in painful positions, subjected to extreme temperatures and deprived of sleep. He was refused adequate water supplies and fed on food with date markings 10 or 12 years old. On one occasion, he says, he was chained and severely beaten for refusing an injection. He estimates he was interrogated about 80 times, usually by Americans but sometimes by British intelligence officers.
In all, nine British nationals were sent to the maximum-security prison at Guantánamo, along with at least nine former British residents. All were incarcerated for years, and from the moment they arrived they suffered torture including regular beatings, threats and sleep deprivation. All were interrogated by MI5 officers and some also by MI6.
In December 2005, the full truth about British complicity in rendition and torture was still such a deeply buried official secret that Jack Straw felt able to reassure MPs on the Commons foreign affairs committee about the allegations starting to surface in the media. “Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories,” he said, “there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition or that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States”. Straw was lying.
Over the next few years, men were rendered not only from the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, but from Kenya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Gambia, Zambia, Thailand and the US itself. The US was running a global kidnapping programme on the basis of agreements reached at a Nato meeting.
Quietly, Britain pledged logistics support for the rendition programme, which resulted in the CIA’s jets becoming frequent visitors to British airports en route to the agency’s secret prisons on at least 210 times.
It has since been discovered that throughout the postwar period, it seemed, there had been a network of secret British prisons, hidden from the Red Cross, where men thought to pose a threat to the state could be kept for years and systematically tormented, tortured and sometimes murdered.
It is now known that MI5 have a department called the “international terrorism-related agent running section”: the section routinely responsible for interviewing suspected terrorists. The MI5 officers who were interrogating al-Qaida suspects – men who were being tortured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere around the world – were agent handlers. It appeared that MI5 was seeking to recruit torture victims as double agents.
Within two months of the May 2010 general election, under pressure from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, as well as some of his own backbenchers, the new prime minister, David Cameron, announced the establishment of a judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition. The man appointed to head the inquiry was named as Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge. It is possible that MI5 and MI6 had a hand in his selection; for the previous four years Gibson had served as the intelligence services commissioner. Rights groups suggested that Gibson should be appearing before the inquiry as a witness rather than presiding over it.
In July 2011, most major international and British human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said they would be boycotting the inquiry. The following month, lawyers representing victims of Britain’s torture operations announced that they, too, would have nothing to do with it. Six months later, the government announced that the Gibson inquiry was scrapped.
Cameron’s government then brought forward a green paper that suggested a need for greater courtroom secrecy. Britain’s complicity in torture was to continue to be a dirty dark state secret.
None of this squares with Britain’s reputation as a nation that prides itself on its love of fair play and respect for the rule of law. Successive British government’s continues to preach to other nations around the world of the importance of justice, transparency and democracy whilst disregarding essentials such as these back at home.
US/NATO planes bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan on Saturday. The attack lasted an hour, and continued even after medics “frantically phoned NATO and Washington” to tell them what they were bombing.
It was no use. The attackers already knew full well what their target was. Doctors Without Borders had long ago provided them with the GPS coordinates of their facilities. And the US-installed Afghan government, which had raided that very same hospital in July of this year, had requested the strike, claiming the hospital was being used by insurgents.
The attack killed 22 people, including 12 medical workers and 10 patients. Three of the patients were children. The first bombardment targeted the Intensive Care Unit, where an eyewitness nurse said, “Patients were burning in their beds.” And a hospital caretaker said that he could hear women and children, “screaming for help inside the hospital while it was set ablaze by the bombing.”
Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. President Obama was awarded his in 2009. As Commander-in-Chief of the military that bombed the Doctors Without Borders hospital, this makes Obama perhaps the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to bomb another Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Or maybe not? Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, and he masterminded the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos for President Nixon around that time. Shortly thereafter, it came to light that in that campaign, hospitals were routinely targeted for bombing. As The Nation recently reported:
“A letter from former Army captain Rowan Malphurs said that in 1969 and 1970, he analyzed aerial photographs where B-52 bombs (the ones ordered by Kissinger) fell on Cambodia: “I saw on several occasions where possible hospitals had been bombed…. On another occasion I observed a red cross on a building that was partially destroyed by bombs.”
By then, the Red Cross had already been awarded its three Nobel Peace Prizes.
Sorry, Obama, it looks like that’s one “historic first” you can’t claim. That old fox beat you to it.
