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By Bill Distler
"Privatization of Afghanistan's state-owned companies, which controlled many of the country's mineral resources, was ongoing but not complete." (From the 2011 edition of the U.S. Geological Survey's Minerals Yearbook)
We have been at war in Afghanistan for over 14 years. This answers the first four journalistic questions of who, what, where, and when, but it doesn’t answer the most important question. Why?
To understand U.S. involvement in Afghanistan today it might help if we re-learn a common term from the Old West. The term is “claim-jumping”. In the history of the Old West, as taught to us by Hollywood movies of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, claim-jumpers were right up there with the bushwackers, dry-gulchers, cattle rustlers, and horse thieves who played the necessary villains of the story. Some of our greatest Hollywood heroes, including Audie Murphy (a World War II hero in real life), the Lone Ranger, Gabby Hayes, and John Wayne, had run-ins with these varmints.
The Borderfree Cycling Solidarity ride, 9th March 2016
Speak with the Afghan Peace Volunteers
Monday, March 21, 2016
Beginning at 4 pm Kabul, Afghanistan time; 7:30 am Eastern time (US)
Feeling the warmth of Spring : Nowruz is here, now!
Growing peace from a good relationship with our friends in war-torn places.
Listen to the conversation live: GlobalDaysofListening.
4 – 7pm : Kabul, Afghanistan
1:30 – 4:30 pm : Gaza, Palestine; Israel
12:30 – 3:30 pm : UK
7:30 – 10:30 am : Eastern time US
JOIN THE CALL see the schedule
By Phillip Butler, PhD, CDR, USN (ret.)
Robert Bowdrie “Bowe” Bergdahl was held as a POW by the Taliban for 5 years and now for over a year by the U.S. Army at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He has received constant treatment from an Army psychiatrist but he has not been returned to his family and home in Hailey, Idaho. Thus in my opinion his recovery and reintegration process has probably done more harm than good by continuing his isolation from the world. But his treatment after repatriation is more about politics than his service or U.S. Army procedures. Consequently, after what he has gone through and endured, he should be freed with an honorable discharge and all of his pay and benefits. Anything less would be an injustice.
Bowe was born in 1986, to Robert and Jani Bergdahl. He and his sister Skye were home-schooled by Jani in Hailey, Idaho. He received a GED certificate through the College of Southern Idaho when he was in his early 20s. He studied and practiced fencing, martial arts and ballet, but has never owned a car, and has ridden his bicycle everywhere. Bowe also spent time in a Buddhist monastery. In 2006 he entered basic training in the United States Coast Guard but was discharged after 26 days for psychological reasons and received an "uncharacterized discharge." In 2008 he enlisted in the United States Army and graduated from the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was then assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. So why was he enlisted in the Army and assigned to combat after being released from the Coast Guard for psychological reasons?
Bowe was known to be a quiet loner but not a troublemaker. He studied maps of Afghanistan and was learning to speak Pashto according to other soldiers with him. His unit was sent to an outpost named Mest-Malak in Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. On June 30, 2009, only a year after his enlistment, Private First Class Bergdahl went missing from his unit. The exact circumstances of his disappearance and subsequent capture are not clearly known. But what is clearly known is that Bowe Bergdahl was a prisoner of war of the Afghanistan Taliban for the next 5 years.
There are subsequent claims that soldiers were killed as a result of Bowe’s disappearance and capture. But a review of media reports shows that Sergeant Bergdahl’s critics appear to be blaming him for every American soldier killed in Paktika Province in the four-month period that followed his disappearance. Thus began the politicization of Bowe’s life, during the 5 years of his captivity, during the prisoner exchange that freed Bowe by President Obama, and now with decisions relating to punishment by the Army.
Bowe has related that he was tortured, beaten, and held in a cage by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan after an escape attempt. He also told medical officials that he was locked in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time as punishment for trying to escape. He was aPOW for 5 years by himself with no other Americans, and no prior training on how to conduct himself or to resist as a POW.
