Today the New York Times published a damning look at our bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontiérs (Doctors without Borders) hospital in Kunduz city, Afghanistan, last October. To say it’s infuriating is an understatement.
When we bombed the hospital last year, it was whitewashed as pure accident, a tragic mistake. Certainly on the part of the US, bombing a hospital was a mistake, but it was based entirely upon information from Afghan counterparts that might have been purposefully intended.
Even taken at face value, the report reveals more than a simple error. The circumstances that led to the destruction of the hospital are a direct result of how the Special Forces were made to bear the weight of the United States’ contradictory strategy in Afghanistan, which seeks to both end its involvement in the war and prop up the struggling Afghan government. Restricted to a supposedly noncombat role as advisers, the Special Forces in Kunduz ended up calling in the airstrike, which was in support of Afghan troops against a target a quarter-mile away, as self-defense, which meant that it bypassed many safeguards intended to prevent civilian casualties.
Moreover, there is evidence — both buried in the report and from interviews conducted on the front lines in Kunduz — that suggests that Afghan troops may have deliberately provided the hospital as a target.
And by the way, I wrote when we bombed the hospital instead of when the bombing occurred or some other wishy-washy characterization for a reason. The United States has been sloppy about how hard and fast intelligence needs to be before conducting strikes for over a decade now. If you think that we always know who we’re killing and that they always deserve it (as one person I work with who is all in favor of the current drone strike program does), snag a copy of Jeremy Scahill‘s Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and disabuse yourself of that notion, because it’s a lie.
The United States is a giant military power with the capacity to directly and profoundly affect lives all around the world. We visit death and destruction upon people every day across the globe. Some of it is necessary. A lot of it isn’t. And either way, we’ve become a country that always tries to rule through death and the fear of death first.1 It’s our go-to option. Our number one export is death.
Read this article and tell me that heads shouldn’t roll over this. Careers should end, and probably jail time should be served, and not by some scapegoat servicemen either. People framing our policies and decision-making processes should suffer mightily. We have killed too many people for the crime of being in countries we happen to think need bombed into the stone ages way too many times now. It’s inexcusable, but we do it again and again and again. It doesn’t matter if the hatred we’re delivering in the form of walls of steel rained down upon people is purposeful or a stupid mistake, it’s still violent hatred and it assumes authority to end anyone’s existence at will, regardless of who they are or what they’re doing.
America has conferred that authority upon itself, and it is not morally just in doing so.
How in the bloody hades are people across the world supposed to not hate the United States of America when we’re constantly killing their children and then claiming everyone who was killed were terrorists, or weakly apologizing and claiming it was just a big accident, it won’t happen again?
Let me restate the question: if someone bombed your child, shrapneled2 them to ribbons, then burned them to ashes while they were in a hospital fighting for their life, would you care very much about the distinction between accidental and intentional death?
No. I don’t think you probably would.