Category: Collateral Damage


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‘Murderers’: Thousands gather in Montenegro capital to protest NATO membership (VIDEO)

© Ruptly
 
Shortly after Montenegro’s bid to join the North Atlantic Alliance was given the green light, thousands flooded the streets of the capital to protest the upcoming membership and remind people of lives taken during the NATO invasion of 1999.

Former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic and opposition leaders called the rally on Saturday in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica. They gathered at least 5,000 supporters outside the parliament, according to the local Vijesti newspaper. The protesters held national flags while patriotic and pro-Russian chants ringing out from the assembled crowd.

Bulatovic, who was also prime minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1998 to 2000, told the rally that joining NATO would mean “blood of innocent people on our hands,” and emphasized his country had been against the alliance’s wars until recently.

“What has Afghanistan done wrong, what has Iraq done wrong? Why has Libya been destroyed, what’s happening today in Syria? Can we close our eyes to that?” he said.

 

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USNU.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Wikimedia.org

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BBC

US air strike on IS in Iraq ‘killed civilians’

A US air strike aimed at an IS checkpoint is likely to have killed four civilians, possibly including a child, the US military has said.

On Friday the military released the findings of an investigation into the incident, which took place in March.

Investigators concluded the checkpoint was a valid target and the attack did not violate international laws.

The US has rarely acknowledged civilian deaths in the fight against IS and the announcement brings the total to six.

“All reasonable measures were taken to avoid unintended deaths of, or injuries to, non-combatants,” US Central Command spokesman Patrick Ryder said.

 

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TASS Russian News Agency

Bomb-destroyed houses spotted in Syrian locality where Russian warplanes not used

October 16, 21:10 UTC+3

This territory has never been in the hands of the Islamic State, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff Andrey Kartapolov points out
© AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic

MOSCOW, October 16. /TASS/. Traces of airstrikes against household buildings have been found at the Syria-Jordan border, where Russian warplanes have performed no missions, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff Andrey Kartapolov said on Friday.

“We have spotted ruins of household buildings destroyed by bombing near the settlement of Kherbet Ghazala at the Syrian-Jordan border,” he told a briefing for foreign military attaches and journalists.

“Russian warplanes have never performed any missions there and, as far as we know, the Syrian aviation has not been used there either,” he stressed. “This territory has never been in the hands of the Islamic State. Moreover, this area has been controlled by the Free Syrian Army since 2013.”

He demonstrated photos of the area featuring bomb-destroyed buildings. “You can see on these photos that there are no signs of military activity around these cottages, there are no military hardware, not even signs of military hardware. These are regular gardens and fields with buildings to keep farming tools,” he said.

“Why destroy these buildings? It looks like somebody’s pilots were just training their skills or dropped bombs to report to their command about completed mission,” Kartapolov said.

 

 

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Independent

Russia in Syria: Moscow air strikes ‘have killed thousands of civilians’ already, warns UK Defence Secretary

Michael Fallon says Russia’s ongoing operations raise risk of accidental confrontation with Western forces
Mr Fallon says Russia is prolonging the war by targeting all opponents of President Assad Mr Fallon says Russia is prolonging the war by targeting all opponents of President Assad EPA

Russian airstrikes in Syria may have killed “several hundred” civilians already and raise the risk of accidental confrontation with Western forces, the Defence Secretary has said.

But Michael Fallon said Russia’s intervention should not “divert” Britain from combatting Isis and restated his intention to extend the RAF’s bombing campaign to Syria.

In a sharp condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, Mr Fallon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that Russia was prolonging the war by targeting all opponents of President Assad.

“What [Russia] is doing is propping up the Assad regime, making the resolution of all this more difficult. They are prolonging the conflict and civilians are being killed,” he said.

“The RAF strikes are done to very strict rules of engagement. They’ve been striking in Iraq for a year where so far there have been no civilian casualties. The Russians have been at it in Syria for a couple of weeks and independent reports estimate that they’ve killed several hundred people already.”

 

 

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CNN

U.S. official: Doctors Without Borders ‘did everything right’ before airstrike

Washington (CNN)The initial findings of an investigation into a U.S. airstrike against a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan have concluded that the U.S. government was aware the site was a hospital, two U.S. officials told CNN Friday. But that information did not get passed to the correct military personnel, they said.