If it makes you feel any better, Kissinger seems to think your mass-murder record actually beats his. (I know this will warm your heart, since you once bragged, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.”) When confronted about bombing Cambodia on a recent book tour, Kissinger said in his own defense:
“I think we would find, if you study the conduct of guerrilla-type wars, that the Obama administration has hit more targets on a broader scale than the Nixon administration ever did. (…)
And I bet if one did an honest account, there were fewer civilian casualties in Cambodia than there have been from American drone attacks.”
Whether that dubious claim is true or not, it’s the thought that counts. Consider it a compliment: a gold star from teacher. Or even an elder statesman’s passing of the torch: from one peace-prize winning war criminal to another.
Here is the US changing its story for the FOURTH time of why it launched an air strike on the Doctors without Borders hospital in the Afghan town of Kunduz at the weekend, massacring at least 22 patients and hospital staff.
As Glenn Greenwald has doggedly pointed out, the western media have been faithfully changing their account repeatedly and largely uncritically of what happened to keep in line with US claims. CNN and the New York Times have been particularly egregious offenders. The media monitoring group FAIR has also produced a revealing overview of the NYT’s coverage of the strikes on the hospital.
Almost all of the corporate media began by distancing the US from the attack, with some indicating that it was possible the hospital’s destruction simply coincided with US air strikes in that area. The BBC used the painfully evasive “Afghan air strike” in an early headline, suggesting the possibility of an illusory Afghan air force, to keep the US out of the picture.
Then, the US admitted it was responsible but claimed the strike was an accident. The problem, however, was that this story too was not credible: Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) had given the US and Afghan forces the GPS coordinates of the hospital and called the US military to tell them of the attack during the strike to no avail.
Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, exemplified the western liberal community’s torturous efforts to avoid considering US responsibility for such a serious war crime. He wanted us to think about Assad rather than Kunduz in this astonishing, deflectionary tweet (since deleted).
(Note that this a familiar practice by the HRW team: I wrote at length about similar efforts by their investigators to try to accuse Hizbollah of more serious breaches of international law than Israel when considering the same war crimes.)
Next, the US admitted it had intentionally targeted the medical facility, but did so because, it claimed, there were Taliban fighters using it as a base, even though no evidence was produced and Doctors without Borders staff absolutely denied that had been the case.
Now a US general is blaming Afghan forces for directing the US to strike the hospital.
This slipperiness by the US is visible only because Doctors without Borders, a western organisation, ran the hospital, their staff were among those killed, and they have been waging a relentless campaign exposing the US authorities’ mendacity, forcing the army – and its media stenographers – to keep changing tack.
Had this been a local Afghan-run hospital, or a wedding party, the US claims would have gone entirely unchallenged, and the media would have treated them unquestioningly, as they initially tried to do here.
Thanks to the Doctors without Borders, we have now reached the point where the US has been forced both to admit and justify a very serious war crime.
The intense reluctance of the western media to use the same language of outright condemnation faced with the fact of a US war crime that it regularly employs when offered (usually by the same US authorities) an allegation of a similar war crime by an official enemy – say, Russia or Syria’s Assad – exposes quite how much of a propaganda role our media willingly fulfils.
War crimes are war crimes, except, it seems, when they are committed by us and reported by our media.
On Dec. 26, 2009, a U.S. Special Operations team flew from Kabul to Ghazi Khan village in the Narang district of Kunar province. They attacked three houses, where they killed two adults and eight children. Seven of the children were handcuffed before they were shot. The youngest was 11 or 12, three more were 12, and one was 15. Both the United Nations and the Afghan government conducted investigations and confirmed all the details of the attack.
U.S. officials conducted their own inquiry, but no report was published and no U.S. military or civilian officials were held accountable. Finally, more than five years later, a New York Times report on Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) Seal Team 6 named it as the U.S. force involved. But JSOC operations are officially secret and, to all practical purposes, immune from accountability. As a senior U.S. officer told the Times, “JSOC investigates JSOC, that’s part of the problem.”
Accountability for the U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, killing at least 22 people, is likely to be just as elusive. The bilateral security agreement that President Karzai refused to sign, but which President Ghani signed in September 2014, provides total immunity from Afghan law for U.S. forces and officials. So whoever should be held legally responsible for the massacre at the hospital will only be subject to accountability under U.S. military and civilian legal systems, which routinely fail to prosecute anyone for similar war crimes.