A personal note here: I was held for 8 years as a POW in Vietnam, along with hundreds of other American airmen as time went along after my capture. I was trained prior in a Navy survival school. And I was a Navy Lieutenant, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. So unlike Bowe, not only did I have training for the possible eventuality of being captured but I was also with fellow Americans. We were able to support each other and resist as an organized, military, team. What a difference from the circumstances of PFC Bowe Bergdahl. What a difference we experienced upon repatriation, welcomed as returning heroes. Bowe is being court martialed.
At first when the recommendation for Non Judicial Punishment was made public, Senator John McCain, let it be known that if there were no more severe punishment for Sergeant Bergdahl, the Senate Armed Services Committee of which Senator McCain is chair, would hold its own hearing. He said “I am not prejudging, OK, but it is well-known that in the searches for Bergdahl, after-we know now-he deserted, there are allegations that some American soldiers were killed or wounded, or at the very least put their lives in danger, searching for what is clearly a deserter. We need to have a hearing on that.” Senator McCain thus ignored the fact that no soldiers had been killed or wounded while searching for Sergeant Bergdahl.
Senator McCain’s Senate Armed Services Committee also decides on promotions and assignments for high-ranking military officers - like General Robert Abrams. And now General Abrams is the general who has decided to disregard the recommendation of NJP for Sgt. Bergdahl. On December 14th, 2015, General Abrams announced his decision that Sergeant Bergdahl will face a general court-martial and the possibility of life in prison.
So here we are, and here Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is. A one-year experienced Private First Class soldier, now facing a possible life-in-prison penalty in an Army Court Martial. But this is what always happens when very junior military people are made to suffer for much greater transgressions. The greater questions are of course being ignored: Why and how did our military come to be so politicized? Why are we fighting in Afghanistan in the first place? What President and Administration got us in illegally and immorally, from the beginning? Why aren’t they being punished?
We all need to examine what is really going on here. The upcoming court martial of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is just a signpost of a much deeper, cancerous infection. And punishing this low-ranking man who never should have been in the Army in the first place is anathema to any kind of justice.Free Bowe Bergdahl!
Phillip Butler, PhD CDR, USN, (ret.)
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 46
DNC defection: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprise Endorsement Gives Sanders a Chance to Change the Whole Primary Game
By Dave Lindorff
Just as the media, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s landslide win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday, are predictably writing the obituary for Bernie Sanders’ upstart and uphill campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has handed him an opportunity to jolt the American people awake.
In October 2001, the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan largely through proxy Afghan fighters with the help of Special Operations forces, American air power, and CIA dollars. The results were swift and stunning. The Taliban was whipped, a new government headed by Hamid Karzai soon installed in Kabul, and the country declared "liberated."
Conversation with activist Alfredo Lopez: The Left Needs to ‘Own’ Bernie Sanders to Ensure He Delivers on Campaign Promises
By Dave Lindorff
Rethinking Bernie Sanders: Attacking Wall Street and the Corrupt US Political System Makes Sanders a Genuine Revolutionary
By Dave Lindorff
I admit I’ve been slow to warm up to the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s because I publicly backed Barack Obama in 2008 and quickly came to rue that decision after he took office.
Speak with the Afghan Peace Volunteers
Beginning at 5 pm Kabul, Afghanistan time; 7:30 am Eastern time (US)
Listen to Gemma Bulos, Director of Global Women's Water Initiative
on-line live (time being arranged, stay-tuned)
Listen to the conversation live: GlobalDaysofListening.
5 – 8 pm : Kabul, Afghanistan
2:30 – 5:30 pm : Gaza, Palestine; Israel
12:30 – 3:30 pm : UK
7:30 – 10:30 am : Eastern time US
JOIN THE CALL see the schedule
By Kathy Kelly
In Kabul, where the Afghan Peace Volunteers have hosted me in their community, the U.S. military maintains a huge blimp equipped with cameras and computers to supply 24 hour surveillance of the city. Remotely piloted drones, operated by Air Force and Air National Guard personnel in U.S. bases, also fly over Afghanistan, feeding U.S. military analysts miles of camera footage, every day. Billions of dollars have been invested in a variety of blimps which various vendors, such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Aeros have shipped to Afghanistan. All of this surveillance purportedly helps establish “patterns of life” in Afghanistan and bring security to people living here. But this sort of “intelligence” discloses very little about experiences of poverty, chaos, hunger, child labor, homelessness, and unemployment which afflict families across Afghanistan.
