08 November 2015

The Kunduz Hospital Bombing

First, let's be clear on one thing, the US Military has bombed hospitals in the past as a matter of explicit policy, so it is reasonable to assume that this was the case here:
“Bombing of Hospitals Called Routine.” That was the August 9, 1973, Newsday coverage of congressional hearings on “clandestine U.S. air and ground activities in Cambodia and Laos”:
U.S. commanders in Vietnam placed no restrictions on ground or air attacks against Viet Cong or North Vietnamese hospitals a Senate committee was told yesterday by several Vietnam veterans.

In direct testimony and in letters, the veterans said hospitals often were considered targets rather than areas to be avoided as required by the Geneva convention on warfare.…


In testimony on the hospitals, Alan Stevenson, a stockbroker from San Francisco and former Army intelligence specialist, said that while in Quang Tri province in 1969, he routinely listed hospitals among targets to be struck by American fighter plans.
Former Air Force captain general Gerald Greven said he personally ordered bombing raids against hospitals: It was policy, he said, to “look for hospitals as targets.”
This provides some context, and it's pretty clear that bombing hospitals has been official military doctrine in my lifetime.

When one looks at who the hospital were treating, and when they were treated, it reinforces the suspicion that the hospital was targeted because of its role as a hospital:

On Tuesday, the Daily Beast noted that DOD had not fulfilled its promise to release the preliminary results of its investigation into the October 3 bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières trauma center in Kunduz a month earlier.


One possible explanation may be that on October 24, ISAF Commander John Campbell ordered another inquiry, this one carried out by a higher ranking general from another command.


Today, MSF released its own report of the bombing.

The report is interesting because, from the start, it has been clear MSF had a pretty good inkling of why they had been targeted. It lays out how, on September 28, the patient base in the hospital shifted from being primarily government forces to Taliban forces (though there were also 26 children treated that day) — though all were subject to MSF’s requirement that no weapons be brought into the compound. About half the 130 patients in the hospital during the attack were Taliban.

Perhaps most interesting is this paragraph, indicating that by Wednesday September 30, MSF had concluded two of those Taliban patients were more senior Taliban.

By Wednesday, MSF was aware of two wounded Taliban patients that appeared to have had higher rank. This was assumed for multiple reasons: being brought in to the hospital by several combatants, and regular inquiries about their medical condition in order to accelerate treatment for rapid discharge.

I’m going to guess that one or both of these men were used to claim the hospital was operating as a command post, if not to claim it could legitimately be targeted.

Much later in the report, it describes Afghan forces searching the hospital as the evacuation started.
When juxtaposed with the fact that MSF had communicated with the military a few days prior to the incident and told commanders that there was no military presence, it further reinforces the suspicions that the hospital was deliberately targeted:

In Kabul, the group’s general director, Christopher Stokes, told reporters that the Pentagon had been in direct contact just days before the attack to ask whether Taliban militiamen were “holed up” in the Kunduz hospital compound and whether the staff felt threatened.

Stokes said MSF replied that there were no armed Taliban on the grounds and the 140-bed hospital was functioning normally.

“There was no following” dialogue from the U.S. military “saying, ‘We have different information. We are going to bomb you,’ ’’ Stokes said.
My sense is that the strikes were deliberate.

Of course, I'm sure that we will get the official Pentagon report sometime in 2017 absolving the military of all blame.


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