What makes this attack unique is not that U.S.-led forces attacked a hospital or killed civilians, but that, for the first time in many years, a Western NGO found itself operating behind enemy lines in territory controlled by Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF) or Taliban. Doctors Without Borders (or MSF for its French initials) thus found itself subject to U.S. rules of engagement under which Afghans have lived and died in their thousands for the past 14 years, effectively excluded from the protections formally guaranteed to civilians, the wounded and medical facilities by the Geneva Conventions.
While UN officials have condemned the attack on MSF in Kunduz, the UN itself has been complicit in the under-reporting of civilian casualties in ACF-held territory in Afghanistan. The UN has issued reports on civilian casualties based only on the small number of civilian deaths that it has fully investigated. When Western officials and media have cited these numbers as estimates of total civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the UN has failed to correct that misleading and dangerous impression.
For instance, when the UN documented 80 civilian killings in U.S. night raids in 2010, this was based on completed investigations of only 13 of the 73 incidents reported to the UN that year. Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who worked on the UN report, estimated that 420 civilians were killed in all 73 incidents.
But Nadery still failed to make it clear that these 73 incidents were only the ones reported to the UN, which had little or no access to ACF-held areas that were targeted by thousands of U.S. night raids and the bulk of 5,100 U.S. air strikes in 2010. U.S. officials and the Western media have used these absurdly low estimates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan to whitewash the deadly effects of 60,000 U.S. air strikes and thousands of special forces night raids over the past 14 years.
‘War Is Not Pretty’
As a former U.S. Navy Seal told the New York Times, “War is not this pretty thing the United States has come to believe it to be.” But it is not really “the United States” that has come to see war as a “pretty thing.” Rather it is our leaders who have targeted the American public with propaganda or “Stratcom” – “strategic communications” — to disguise the horrific reality of war, while providing JSOC and other U.S. forces with secrecy and legal cover to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions.
As retired Admiral James Stavridis told the Times, “If you want these forces to do things that occasionally bend the rules of international law, you certainly don’t want that out in public.”
While U.S. forces feel free to disregard the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, the People On War survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that ordinary people in war-torn countries like Afghanistan hold strongly to the international legal conventions that are supposed to protect them.
This ICRC report did find the United States exceptional, not in believing war to be “pretty,” but in its failure to educate its people and its soldiers about the Geneva Conventions and the protections they guarantee to civilians in wartime.
While three-quarters of people in other developed countries knew that soldiers in war “must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone,” only 52 percent of Americans were aware of this basic principle of military law. Twice as many Americans as people in other countries subscribed to an erroneous and lower legal standard that military operations should only “avoid civilians as much as possible.”
The ICRC concluded that, “Across a wide range of questions, in fact, American attitudes towards attacks on civilians were much more lax.”
U.S. officials claim that their air strikes are carefully designed and vetted by military lawyers and planners to ensure minimum “collateral damage,” but William Arkin discovered a dirty little secret about this process when he was invited to observe an attack on an alleged ACF leader in Afghanistan from the safety of the U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar.
Arkin watched on a large TV screen as A-10 Warthog planes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a convoy of vehicles. U.S. officials explained that 1,000-pound bombs would have caused more casualties, while 150-pound Hellfire missiles might have missed their target, so the 500-pound bombs were carefully chosen to kill the target without causing unnecessary casualties.
But then one of the planes did something unexpected. It turned to make a second pass and blanketed the whole area with 30mm armor-piercing shells from its Gatling gun, which fires 65 shells per second. A “precision strike” had just turned into an indiscriminate massacre. A U.S. official quickly told Arkin that this was “not unauthorized.”
The dirty little secret Arkin had discovered was that, once such an operation is under way, special forces ground controllers in the area take full control, and the plans drawn up by lawyers and controllers far from the action no longer apply. Similar rules may have applied to the U.S. air strikes on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, making it difficult for anyone in Washington or Kabul to stop them once they were under way.
Senior U.S. military officers have told Dana Priest of the Washington Post that more than 50 percent of U.S. special forces night raids target the wrong person or house. But that didn’t stop President Obama making them a central tactic in his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, boosting the number of night raids from 20 raids in May 2009 to 1,000 per month a year later.
There is no reason to believe that U.S. air strikes are more accurate or based on better intelligence than night raids by special operations forces. British military adviser Kamal Alam explained to the BBC last Friday that Russian air strikes in Syria are likely to be more accurate than U.S. ones because they have the critical advantage of being guided by Syrian military intelligence on the ground.