This morning, Zarghuna listed for me the survey questions that she and her young colleagues ask when they visit families in Kabul. The family visits help them choose participants in the Borderfree Street Kids School and the Duvet Project. The survey teams also help with plans for a “Food Bank” that the Afghan Peace Volunteers hope to open sometime in the coming year.
The questions Zarghuna and the survey team use may seem simple.
How many times a week does your family have a serving of beans? Do you rent your home? Can anyone in your family read and write? Child laborers are asked to tell about what type of work they do in the streets, how many hours they work each day and how much money they earn.
But the answers open up excruciatingly painful situations as many family members explain that they never have adequate food, that the only person earning an income is one of the children, that once they pay rent for the mud home in which they live, they have no remaining funds for food, blankets, fuel or clean water.
I’ve watched the young volunteers work hard to develop useful survey questions and discuss ways to be sensitive as they visit families and try to build trust. Sometimes very difficult arguments erupt over which families are most needy.
As the Pentagon decides about investments in aerial, remotely controlled surveillance capacities, disagreements over which proposals to support have arisen within the various military forces. Defense companies pay handsome salaries to former military leaders who will advocate for one or another program. Afghanistan has become a “proving ground” where different “protective” systems have been tested, including successive generations of Predator and Reaper drones and the aerostat “blimps.”
In Afghanistan, an October 11, 2015 accident involving a U.S. military blimp cost the lives of five people. The Intercept reported that “a British military helicopter was coming in for a landing at NATO headquarters, where the blimp is moored. According to an eyewitness who spoke to the BBC, the helicopter hit the tether, which then wrapped itself around the rotors. The helicopter crashed, killing five people --two U.S. service members, two British service members, and a French contract civilian—and injuring five more.”
Among opponents of continued funding for blimp surveillance, blimp accidents are but one of many criticisms raised. Some Army leaders argue that even a fully functioning blimp borne air defense system would be irrelevant in terms of the kinds of attacks that threaten U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times notes that “the weapons that were killing and maiming U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were crude rockets, artillery and improvised explosive devices.”
Other real and life threatening threats afflict many Afghan people, especially the 40% of the population who live beneath the poverty level. These threats are invisible to surveillance carried on by blimps or drones.
A UN Human Development Report recently revealed that Afghanistan has slipped to 171st of 173 countries in terms of development.
The UN report says that an Afghan person can, on average, expect to live 60 years. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the average life span here is 50 years.
In 2015, 1.2 million Afghans were internally displaced and about 160,000 people fled to Europe.
The U.S. military continues to invest billions of dollars in the “surveys” accomplished by blimps and drones. Certainly poverty and desperation cause people to fight against foreigners who have invaded and occupied their country.
If U.S. resources spent on unproductive military surveillance of Afghans were dedicated to assessments of both U.S. and Afghan people burdened by poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and climate change, today’s U.S. generations would be less willing to feed their tax money to the insatiable appetite of the “defense” corporations and their illusions of omniscient security.
Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war
Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.
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Veterans For Peace is dismayed by the Army’s decision to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and endangering troops, for which, if convicted, he could potentially face life in prison. We believe that Sgt. Bergdahl should be freed from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.
Bowe Bergdahl is a prisoner of war, three times over. First the U.S. government sent him on Mission Impossible, to salvage its illegal, immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Then he was captured by the Taliban, who held him prisoner under brutal conditions for five years. Now Sgt. Bergdahl is prisoner to an orgy of militaristic politics in the most fear-mongering election year in memory. Republican front runner Donald Trump has publicly called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and suggested he should be executed.
Did Sgt. Bergdahl walk away from his post in Afghanistan? Yes, by his own account he did so, in order to bring attention to poor leadership which he believed was endangering his fellow soldiers. Resistance to Mission Impossible takes many forms. Bowe Bergdahl may not have been explicitly protesting against the war in Afghanistan, but by taking drastic action he sent a distress signal.