The officials declined to be identified because the investigation remains ongoing, and both emphasized the initial information could still change as the investigation proceeds. But Doctors Without Borders (MSF), who ran the hospital, “did everything right in informing us,” one of the officials said. The location of the hospital “was in the military database” of restricted sites such as hospitals, mosques and schools that U.S. pilots are not allowed to strike even if insurgents are present.

Chart it: U.S. troop engagement in Afghanistan

Military investigators are reviewing all available audio tapes and other technical data that may have passed from a command center to the air crew, and also to a special operations forces unit on the ground that was talking to the plane.

Investigators are also looking at whether the crew may have voiced concern about engaging any target in that area of Kunduz since it did not appear to meet the criteria for U.S. airstrikes. Under the “rules of engagement” strikes are permitted to protect U.S. forces, to hit targets associated with al Qaeda or to prevent mass casualties among Afghan forces.

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As US Bombs Iraq and Syria, Who Exactly Is Being Killed?

Pentagon provides scant information about people dying at its hands, while reports of civilian casualties emerge from the ground

The rubble of a home reportedly hit by a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Kafar Daryan in Syria. (Photo: Sami Ali / AFP/Getty Images)

As the United States passes week seven of its expanded war on Iraq, and week two of air strikes across Syria, a critical question remains unanswered: Who exactly is dying in the air bombardments?

Many fear this question will remain unanswered. “I’m concerned that the U.S. is not held to the same standard as other countries when it comes to violating international law and killing civilians,” Raed Jarrar, Policy Impact Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, told Common Dreams.

The U.S. military and government have provided virtually no information about civilian and combatant casualties and have denied on-the-ground reports that innocent people are being killed and wounded in the escalating attacks.

But this official version of events is contradicted by mounting reports from Syria. As recently as Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that overnight U.S. coalition bombings of alleged ISIS positions in northern and eastern Syria took civilian lives, the exact number unspecified. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman told the Associated Press that a strike on a grain silo in the town of Manbij in Aleppo province “killed only civilians there, workers at the site. There was no ISIS inside.” He added that the bombings “destroyed the food that was stored there.”

The U.S. military on Monday denied the civilian deaths to Reuters but presented no evidence backing its claims. A U.S. Central Command statement released Monday offered no further information about civilian or combatant deaths, stating that air strikes were conducted against a “ISIL vehicles within a staging area adjacent to an ISIL-held grain storage facility near Manbij,” in addition to other targets.

The Observatory is not the only organization to sound the alarm on civilian deaths. Human Rights Watch released a report on Sunday that apparent U.S. missile strikes on Idlib in Syria on September 23 killed at least seven civilians. “Three local residents told Human Rights Watch that missiles killed at least two men, two women, and five children,” reads the report. Video footage from local residents and the Shaam News Network, available on the HRW website, appear to verify that civilians were wounded and killed in the strikes. According to some estimates, as many as 24 civilians were killed in coalition air strikes on this day.

Pentagon Spokesperson Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby denied those civilian deaths as well, again offering no evidence. “This is a pretty remote area of the country, mostly just desert. It’s not — it’s not urban,” he told the Associated Press. “We don’t believe that there’s much reason to be too concerned about any collateral damage, you know, to civilian property, that kind of thing.”

But numerous journalists say their contacts corroborate reports of civilian deaths, including Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris, who tweeted:

The Pentagon has also claimed that civilians are spared in its ongoing bombings of Iraq, which now number over 240 strikes since August eighth. But the U.S. has offered no evidence backing this claim, and the National Iraqi News Agency has reported that civilians have died in U.S. strikes on the country. Numerous voices from Iraq and across the world warn that the renewed U.S. war in the country is bringing further militarization and death to ordinary Iraqi people, who are squeezed between siege from ISIS and strikes from above.

According to Jarrar, the failure of the U.S. to account for the Iraqis killed in the 2003 war raises serious concerns about U.S. accountability and honesty over who it kills. “There is strong evidence that the U.S.-led attacks have killed dozens of civilians in Syria in the last few weeks and killed tens and thousands of civilians in Iraq over the last decade, and we haven’t seen any investigations into these crimes,” said Jarrar. “There is no reason to believe the U.S. will investigate itself.”

Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, told Common Dreams, “There is a big danger here that U.S. air strikes in Syria are going to resemble the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in the sense that there is no accountability for who is killed. We have reports of civilian casualties from people in the area and the U.S. government says, ‘No, they are bad guys.’ There has to be some public accountability for what happens when there are allegations of civilian casualties.”

According to Jarrar, the U.S. hand in civilian deaths extends beyond direct bombings. “The indirect U.S. intervention is left unchecked as well: U.S. training and funding and equipping proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. There is very strong evidence that many of the U.S. allies that have been receiving us military assistance and training and equipments have been committing gross human rights violations and the U.S. has not been held accountable.”

  • About 2 millions and half killed and wounded since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution

 

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Israeli security personals stand next to blood on the floor, at the Beersheba central bus station where a Palestinian gunman went on a stabbing and shooting rampage, October 18, 2015 © Dudu Grunshpan
An IDF soldier was killed and 11 others injured when an Arab attacker, armed with a gun and a knife, opened fire at a bus station in the city of Beersheba in the south of the country. Local media also said that an Eritrean man was mistaken for an assailant and attacked by police.

READ MORE: Escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence Live Updates 

The perpetrator made his way into the station and started shooting and stabbing people inside, in what is one of the most violent attacks since the escalation began, the police said. An Israeli soldier was killed, four police officers were lightly injured and seven civilians received wounds of varying degrees in the attack.

Despite bringing a gun with him, the man also snatched the weapon from the soldier he gunned down, Yoram Halevy, a police commander in southern Israel, told journalists. The Arab attacker, whose identity was not immediately revealed, was shot and killed by the police, she added.


It was initially reported that the attacker had an accomplice, who was wounded and detained by the police. But it later turned out that the Israeli security forces shot a foreign national after mistaking him for the assailant.

Police responding to the attack entered the bus station from another area and saw a “foreign national,” opening fire and wounding him, Halevy confirmed.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the injured man was a citizen of Eritrea, who has been residing in Israel.

An angry Israeli crowd, chanting “death to Arabs” gathered outside the bus station after the attack, Reuters reported.

The Sunday attack has become the most serious incident in the string of violence in Israel caused by tensions surrounding a Jerusalem holy site, the al-Aqsa mosque, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

 

 

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08.10.2015 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

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Less than a week ago US Air Force bombed a hospital in Afghanistan that was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). At the time of the bombing there were 105 patients and local employees, along with 80 members of MSF personnel in the hospital located in the town of Kunduz. A number of media sources reported that US military command was well aware of the coordinates of the hospital, however, even when the local staff contacted a NATO representative in Kabul and informed him of the attack, bombs were still hitting the area for more than an hour.

On the same day a NATO spokesman described the incident as “side effect” of the US military operation, that allegedly was not targeting the hospital, hence it was “accidentally hit.” Nevertheless, the official failed to provide journalist with details on what exactly the US aircraft was supposed to destroy. After all, according to MSF personnel, at the time of bombing Taliban militants were nowhere near the hospital

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein on October 3 urged the international community to carry out a full investigation of the air strikes in question. And if it is to established that the hospital was struck intentionally, it would be only logical to label this act as a war crime. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the hospital and its medical staff are protected by international law, and those responsible should answer for this bombing. There’s still hope that war the war criminals behind this attack won’t be able to escape the prosecution easily.

However, one should be reminded this was not the first case of US military committing crimes in Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries. Yet, all investigations of such “acts” have fallen short of punishing those responsible, which only leads to a sharp increase in the level of recklessness shown by Pentagon and US intelligence servicemen.


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As Pentagon Shifts Story (Again), MSF Says No Excuse for ‘War Crime’ Against Hospital

‘We are working on the presumption of a war crime,’ said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International

 

Gen. John Campbell testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Gen. John Campbell testifies  before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

 

While testifying before a Senate panel on Tuesday, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan General John Campbell changed—for the fourth time in as many days—the military’s account of its bombing of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in the city of Kunduz on Saturday. The shift means Pentagon officials have now described the deadly attack alternately as “collateral damage,” a mistake, the fault of Afghan soldiers, and finally, the work of U.S. Special Forces.