Alam noted that even the Iraqi government depends on Syrian military intelligence in its campaign against the Islamic State, and added that this is a source of embarrassment to U.S. officials, who have no such human intelligence capabilities in Syria or Iraq.
Maybe the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz will force more Americans to confront the ugly reality of the devastating air war our country has waged across half a dozen countries for 14 years. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Endless Air Wars.”]
Whether any institution can succeed in holding U.S. officials legally accountable for the bombing of the MSF hospital or not, it may finally bring home the horrors and the indiscriminate nature of our country’s endless air war to millions of Americans. U.S. propaganda will try to portray this as a tragic isolated incident. It is not. It is a war crime, and only the latest in a 14-year-long policy of systematic war crimes.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has demanded an independent international body investigate the suspected US airstrike that killed 22 people at a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The charity’s official said MSF cannot trust the US military probe.
“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,” MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement on Sunday.
“Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient,” he added.
The US military launched a probe into the incident on Saturday.
He said MSF condemns the attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.
“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,” he added.
“The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack.”
The US military launched a probe into the incident on Saturday. The US military has confirmed its air forces conducted a strike “in the vicinity” of a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz near the time the facility was hit.
MSF said on Saturday that “all indications” suggest US-led forces carried out the bombing and demanded a transparent account from the Coalition regarding its activities in Kunduz.
On Sunday, NATO said that its preliminary multi-national investigation to determine whether it conducted the airstrike should be wrapped up in a matter of days.
Doctors Without Borders has dismissed claims that members of the Taliban militant group were firing against Afghan and US forces from the clinic run by the charity group in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, before a US airstrike on the medical facility.
The group, known by its French acronym as the MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres), in a statement issued on Sunday rejected the claim about the presence of the militants at its facility, saying, “The gates of the hospital compound were closed all night so no one that is not staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened.”
The Afghan Defense Ministry earlier said Taliban militants had attacked the hospital and were using the building “as a human shield.”
The militants had entered the compound of the medical center and used “the buildings and the people inside as a shield” while firing on security forces, said Brigadier General Dawlat Waziri, the Defense Ministry’s deputy spokesman.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said 10 to 15 “terrorists” had been hiding in the clinic at the time of the US strike, adding, “All of the terrorists were killed but we also lost doctors.”
The US military said it conducted an airstrike “in the vicinity” of the hospital, as it targeted Taliban militants who were directly firing on US military personnel.
“US forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz city at 2.15 a.m. (local), Oct 3, against insurgents who were directly firing upon US service members advising and assisting Afghan Security Forces in the city of Kunduz. The strike was conducted in the vicinity of a Doctors Without Borders medical facility,” said General John F Campbell, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan.
The MSF said in a statement that at 2:10 a.m. local time on Saturday (2040 GMT) its trauma center in Kunduz was hit several times. It added that the aerial assault continued for more than half an hour after US and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed.
According to the statement, the Saturday attack left 19 people dead and dozens more seriously injured.
The survivors of the US airstrike on the clinic say those patients unable to move were burned to death during the assault.
The MSF facility is the only one in the northeastern region of Afghanistan capable of taking care of major injuries.
According to the MSF, over 100 patients and their caregivers, as well as more than 80 international and local MSF staff were in the hospital when the airstrike took place.
On September 28, Taliban militants overran Afghanistan’s northern city of Kunduz, but were later forced to withdraw from much of the city in the face of a government counterattack. Sporadic clashes continue as Afghan troops struggle to clear remaining pockets of the militants.
Kunduz is strategic as it is located on a crossroad that connects key regions of the country. It is also along the country’s border with Tajikistan and could offer the militants the opportunity to establish a base in the country’s north.
Press TV – October 4, 2015
The survivors of a US airstrike on a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, say those patients unable to move were burned to death during the assault.
“Those people that could, had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds,” recalled Heman Nagarathnam, the head of programs by the charity group, known by its French acronym, MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres).
It was also said that a patient was left in the operating room on the table “dead, in the middle of the destruction.”
“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” Nagarathnam said, adding, “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again.”
The MSF said in a statement that at 2:10 a.m. local time on Saturday (2040 GMT) its trauma center in Kunduz was hit several times. It added that the aerial assault continued for more than half an hour after US and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed.