Bergdahl is charged with Desertion to Avoid Hazardous Duty, and Misbehavior Before the Enemy, which respectively, carry maximum sentences of five years and life in prison. Charging him with serious crimes in a General Court Martial appears to be a political decision. It overrides the recommendation of the Army’s own investigating officer, who said that Bergdahl’s actions did not warrant either jail time or a punitive discharge. The investigating officer recommended, at most, a Special Court Martial which can mete out a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
Bowe Bergdahl is clearly not guilty of desertion. It cannot be proven that he was attempting to avoid hazardous duty or to remain away from his unit indefinitely. The Misbehavior Before the Enemy Charge asserts that Bowe Bergdahl’s actions put his fellow soldiers at risk. It has even been said that soldiers died looking for him. However, no evidence has been provided to back up this claim.
It was the U.S. government that put our soldiers at risk by sending them to invade Afghanistan and to occupy it for going on 15 years. Nearly 2,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including six who were killed just this week by a suicide bomber at Bagram Air Force Base. None of these soldiers died as a result of Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions.
Bowe Bergdahl is being made the scapegoat for the failed policies for the disastrous U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan men, women and children.
Bowe Bergdahl remains a Prisoner of War. Veterans For Peace demands that Sgt. Bergdahl be freed immediately with an Honorable Discharge.
Veterans For Peace is also concerned about the 9,800 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan, hostages to a failed policy, with targets on their backs. The U.S. government should withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan immediately and finally bring that long U.S. war to an end.
FREE BOWE BERGDAHL! U.S. OUT OF AFGHANISTAN!
By Dr Hakim
Former MSF Kunduz Hospital pharmacist, Khalid Ahmad, recuperating at Emergency Hospital in Kabul
“I feel very angry, but I don’t want anything from the U.S. military,” said Khalid Ahmad, a 20 year old pharmacist who survived the U.S. bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz on the 3rd of October, “God will hold them accountable.”
The actions of the U.S. military elicit the same contempt from Khalid and many ordinary Afghans as the actions of the Taliban or the ISIS.
Khalid was a little wary when Zuhal, Hoor and I were introduced to him in a ward of Emergency Hospital in Kabul, where he has been recuperating from a U.S. shrapnel injury to his spine that nearly killed him.
But, immediately, I saw his care for others. “Please bring a chair for him,” Khalid told his brother, not wanting me to be uncomfortable in squatting next to him, as we began our conversation in the corridor space outside the ward.
Having just recovered strength in his legs, he had walked tentatively to the corridor, making sure his urinary catheter bag wasn’t in the way as he sat down.
The autumn sun revealed tired lines on his face, as if even ‘skin’ can get permanently traumatized by the shock of bomb blasts.
“The Taliban had already taken control of all areas in Kunduz except the MSF Hospital and the airport. I felt I could still serve the patients safely because neither the Afghan /U.S. military forces nor the Taliban would bother us. At least, they’re not supposed to.” Khalid paused imperceptibly.
“As a neutral humanitarian service,” Khalid continued, “we treat everyone alike, as patients needing help. We recognize everyone as a human being.”
“I wasn’t scheduled to be on duty the night of the incident, but my supervisor asked me to help because the hospital was swarmed with larger numbers of patients that week.”
“I was sleeping when the bombing began at about 2 a.m. I went to see what was happening, and to my horror, I saw that the ICU was on fire, the flames appearing to shoot 10 meters up into the night sky. Some patients were burning in their beds.”
“I was petrified.”
“It was so frightening. The bombing and firing continued, and following after the bombs were showers of ‘laser-like flashes’ which were flammable, catching and spreading the fire.”
What were those laser-like flashes?
“With two other colleagues, I rushed to the guard house, which was about five metres from the hospital’s main gate. In the guard house were four security guards. We all decided to make a run for the hospital gate, to escape the bombing.”
Khalid’s eyes cringed a little, disappointment soaking his voice. Such shock can be too much for a human being to bear; irreparable disappointment at the U.S. military for attacking a humanitarian, medical facility, and an unfair guilty disappointment with self for having escaped death while colleagues were killed.
“The first person ran. Then another. It was my turn.”
“I took off and just as I reached the gate, with one foot outside the gate and one foot inside the hospital compound, a shrapnel hit me on my back.”