The aid agency, furious with the military’s shifting narrative of the attack that killed 22 people—including 12 staff members and 10 patients—has stated once again its belief that what occurred is nothing short of a “war crime” and argued only a independent, outside investigation could be trusted to probe the incident.

“This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International, in a statement released Tuesday. “Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities.”

“Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law,” Liu continued. “We are working on the presumption of a war crime.

However, in the four different version of events provided by the U.S., the term “war crime” did not appear once.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee delivered Tuesday, General John Campbell said that U.S. Special Forces called in the ground strike and were in direct communication with the aircraft that launched the attack.

“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command,” he said. “A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

The statements marked a shift from those issued Monday, when Campbell emphasized the role of Afghan commanders in calling in the strike but ultimately indicated that the bombing was justified due to Taliban proximity. “Unfortunately, the Taliban decided to remain in the city and fight from within, knowingly putting civilians at significant risk of harm,” he said.

On Sunday, the military said that the bombing occurred in the vicinity of the hospital, which had accidentally been struck.

On Saturday, U.S. Army Colonal Brian Tribus, spokesperson for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that the airstrike was conducted “against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby facility.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also avoided using the term “war crime” in statements made Monday, instead calling the incident a “profound tragedy.”

MSF, which says it informed coalition and Afghan officials of its GPS coordinates before and during the attack—to no avail—raised disturbing questions about the bombing. According to the organization, the bombing targeted the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward—leaving surrounding buildings mostly unharmed.

“Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces,” said Liu. “These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.”

MSF is not alone in sounding the alarm. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said 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.”

In an interview with Common Dreams, Suraia Sahar, organizer with Afghans United for Justice, emphasized that Saturday’s bombing—while more visible due to MSF’s status as a foreign organization—was “nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Both the U.S. and Afghan forces have a repeated history of faulty intelligence and criminal cover-ups in their military operations in Afghanistan,” said Sahar. “Thanks to MSF’s relentless campaign for an independent investigation, there is a small window of opportunity for them to be held accountable for their complicity in war crimes.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is weighing whether to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, defying its own pledge to reduce the presence to 1,000 military personnel for the purpose of embassy security by the end of next year.

In his statements Tuesday, Campbell sought to use this latest attack to bolster the argument for a prolonged U.S. presence. Responding to a question about whether the troop draw-down should continue according to the Obama administration’s initial plan, Campbell said, “I do believe we have to provide our senior leadership with options different from the current plan.”

Media Are Blamed as US Bombing of Afghan Hospital Is Covered Up

New York Times headline corrected

A US-led NATO military coalition bombed a hospital run by international humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders (known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontières, MSF) in Afghanistan, killing at least 22 people—12 staff members and 10 patients, including three children—and wounding 37 more.

AFP, the first network to report the story, in the early hours of October 3, quoted NATO saying, “US forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz city…. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

MSF promptly issued a statement (10/3/15), revealing that it had been “hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.” In an update hours later, MSF said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, which was full of staff and patients.”

The humanitarian organization also indicated multiple times—and in bold capital letters—that “all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS Coordinates) of the MSF facilities in Kunduz, including the hospital, guesthouse, office and an outreach stabilization unit.” MSF says the US “repeatedly and precisely” hit the hospital.

Morever, the aid group explained that 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.” That is to say, the US persisted in bombing a hospital that it explicitly knew before and during the attack was a hospital.

If you read US corporate media coverage of this incident, however, US culpability would likely not be evident. Instead, readers would learn that a hospital was bombed in Afghanistan, and that people died. Who exactly carried out the bombing would not be clear.

cnn us air attack

“Air Attacks Kill at Least 19 at Afghanistan Hospital; US Investigating,” wrote CNN (9/3/15). Who carried out those attacks? Never asked is who else could possibly have bombed the hospital. What other air forces are attacking Kunduz? Did the bombs magically fall from the sky? CNN provides no answer.

