On the night of September 4, 2009, Colonel George Klein of Germany ordered the bombing of two trucks in Kunduz, Afghanistan. More than 100 Afghans died in the incident, most of them civilians, many of them children. Despite the tragic misjudgment which Colonel Klein made, he was never charged. Instead, this year he will be promoted to the rank of general. In future, he will be sitting behind a cushy desk in his new position as head of human resource management, while the families of his victims hopelessly await justice.
Fast forward to October 3, 2015, when the area of Kunduz faces unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the NATO forces once again. Nearly a year after President Barack Obama formally announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, calling it a “responsible conclusion”, the Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Trauma center was hit by endless bombing in the early hours of the morning. It has been unequivocally reaffirmed by MSF 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. However, the bombing persisted for more than 30 minutes. MSF has revealed that the main building where staff were caring for patients was repeatedly, and very precisely hit during the aerial raid while the rest of the compound was left largely untouched. Nineteen staff members have been confirmed as killed, and countless others seriously injured. I would be very interested to know how Colonel Brian Tribus, speaking on behalf of the US forces behind the attack, would justify his armies grossly calculated human rights violations when he stated: “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage…” Since when did the deliberate targeting of medical staff, patients and medical facilities be accepted as “collateral damage”?
This is not the first time the US has bombed a hospital. Following the invasion of Iraq, US airstrikes “razed to the ground” Nazzal Emergency Hospital in Fallujah. The US also seized Fallujah General Hospital, arguing that the hospital’s casualty reports constituted a form of “propaganda”. Just two months ago, the Iraqi government—a US ally—destroyed a women and children’s hospital near Fallujah. If it had been any other country, the international calls of “war crimes” would have been reverberating throughout the walls of media houses. Mass condemnation, UN security council votes and maybe even a march led by all the leaders of the “free world” would’ve been the leading stories at the outrage of targeted killings of hospitals- a war crime by any standard. But seeing as the lives of the innocent victims are only those of Afghans, or medical staff who have dedicated their lives to helping those subjected to a war that was initialized on economic gains, I guess the world will remain in slumber.
The carnage unleashed in Afghanistan, led by the US and supported by the NATO forces, has obliterated the land back into the middle ages. There is no single official figure for the overall number of civilians killed by the war since 2001, but estimates (most, if not all, of the sources state that their estimates are likely to be underestimates) have been collaborated for statistical purposes. The 14-year war—the longest war in American history—has cost at least $1 trillion, caused 26000 civilians deaths due to war-related violence and an additional 360000 people have lost their lives through indirect causes related to the war. 29,900 civilians have been wounded and human aid organisations in the region estimate that up to two thirds of Afghans suffer from mental disorders secondary to the consequences of the war. While these numbers are used for analytical purposes, the colossal devastation that has been thrust upon the people of Afghanistan is unimaginable. Their projected standard of living does not promise a bright future.
Instead of being threatened with arrest and trial at the Hague, or face accountability for his country’s atrocious crimes, I expect to see Barack Obama finding himself in a similar boat as that of Colonel George Klein- a comfortable promotion; perhaps even as the next UN Secretary General? When it comes to the lives of the innocent for whose protection of freedom there lies little economic or political gain, it appears as if accountability is far and in between.
Written by: Dr Aayesha J Soni, Vice Chairperson of the Media Review Network
Follow Dr Soni on twitter: @AayeshaJ