Doctors Without Borders releases its internal review about the U.S. Bombing of Hospital in Afghanist
Last week the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders released an internal document reviewing the October 3 airstrikes by US forces on its hospital in northern Afghanistan. DWB has been providing medical services in war torn regions for nearly four decades. They have always maintained a policy of neutrality serving victims of wars from both sides; this includes not only civilians but combatants as well. DWB has a long history of coordinating their position to warring parties and International Law has granted them protection from attacks.
The Obama administration has vowed to investigate the incident but international human rights advocates including DWB are calling for an impartial review by the United Nations.
On October 3rd U.S. forces bombed a hospital near Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attack killed 30 people including 13 staff members. The report is based on firsthand accounts of staff members, describing the lead-up to the attack while disputing suggestions that the facility was under the control of Taliban forces. The report also details DWB efforts to get the U.S. military to call off airstrikes.
The DWB facility was located in the same place for four years; the report says it had reaffirmed the coordinates of the Kunduz trauma center with the U.S. department of defense, U.S. army in Kabul, and Afghan officials, on September 29th of this year. In addition the Kunduz trauma center had also placed identifying DWB flags on the roof of the hospital which is required.
The report says that on October 1st the organization received a query from a U.S. official as to whether any Taliban were “holed up” at the facility. Both the U.S. military and Afghan forces have used this as a justifiable rationale for the “mistaken” attack on the hospital.
DWB has confirmed that wounded Taliban fighters were being treated at the hospital, however none were armed. The policy of DWB facilities is to confiscate all arms from patients before they are allowed to enter the grounds. Regardless of the armed status of any patient under international law any functioning hospital would not lose its international protection. This is a fact that all military commanders are well aware of.
The report also includes the log of phone calls from DWB officials to contacts in Washington and Kabul trying to stop the strikes, starting at 2:19 AM on October 3rd and continued throughout the attack which ended around 3am. One chilling account was that at 2:52, after sending out the message that at least one staffer was confirmed dead, MSF officials in Kabul received a text message reply from a military contact reading, “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened.” Seven minutes later, the contact wrote “I’ll do my best, praying for you all.”
A few weeks later on October 27th in Yemen, another Doctors Without Borders facility was destroyed by U.S. backed Yemeni forces killing medical staff and patients. The events mirrored the events in Afghanistan. Again hospital coordinates were known to officials but the facility was still attacked indiscriminately.
Note from the editor: These incidents of attacking neutrality facilities and people are of course war crimes and high ranking officials need to be held accountable. Congress needs to hold hearings on these atrocities now.
The so-called war on terror has expanded conflicts throughout the world and literally making humanitarian efforts impossible. Highly trained and dedicated doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have to be protected. These brave men and women are under no illusions that their life is on the line when they practice in warzones however they are granted certain rights and guarantees under agreed upon international law.
What makes these tragedies even worse is the threats seem to only come from U.S. forces or those backed by the United States Government. What does it say about a nation who is supposed to be the “good guys” if they blatantly violate international rules of wars in the name of expediency. U.S. forces regularly bomb churches, schools, weddings with the only justification being the presence of a “highly-valued target”. A “victorious” outcome is unachievable in these regions due to the fact that all we are doing is creating more and more hatred from the peoples of these conflict regions. It must stop.