“I lost power in both legs, and fell. Dazed, I dragged myself to a nearby ditch and threw myself in.”
“I was bleeding quickly from my back, the blood pooling at my sides. Feeling that my end was near, I was desperate to call my family. My colleagues and I had taken out the batteries from our cell phones because the U.S. military has a way of tracking and target-killing people by picking up their cell phone signals. With one good arm, somehow, I pulled out my phone and inserted its battery.”
“Mom, I’m injured, and don’t have time. Could you pass the phone to dad?”
“What happened, my son?”
“Please pass the phone to dad!”
“What happened, my son?”
I could almost hear his distraught mother wondering what could have happened to her son who should have been safe in the hospital environment.
“Mom, there’s no time left. Pass the phone to dad.”
“I then asked my dad for forgiveness for any wrong I had done. I was feeling faint, and dropped the phone.”
“In my half-consciousness, the phone rang and it was my cousin. He asked me what had happened, and instructed me to use my clothes to stop the bleeding. I yanked a vest off myself, threw it behind my back and laid on it.”
“I must have passed out, as my next memory was of hearing my cousin’s voice and other voices, and being taken to the kitchen of the hospital where some basic first aid was being given to many injured persons.”
“I saw people with amputated limbs. Some of my colleagues, some of my colleagues….what wrong had we done? Is this what we get for serving people? ”
As I struggled emotionally to register Khalid’s story in my mind, I remembered my own training and practice as a doctor in hospitals, and I wished there was a global conversation about the failure of the Geneva Conventions to protect civilians, and health facilities. The European Council in Brussels in 2003 estimated that since 1990, almost 4 million people have died in wars, 90% of whom were civilians.
I also wished that more individuals could respond to UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres who declared in a June 2015 press releasethat “We are witnessing a paradigm change….It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”
A positive way to respond would be to join MSF, as well as ICRC President Peter Maurer and UN Head Ban Ki Moon in saying, “Enough! Even war has rules!”, that is, we can sign MSF’s petition for an #independent investigationof the Kunduz MSF Hospital bombing.
Passively accepting the Pentagon’s confessional report of ‘human error’resulting in the killing of 31 staff and patients in the Kunduz Hospital bombing would allow the U.S. and other militaries to continue breaching laws and conventions with impunity, like in Yemen right now.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported in October that nearly 100 hospitals in Yemen had been attacked since March 2015. Just as recently as 2nd December, Khalid’s haunting story repeated itself in Taiz, Yemen, where an MSF clinic was attacked by the Saudi coalition forces, prompting Karline Kleijer, MSF operational manager for Yemen, to say that every nation backing the Yemen war, including the U.S., must answer for the Yemen MSF clinic bombing.
Khalid’s story was already haunting me, “To transport me, they used body bags meant for the dead. Feeble as I was, I panicked and made sure they heard me protesting, ‘I’m not dead!’ I heard someone say, “We know, don’t worry, we have no choice but to make do.”
“My cousin brought me to a hospital in Baghlan Province which had unfortunately been abandoned because of fighting in the area. So, I was taken to Pul-e-Khumri, and on the way, because I had slightly long hair, I heard shouting directed at us, ‘Hey, what are you doing with a Talib?’. My cousin had to assure them that I was not a Talib.”
So many possible fatal ‘human errors’ and mistakes….
“There was no available help in Pul-e-Khumri too, so I was finally brought to this hospital in Kabul. I’ve had five surgical operations so far,” Khalid said, his voice fading off a little, “and I needed two litres of blood in all.”
It struck me from Khalid’s account that the U.S. military could bomb a health facility by what Kate Clark of the Afghan Analysts Network suggested as ‘ripping up the rule book’, and then, not take any measures whatsoever after the bombing to treat casualties like Khalid and many others. If you are a civilian bombed by the U.S. military, you’ll have to fend for yourself!
Khalid sighed, “I’m grateful that I’ve been given a second life. Some of my colleagues…they weren’t so lucky.”
Khalid was exhausted. I understood from working in Afghanistan over the past years of a worsening war that his exhaustion wasn’t just physical. “I’m angry. The U.S. military is killing us just because they want to be the Empire of the world.”