“Aerial bombardments blew apart a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the battleground Afghan city of Kunduz about the time of a US airstrike” CNN said. The blowing apart of the hospital just appears to be a temporal coincidence.

fox us investigate airstrike

Fox News‘ headline (10/3/15) reads “US Officials Investigate Airstrike in Afghanistan That Killed at Least 19 at Doctors Without Borders Hospital.”

The New York Times completely rewrote and changed the title of its report on the bombing seven times. Early on October 3, the Times published an article headlined “Airstrike Hits Hospital in Afghanistan, Killing at Least 9.” Minutes later, it changed the headline to “Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan.” Two hours after, it became “Afghan Hospital Hit by Airstrike, Pentagon Says.” Then “US Investigates After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital,” before finalizing as “US Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital.”

The over 20 versions of the article published in the Times‘ website can be seen at the website NewsDiffs, which monitors edits to pieces published in large new outlets. Because the Times changed the web URL for the article when changing the headlines, there are three separate entries on NewsDiffs.

newsdiffs nyt us bombs afghan hospital

Not one of the five New York Times headlines indicated that the US was responsible for the bombing. The final title, “US Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital,” which was published in print, fails to acknowledge that it was the US who dropped those bombs, which explains why it is blamed.

The New York Times‘ other story (10/4/15), “Doctors Without Borders Says It Is Leaving Kunduz After Strike on Hospital,” was also substantially edited and rewritten numerous times. It’s likewise full of weasel words and quotes from the US government.

The Washington Post (10/4/15) also changed headlines and URLs for its reporting, making it difficult to track. It did choose a title acknowledging the US role in the attack, but attributed it to MSF, writing, “Doctors Without Borders Says US Airstrike Hit Hospital in Afghanistan; at Least 19 Dead.”

AP headlined an article (10/4/15) updating the death toll, “Doctors Without Borders Leaves Afghan City After Airstrike.” The piece says, “A deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people, as the US and Afghan governments vowed to get to the bottom of the carnage.” Not mentioned is that the US government is responsible for the carnage.

Ambiguous, misleading and even downright dishonest language abounds throughout the coverage. US media spin the story to reflect positively on the culprit; they report that the US is investigating the atrocity, while failing to acknowledge that the US itself is responsible for the atrocity.

This technique is very reminiscent of the loaded language police departments use to downplay police brutality—language that is often repeated verbatim by journalists who just uncritically quote government press releases.

Not all media were as biased in the interest of the Pentagon, however. Even some US news outlets were clear and honest in their reporting.

slate us airstrike

Slate (10/3/15) was one of the few publications to report without the equivocation. “US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan Kills at Least 19,” it said. The next day, Slate (10/4/15) followed up with the piece “Doctors Without Borders Says US May Have Committed War Crime.”

US: We Accidentally Bombed Hospital to Kill Taliban

After the attack, MSF released a statement saying “All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces”—that is to say, NATO.

As details became clearer, the media narrative began to shift from one of obfuscation or even denial of the US bombing to one of apologism and justification. When it was obvious that the US and NATO were responsible for killing and wounding scores of people at a hospital, the US and Afghan governments began to fall back on the “human shields” excuse.

A Washington Post article (10/4/15) first titled “Afghan Official: Hospital in Airstrike Was ‘a Taliban Base,’” and subsequently changed to “Afghan Response to Hospital Bombing Is Muted, Even Sympathetic,” quotes Afghan government officials who claimed the “hospital has a vast garden, and the Taliban were there.” Yet MSF’s aforementioned statement makes it clear that the US “repeatedly and precisely” bombed the hospital, not the surrounding areas, which were “left mostly untouched.”

The aid organization also explicitly denied fighters ever being anywhere inside the hospital compound.

In a statement titled “MSF Response to Spurious Claims That Kunduz Hospital Was ‘A Taliban Base,’” the aid organization wrote:

MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as “collateral damage.”

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.

MSF also made it clear that its hospital “is the only facility of its kind in the whole northeastern region of Afghanistan,” and that its “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.”

Despite MSF’s explicit denial of the allegations, US media continued to reiterate the claims of US and Afghan government officials.

Anonymous US military officials told Fox News (10/3/15) they “regret the loss” of scores of innocent lives, but “say the incident could have been avoided if the Taliban had not used the hospital as a base, and the civilians there as human shields.”

