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War With No Horizon: The MSF Report and Its Implications for Syrians

The details of the MSF Report on the US attacks of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz reveal a potential war crime.

Eyewitness accounts of the Paris attacks at the Eagles of Death Metal concert reveal the terror of calculated slaughter and cruelty, with victims choosing death over leaving their dying friends. Similarly, small moments of extreme heroism in the face of slaughter occurred during the US attack of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, where Dr. Aminullah Bajawri, a 32-year-old father and emergency room doctor who, when the fighting broke out in Kunduz, “decided not to leave the city in search of safety, instead staying to help his people, friends, and colleagues.” He was killed by US bombs. One ought to ask, why was a hospital – protected by International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions – under attack in the first place?

The MSF Report

The MSF reported increasing intensity of conflict in their region during the weeks prior to the US bombing of the hospital, wherein the Taliban arrived at the hospital on September 28, claiming they had control over the area. The MSF sent an email reaffirming the Trauma Center’s well-known location by offering and receiving confirmation of their exact coordinates with the US Department of Defense, Afghan Ministry of Defense and Interior, and the US Army in Kabul. On October 3, the hospital found itself attacked by repeated US bombs and gunfire between 2am to 3am.

However, the airstrikes were precise and specifically directed at the main hospital building, while leaving the rest of the MSF buildings, such as its administrative offices, comparatively untouched. In other words, the specific coordinates of their main hospital building – containing the most crucial elements of their work, like the operating rooms that were in use when the attacks occurred – seemed to have been used for specific targeted attacks.

During the ensuing carnage, eyewitness accounts reveal immobile patients burning to death in their beds and an MSF nurse with his left arm hanging from its skin, due to a traumatic amputation from the bombing, while others were maimed and killed from shrapnel by the blasts. Survivors were in shock, vomiting and screaming. More troubling are the reports of MSF staff being directly fired at while trying to flee toward safety at a different part of the compound. Gen. John Campbell, the top US Commander in Afghanistan, alongside various headlines in the mainstream media, described this shocking attack as a “procedural failure,” a “tech fail” and a “human error.”

Most puzzling is the MSF log stating their nonstop calls to the US Department of Defense (among others), pleading for an end to the strikes, with no immediate response during the relentless attacks.

Technical failures and fatigue were said to be contributing factors to knowing the target but then later mistaking the target, though the MSF reported the center is the only lit building in the region at night. Sudarsan Raghavan of The Washington Post said, “How US personnel could have confused its location only a few hours later is not clear, nor is it clear why the gunship repeatedly struck the hospital when there was no return fire.”

Christopher Stokes, the general director of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), further stated, “It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S. forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list, and have malfunctioning communications systems.” He continued, “It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied lifesaving care in Kunduz…” The latest reports now state the toll has risen to 42 people, with 14 MSF staff, 24 patients, and four caretakers all killed.

This evidence tells us that the US military is either reckless in its disturbing incompetence, or it exposes something deeper and sinister. Kate Clark of Afghanistan Analysts Network wrote, “The question remains whether the disregard of these procedures was intentional.”

What This Means for Syrians

Any deliberate bombing of a hospital and subsequent killing of innocent civilians, coupled with hundreds of thousands of people now denied lifesaving health care, would self-evidently constitute a war crime – creating more enemies against the US. Nevertheless, this devastation and potential war crime does not seem to deter many politicians from seeking more war. It is difficult to tell which is worse: thinking that what happened in Kunduz cannot possibly happen in Syria, or being “benevolently” resigned to eradicating civilians.

British lawmakershave just voted by 397 to 223 in favor of launching air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria after more than 10 hours of debate. One wonders if the subject of what the Syrians themselves wanted ever came up during these grand speeches about democracy.

Nicholas Henin, one of the few ISIS hostages to make it out alive, spent 10 months in captivity, while fellow hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Alan Henning were all murdered by Mohammed Emwazi. Now released, Henin criticizes the international community for not helping Syrian Democrats “as they were yelling for their freedom, and the Syrians were living in total despair.” He has pleaded against bombing Syrians, saying, “For every single Syrian killed since the beginning of this conflict by Islamic State, between seven and 10 have been killed by the Syrian regime. We have to understand that these two parallel disasters for the Syrian people, they depend one on the other, and one cannot fight one without fighting the other.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential nominee at the moment, has been praised on Twitter for threatening to simply “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. Trump’s characteristic thoughtlessness roughly coincides with Obama and General Campbell’s apologetics regarding the Kunduz bombing. Hillary Clinton, if elected, plans for more attacks in Syria.

The ties between big business and a profitable war with no horizon are well established, so one wonders who actually accepts this political bunk. The appalling statistic of 33,000 Americans dying each year from gun violence reveals a fanatical belief in violence. This hardly seems accidental.

The obvious ought to be said then: that oversimplifying a complex problem in order to repeatedly bomb targets is a prescription for more enemies. Meanwhile, the civilian death toll in the Middle East continues to rise. One option is to sign a petition for an independent investigation of the bombing of the Kunduz hospital by clicking here.