According to the statement, the Saturday attack left 19 people dead and dozens more seriously injured.
Lajos Zoltan Jecs, an MSF nurse and a survivor of the horrific bombardment, described the US airstrike as “absolutely terrifying.”
The nurse, who was inside the facility during the strike, said, “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,” Jecs added. … Full article
An air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 19 people is “utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for a transparent investigation.
“This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement on Saturday.
“The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
“International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection. These obligations apply no matter whose air force is involved, and irrespective of the location.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the bombing of its hospital full of staff and patients in a statement on Saturday.
“The bombing in Kunduz continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed by MSF that its hospital was struck. MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened,” it said.
They added that the precise locations of its facilities had been communicated to all parties in the military conflict on multiple occasions, with the latest communication being on September 29.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) strongly condemned the violence against patients, medical workers and facilities, saying it was “deeply shocked,” in a statement on Saturday.
“This is an appalling tragedy. Such attacks against health workers and facilities undermine the capacity of humanitarian organizations to assist the Afghan people at a time when they most urgently need it,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan. “Neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance is crucial today in Afghanistan,” he added.
The ICRC called on all parties to ensure the safety of the civilian population, medical staff and facilities.
A hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz has been hit and partially destroyed in an “aerial attack” that killed at least 19 people in the early hours of Saturday. Among the victims were 12 Medecins Sans Frontieres staff and seven patients, including three children.
NATO coalition spokesman Colonel Brian Tribus said US forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz at 2:15am on Saturday. He admitted the strike might have “resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”
The head of US-led forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, has apologized to Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Reuters reported citing the Afghan president’s office.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday that Washington had launched an investigation in coordination with the Afghan government. The area around the hospital has been the scene of intense fighting between US-Afghan troops and Taliban fighters in recent days, he added.
NATO does not rule out the possibility that a hospital of Doctors Without Borders in Afghan city of Kunduz was bombed by US air forces.
A Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz was bombed early on Saturday, leading to the death of at least three people, with dozens missing, the international aid agency said in a statement.
There were around 200 people in the hospital building when it was bombed, according to MSF.
NATO said in a statement that US forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz at around the same time — just after 02:00 am on Saturday (after 22:00 GMT Sunday).
The 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,” Bart Janssens, MSF Director of Operations commented on the bombing.
“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.”
According to MSF, at the time of the aerial attack 105 patients and their caretakers were in the hospital and over 80 MSF international and national staff.
MSF’s hospital is the only facility of its kind in the Northeast of Afghanistan, providing free life- and limb-saving trauma care.
Kunduz, a city of 300,000 in northern Afghanistan, was recaptured by Afghan government forces on Thursday.
Petition to UK Parliament: A Few Reasons Why
The word genocide comes to mind.
— Weapons expert Dai Williams, letter to Tony Blair warning of consequences of Iraq action, 13th October 2002
On Saturday, September 26, Ahmed Mahdi Al Faqi was arrested and delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He is charged with war crimes, the deliberate destruction of religious or historical monuments in Mali and especially the irreplaceable ancient shrines of Timbuktu, in 2012.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Nesouda described the destruction in Timbuktu as “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.”
Timbuktu City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the 16th and 17th Centuries this academic and cultural beacon boasted 180 schools and universities, drawing students and scholars from across the Muslim world.
“The people of Mali deserve justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities”, states Nesouda.
On the same day as Al Faqi’s arrest a petition to the British Parliament was released to “Arrest Tony Blair for war crimes in the Middle East and for misleading the public.”
Britain is a signatory to the 123 nation-backed ICC. Thus the petition’s aims are possible.
Blair indeed blatantly misled the public and the Parliament he headed. The disinformation was breathtaking and the result was “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.” The people of Iraq too deserve “justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities.”
On September 24, 2002 Blair addressed Parliament. He began:
Today we published a 50-page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme.
It was, broadly, fifty pages of obfuscations, untruths and economies with the truth. For instance, he stated that the UN weapons Inspectors met with “obstruction”; e.g.:
… finally in late 1998, the UN team were forced to withdraw. As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the UN’s work that there were: up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tonnes of VX nerve agent; up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores; and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents … All of this was missing or unaccounted for.
Of course, no such chemical and biological agents existed – and in 1998 the UN Inspectors had fled to the safety of Bahrain on the orders of Richard Butler, who then headed the team, having been tipped off that the US and UK were to bomb Iraq again, illegally, in time for Christmas.