But wait, which was it? Was the bombing an accidental incident of “collateral damage,” as the government claimed at first, and as the media reverberated? Or was it a deliberate attack on the Taliban, who were supposedly firing from the hospital? It can’t be both; the two explanations contradict each other.

The fact that, when MSF’s points—and not just those of the US and Afghan governments—are considered, the human shields argument does not withstand close scrutiny aside, a blatant contradiction emerges in this narrative. The answer to this critical question remains unknown; the government, and the media that so obediently echoes it, do not clarify.

MSF's Kunduz hospital on fire, after being bombed by the US/NATO Photo: MSF

Striking, too, are the similarities to US reporting on Israeli airstrikes. In order to justify bombing hospitals in Gaza, the US-backed Israeli government often claims Palestinian militants use the medical facilities as bases. Israel’s military—which has itself used human shields many times—then says it is justified to bomb hospitals, UN shelters and other civilians areas.

US ally and NATO member Turkey borrowed Israel’s hasbara (public relations) tactic and claimed the same about leftist Kurdish militants in order to justify its killing of Kurdish civilians.

The Wall Street Journal (10/4/15) boldly steered clear of any posturing and openly justified the US bombing of the hospital. The unsigned editorial justified the mass killing of MSF aid workers by shifting the blame onto the Taliban insurgents. It even brought up the specter of Hamas, writing, “Like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the terrorists hide near civilians. These Taliban tactics put the medical personnel and patients at risk.” The piece waxes poetic, and hagiographic; in a moment of undiluted American exceptionalism on blast, the Journal claimed that “no force in the history of warfare has done more to avoid civilian casualties than the American military.”

Remove references to the US and the Taliban in such media coverage, replace it with blanks, and you have a template media can use any time a US ally bombs civilians—A Guide to Defending War Crimes Committed by US Allies: “[Ally] did not actually want to bomb [civilian area], but [enemy] forced it to.”

Double Standards

When US enemies like Russia carry out airstrikes, all nuance is thrown out the window; US media drop their standards and gleefully accuse the enemies of war crimes. Yet when the US and NATO carry out airstrikes, journalists suddenly have a newfound skepticism. Their language immediately becomes ambiguous, their writing unclear; murky passages written in the passive voice are ubiquitous.

Official international bodies have not minced words about the bombing, nevertheless. The UN says the US attack on the Kunduz hospital was “inexcusable and possibly even criminal” (Australia’s ABC, 10/4/15). UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked, “If established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Wounded MSF staff after the US/NATO bombing of its Kunduz hospital Photo: MSF

MSF said the attack “constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law.” The aid group called the bombing a “war crime” and “a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”

The humanitarian organization is demanding an investigation “by an independent international body,” not by the US, noting that “relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald (Intercept, 10/3/15) pointed out the hypocrisy of the US warning about civilian casualties of Russian airstrikes while it bombs scores of doctors and patients in Afghanistan, a country it has militarily occupied for close to 15 years.

When Russia denies killing civilians in its airstrikes on Syria, US media are suddenly skeptical and thorough; yet when the US government makes the same claims, journalists just recycle its press releases.

Is the job of the media to just uncritically report what favored governments say? Or is it supposed to examine the truth of official claims? If it is supposed to be the latter, US media have abysmally failed in their duties in reporting on the US bombing of MSF’s Kunduz hospital.


Ben Norton is a freelance journalist and writer. His website can be found at BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

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Occupy Oakland, November 12, 2011, Howard Zinn quotation

 

 

The Outer Limits of Empire: A Tomdispatch Interview with Howard Zinn

He’s tall and thin, with a shock of white hair. A bombardier in the great war against fascism and an antiwar veteran of America’s wars ever since, he’s best known as the author of the pathbreaking A People’s History of the United States, and as an expert on the unexpected voices of resistance that have so regularly made themselves heard throughout our history. At 83 (though he looks a decade younger), he is also a veteran of a rugged century and yet there’s nothing backward looking about him. His voice is quiet and he clearly takes himself with a grain of salt, chuckling wryly on occasion at his own comments. From time to time, when a thought pleases him and his well-used face lights up or breaks out in a bona fide grin, he looks positively boyish.

We sit down on the back porch of the small coffee shop, alone, on a vacation morning. He has a croissant and coffee in front of him. I suggest that perhaps we should start after breakfast, but he assures me that there’s no particular contradiction between eating and talking and so, as a novice interviewer, I awkwardly turn on my two tape recorders — one of which, on pause, will still miss several minutes of our conversation (our equivalent, we joke, of Nixon’s infamous 18-minute gap). In preparation, he pushes aside his half-eaten breakfast, never to touch it again, and we begin.

Tomdispatch: You and Anthony Arnove just came out with a new book, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, featuring American voices of resistance from our earliest moments to late last night. Now, we have a striking new voice of resistance, Cindy Sheehan. I was wondering what you made of her?

Howard Zinn: Often a protest movement that’s already underway — and the present antiwar movement was underway even before the Iraq War began — gets a special impetus, a special spark, from one person’s act of defiance. I think of Rosa Parks and that one act of hers and what it meant.

TD: Can you think of other Cindy Sheehan-like figures in the past who made movements coalesce?

Zinn: In the antiwar movement of the Vietnam years, there wasn’t one person, but when I think back to the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass was a special figure in that way. When he came north, out of slavery, and spoke for the first time to a group of antislavery people, the beginnings of a movement existed. [William Lloyd] Garrison had already started [his antislavery newspaper] the Liberator, but Frederick Douglass was able to represent slavery itself in a way that Garrison and the other abolitionists could not. His dramatic appearance, his eloquence, provided a special spark for the abolitionist movement.

TD: I guess Cindy Sheehan also represents something that can’t be represented by anyone else, almost, in fact, can’t be represented — the American dead in the war and, of course, her own dead son.

Zinn: It’s interesting. There have been mothers other than Cindy Sheehan who have spoken out, but she decided on an act that had a special resonance, which was simply to find where Bush was going [he chuckles to himself at the thought] and have a confrontation between the two poles of this war, between its maker and the opposition. She just parked herself near Bush and became the center of national attention, of gravity, around which people gathered, hundreds and hundreds of people.

 

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Consortium News

Seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

The apparent U.S. slaughter of at least 22 people at an Afghan hospital, including Doctors Without Borders medical staff, is part of the grim reality of indiscriminate death when U.S. Special Forces undertake their secret raids and often toss aside the rules of warfare, reports Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

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.

 

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Doctors Without Borders pulls out of Kunduz after apparent U.S. airstrike

Humanitarian group calls bombing that killed 22 a war crime

CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2015 9:29 AM ETLast Updated: Oct 05, 2015 8:50 AM ET

  • A hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Afghan city of Kunduz is seen in flames, after explosions in the city on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
  • A hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Afghan city of Kunduz is seen in flames, after explosions in the city on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (Médecins Sans Frontières/AP)

The international humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières said Sunday it had withdrawn from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz after a deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people.

The humanitarian crisis in the city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last week before the government launched a counteroffensive, has grown increasingly dire, with shops shuttered because of ongoing fighting and roads made impassable by mines planted by insurgents.

The medical group, also known by its English name Doctors Without Borders, blames the 22 deaths on a U.S. airstrike. Afghan officials said helicopter gunships were returning fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the hospital.

But the organization is calling the bombing a war crime, with the executive director of its Canadian division telling CBC News that staff contacted both the U.S. and Afghan forces throughout, but the airstrike continued for another 35 minutes.

“Such attacks against medical facilities are grave breaches of humanitarian law,” Stephen Cornish told CBC News on Sunday. “At the time of this attack our surgery team were operating on a patient on the operating table who [then] died on that operating table.

 

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Fires burn in part of the MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz after it was hit by an air strike on October 3, 2015 © MSF

Yves Daccord Retweeted MSF International

Tragic news. please accept our condolences for the killing of your colleagues & patients in .

Yves Daccord added,

 

  • 19:56 GMT

    The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement extending condolences to the families and colleges of those killed and injured in the bombing.

 

WHO once again urges all parties in the conflict to respect the safety and neutrality of health workers & health facilities

WHO calls on all govts & military officers to observe their obligations under intl law, ensure protection of health serv in conflict

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