To clarify “obstruction.” As one who was in Iraq numerous times during the UN weapons inspectors tenures and who witnessed their arrogant, discourteous, uncivil behavior towards Iraqis staggering financially under the weight of the crippling embargo. Iraq was, however, charged for their accommodation, vehicles, living expenses, salaries. “Obstruction” became a sick game.
“Obstructions” were noted and reported to the UN as non-co-operation on behalf of the Iraqi authorities, building a case for further bombing or invasion. These almost invariably occurred when the weapons inspectors turned up unannounced, out of hours so the facility to be inspected was, naturally, deserted. They would drive away and note it as an obstruction – or if they called the owner or manager and he had to get dressed and drive for an hour to get there to let them in, that too was an “obstruction.”
Other “obstructions” would be to turn up on Friday, the Sabbath, or on public holidays, when only security guards were there. They needed the permission of their boss to allow any one into the facility. As they made the telephone call for that permission, it was noted as an “obstruction.” There are uncounted other examples of the devious wickedness perpetrated in the name of the UN.
The fifty page dossier, Blair assured, confirmed (Saddam Hussein’s) “WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running.” It was “… important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people.” Moreover “… he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.”
Destroyed munitions plants had been rebuilt, and “in addition, we know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
It was all a pack of lies, the latter claim comprehensively trashed by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Iraq has vast amounts of uranium, discovered, marked and mapped by the British in the 1950s and had they been developing a weapons programme, had no need to buy it from anywhere.
Saddam Hussein had, in fact, closed down his nuclear programme shortly after the 1991 attack.
As for the rebuilt munitions plants, a number of them were visited by former UN Under Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck and myself as these stories circulated. They remained in ruins or trashed, devoured by overgrown undergrowth and deserted.
Saddam Hussein, said Blair, “could begin a conflict” of which “the consequences” could “engulf the whole world.” What an irony that the consequences of US and UK actions in Iraq and throughout the region in their demented “Crusade” indeed now endangers all the Middle East, North Africa and drawn into combat, the madness, are countries as far away as Australia, Canada and Europe. Much of the world.
Three weeks after Blair’s fantasy assurances to Parliament, weapons research expert Dai Williams wrote to him warning of the illegalities of the weapons the UK and US coalition would use. They would be “… directly in contravention of Articles 35 and 55 of the 1st Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions. They are, put simply, weapons of indiscriminate effect.”
The letter, headed, “Use of Uranium weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq: Hazards for civilians and ground forces”, begins:
In recent weeks I have been alarmed by your support for US plans to launch another major military offensive on Iraq, ostensibly to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Williams makes clear it will be the UK and US who will be using weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction: “These weapons are large radiological bombs.”
Last week I was advised of US Patent Number 6,389,977 (1997) for a ‘shrouded aerial bomb.’ This is the patent for a series of guided weapons using the upgraded BLU-109/B warhead. Claim 5 of this patent states: “The shrouded aerial bomb as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the penetrating body is formed of depleted uranium. This and 6 other US patents verify the development of guided weapons and sub-munitions with Uranium warheads …”
An additional problem is emerging from my recent investigations. It seems likely that US arms manufacturers may be using standard, not depleted uranium in new weapons i.e. Uranium metal with the same isotopic mix as natural uranium (99.3% U238, 0.7% U235).“ The full Report was attached to the letter.
This would explain why researchers in Hungary and Greece detected increased airborne Uranium dust soon after the Balkans bombing began, but that it appeared to be natural, not depleted uranium … Independent researchers are now alert to this possibility. I hope Ministry of Defence staff are also considering it. Unfortunately standard uranium is more radioactive than depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium has a cancer inducing, birth deforming “half-life” of 4.5 billion years. Crimes against humanity do not come bigger.
In context, in 1991, the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned the government of the day regarding the Iraq attack that “If fifty tonnes” of the residual radioactive dust remained “in the region” from the bombing, there would be “half a million extra cancer deaths by the end of the century”; i.e., 2000. Their prediction was an understatement.
Williams issued a stark warning:
I guess that the UK Storm Shadow cruise missile, also suspected of using Uranium components, has been tested in Afghanistan and will be operational in a new attack on Iraq. Other known or suspected Uranium weapons not needed in Afghanistan (e.g. anti-tank systems) will also be used in large quantities in Iraq.
The implication is that at least 1,500 tons of Uranium weapons will be used to prosecute US war plans in Iraq, greatly increasing existing Uranium contamination from 1991 and jeopardizing allied troops and Iraqi civilians alike.
Can you justify using known weapons of indiscriminate effect to defeat supposed weapons of mass destruction? The US has scant regard for international law in its military operations. What is your Government’s view on knowingly using weapons of indiscriminate effect in Iraq?
This letter puts you on notice of that issue. UK forces are accountable to you. The use of such weapons contravening international law must be a political, not military decision, preferably decided by Parliament.
The letter warns:
Regardless of your obligations under international law … I suggest you have moral obligations in this matter.
How will you justify risking the slow death of tens of thousands of people whose lives will be irreversibly affected by Uranium contamination? The word genocide comes to mind. This may not concern President Bush. I hope it will concern you, your Cabinet and all MPs asked to support your plans now you are alerted to the latest evidence about Uranium weapons.
With respect Prime Minister I suggest you need a lot more facts before you commit more UK troops to a new war in Iraq. At this time you face being drawn by the Pentagon and US Government into the greatest military scandal since Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Since Williams prophetic words former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared the Iraq decimation illegal, stating:
I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.
The UN’s former Chief weapons Inspector, Hans Blix has echoed this view, telling the UK Iraq Inquiry:
I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war. There can be cases where it is doubtful, maybe it was permissible to go to war, but Iraq was, in my view, not one of those.
Numerous international law experts concur, as have many legally led public Inquiries such as the 2011 Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal, a seven Member panel chaired by former Malaysian Federal Court Judge, Abdul Kadir Sulaiman.
The five panel tribunal unanimously decided that the former US and British leaders had committed crimes against peace and humanity, and also violated international law when they ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
UNESCO has described the destruction and pillage of Iraq “cultural cleansing.”
If a man is deemed a war criminal for the terrible destruction of history in Mali is delivered to the ICC, Bush and Blair – whose actions destroyed virtually the whole of Iraq, a swathe of its history and set in train the ongoing destruction, indeed genocide, should be treated no differently. Tony Blair’s assertions in Parliament in 2002 were integral in the excuse for the illegal invasion and ongoing bloodbath now also engulfing Syria.
If you care for the law, for humanity, if eligible, please sign the petition.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books.
The special attention that the United States has been paying to Central Asia, while actively seeking ways to implement a strategy of global leadership in the region that is now fully recognized as the center of Eurasia, has been covered in numerous articles, including those published in NEO.
According to the geopolitical concept of the recognized American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski: Those who control Eurasia control the world. Therefore, Washington’s steps to strengthen American influence in the region in the long run are completely predictable. The pivotal role in this policy is played by the US military bases in the region and military cooperation ties. After all, according to the globalist logic of the White House, American influence in any region must be supported by the “adequate” military force. The 9/11 events in the US and the consequent anti-terrorist intervention in Afghanistan have become a pretext for a major military deployment of American and NATO troops in Central Asia.
By the way, the ongoing engagement of US troops in Afghanistan confirms the notion that the presence of US and NATO forces in this country has little to do with the “struggle for democracy”. The true purpose of the military intervention in Afghanistan was the creation of powerful military bases, as the geographical position of this country is pretty unique in terms of the strategic freedom it provides. From this area Washington can launch a massive attack against Russia’s Urals and Siberia, different facilities in Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, India and China. For this reason from the very start of the US invasion of Afghanistan, Shindand and Bagram Air Bases were transformed into massive construction sites where a large number of surface and underground facilities being built.
It happens so that for Pentagon Central Asia serves as a base for applying pressure on Russia, China, Iran and the entire Eurasian continent, it also plays a pivotal role in the post-conflict settlement in Afghanistan, since it may form a joint military alliance under the banner of opposition to the Islamic state.
In an effort to strengthen its positions in Central Asia under the above mentioned pretext, the United States has sent invitations to join the anti-ISIL military coalition to both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. To add some momentum to the matter the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State Daniel Rosenblum has recently visited Tashkent, while the commander of United States Central Command general John Lloyd James Austin III made a trip to Dushanbe. In the course of their visits American emissaries discussed the situation in Afghanistan, regional security, and the advantages of cooperation with the United States “in the fight against international extremism” with regional authorities. Of course, a particular emphasis was made on the “need” to stay away from integration with Russia.
It is clear that in dealing with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan “messengers of Washington” tried to make active use of the fact that those states today are free from obligations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is headed by Russia, and therefore they are free to pursue military cooperation with the US. Therefore, Washington and Tashkent signed a document that provides the latter with free shipments of military equipment in the next five years. American equipment, trucks, military vehicles for a total worth of 6.2 million dollars will be just granted to this Central Asian state. This year, the United States has handed over to Uzbekistan armored class M-ATV, as well as armored repair and recovery equipment to support them, 308 cars and 20 repairs trucks with a total cost of at least 150 million dollars.
In dealing with Uzbek authorities American envoys had to mind the fact that the country entered the international counter-terrorism coalition immediately after September 11, 2001, while establishing special relations with a number of Western countries. As a result, the territory of the Republic at the time was housing a US military base, while the German Air Force had the opportunity to use the airfield in Termez, near the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation with Germany has been prolonged recently for a couple more years, though Tashkent is stressing the fact that the airfield in Termez is not a foreign military base. There’s little wonder to this fact, since the presence of foreign military bases was prohibited by law in Uzbekistan after the Andijan events, therefore in 2005 at the request of the Uzbek authorities American soldiers had to pack and leave.
Uzbekistan, is seeking ways to retain non-aligned status, and has no plans to allow any foreign military bases on its territory, on top of that it remains reluctant to send Uzbek troops abroad. This was pretty much the answer that the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has given to Washington’s offer to join a coalition against the Islamic state.
However, Washington’s attempts to strengthen its military and political influence in Central Asia are far from over. Such efforts will certainly continue, despite the apparent reluctance of regional players to burden themselves with military obligations to the United States. America has severely damaged its reputation, therefore nobody believes in its peacemaking aspirations anymore, since the wars it has been waging are only leading to the suffering and misery of the civilian population of the countries it invades.
TEHRAN – There’s going to be no solution to the Afghan crisis, and it’s all Obama’s fault.
At a time when the people of Afghanistan seek the international community’s help for peace and prosperity, the United States has decided to scrap their pullout plans once again, leaving thousands of occupying troops behind through the end of President Obama’s final term in office.
The silly argument by those in favor of increasing the American troops in place is largely the same throughout the war, that the Afghan government isn’t capable of beating the Taliban on their own, and that a US pullout would add pressure to that struggling military.
Conceivably, American troops may end up being there for many decades because this is where the action is. What’s more, US generals say they need more troops. In this fallacy, their call for a bigger deployment has forced Obama to consider different options while Republicans have lambasted him for letting political motivations override the needs of commanders.
The Pentagon insists Obama’s failure to promptly back their surge could dishonor America, while corporate media say no matter what the president wants, it will be very hard to stop the army generals. And that’s exactly what Obama, mired in proverbial perplexity, is not doing right now: In Washington, the Pentagon and the warmongers have the final say.
“Avoiding another Vietnam,” says this school of thought, “requires a figurehead government – one that delegates all military decision-making power to generals and effectively strips it from elected civilians who will supposedly be too politically motivated.” This authoritarian ideology explains not only the spiteful reaction to Obama’s Afghanistan deliberations but also some of the most anti-democratic statements ever uttered by American leaders.
It explains, for instance, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s assertion that “public opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to military policy.” Nevertheless, it is the US Constitution which gives political figures in Washington the final say: Article I empowers Congress “to declare and finance wars,” and Article II states that “while the White House may require the opinion of military officers, ultimately the President shall be Commander in Chief.”
In this new world order geopolitical business, Obama and congressional leaders have however decided to defy public will – and international law – by making the terrible choice to escalate the Afghanistan War. This is while the illegal occupation has reached its sell-by date. A majority of Americans now tell presidential candidates the mission was a mistake. Regrettably, the generals who run wars, and the defense contractors who profit from them, want more troops and more war in Afghanistan. And that includes many presidential candidates.
From experience, the military buildup will only ensure more violence, attract more armed opposition, and postpone the day of reckoning among political factions in Afghanistan. It will never have a ghost of a chance of success.
Right on cue, the American people should wisely turn against such a destructive wave that will once again cost too many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, while only making a terrible situation worse for the Afghans. The American people have the power to stop this madness and folly they know is irresponsible, inconclusive and unpopular. It falls to them to demand an exit strategy and not an escalation. They could start doing so by electing a pacifist president – if there’s any.