Khalid asked why we wanted to take his photograph. His question reminded me of what we as individuals can do: taking and seeing his photo in this article isn’t going to be enough.
He steadied himself in the chair, placed his urine bag out of the camera’s view and said with full dignity, “I want my story to be heard.”
Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
A half century of US hospital bombings: Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
By Dave Lindorff
“US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”
-- US Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell
Let’s begin with the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, Iraqi oil money held in the U.S. The Bush administration began flying it into Baghdad on C-130s soon after U.S. troops entered that city in April 2003. Essentially dumped into the void that had once been the Iraqi state, at least $1.2 to $1.6 billion of it was stolen and ended up years later in a mysterious bunker in Lebanon. And that’s just what happened as the starting gun went off.
No more veterans!: November 11 or Armistice Day Began as a Time to Contemplate Peace, Not to Celebrate War and Warriors
By Dave Lindorff
By Brian Terrell
When I arrived at the Kabul International Airport on November 4, I was unaware that the same day the New York Times published an article, “Life Pulls Back in Afghan Capital, as Danger Rises and Troops Recede.” My friends Abdulhai and Ali, 17 years old, young men I have known since my first visit five years ago, greeted me with smiles and hugs and took my bags. Disregarded by soldiers and police armed with automatic weapons, we caught up on old times as we walked past concrete blast walls, sand bag fortifications, check points and razor wire to the public road and hailed a cab.
The sun was just burning through the clouds after an early morning rain and I had never seen Kabul look so bright and clean. Once past the airport, the high way into the city was bustling with rush hour traffic and commerce. I was unaware until I read the New York Times on line a few days later, that this time I was one of only a few US citizens likely to be on that road. “The American Embassy’s not allowed to move by road anymore,” a senior Western official told the Times, which reported further that “after 14 years of war, of training the Afghan Army and the police, it has become too dangerous to drive the mile and a half from the airport to the embassy.”
Helicopters now ferry employees working with the United States and the international military coalition to and from offices in Kabul we are told. The United States Embassy in Kabul is one of the largest in the world and already a largely self-contained community, its personnel are now even more isolated from Afghan people and institutions than before. “No one else,” other than US and coalition facilities, the Times reports, “has a compound with a landing pad.” While proclaiming its mission there “Operation Resolute Support” for Afghanistan, US officials no longer travel on Afghan streets.
We have no helicopters or landing pads, but the security situation in Kabul is also a concern for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a grass roots peace and human rights organization that I work with and for our friends in the Kabul-based Afghan Peace Volunteers that I came to visit. I am fortunate with my grey beard and darker complexion to more easily pass for a local and so I can move about a bit more freely on the streets than some other internationals who visit here. Even then, my young friends have me wear a turban when we leave the house.
The security in Kabul does not look so grim to everyone, though. According to an October 29 Newsweek report, the German government will soon deport most of the Afghan asylum seekers who have entered that country. German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere insists that Afghans should “stay in their country” and that those refugees coming from Kabul especially have no claim for asylum, because Kabul is “considered to be a safe area.” The streets of Kabul that are too dangerous for US Embassy workers to travel in their convoys of Humvees and armored cars escorted by heavily armed private contractors are safe for Afghans to live, work and raise their families, in Herr de Maiziere’s estimation. “Afghans made up more than 20 percent of the 560,000-plus people who have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency, something de Maziere described as ‘unacceptable.’”
Afghans, especially of the educated middle class, de Maiziere says, “should remain and help build the country up.” Quoted in the New York Times, Hasina Safi, the executive director of the Afghan Women’s Network, a group that works on human rights and gender issues, seems to agree: “It will be very difficult if all the educated people leave,” she said. “These are the people we need in this country; otherwise, who will help the ordinary people?” The same sentiment spoken with stunning courage and moral credibility by a human rights worker in Afghanistan, comes off as a disgraceful and craven obfuscation of responsibility when expressed from a government ministry in Berlin, especially when that government has for 14 years participated in the coalition responsible for much of Afghanistan’s plight.
On the day after my arrival I was privileged to sit in at a meeting of teachers in the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Street Kids’ School when this subject was discussed. These young women and men, high school and university students themselves, teach the basics of a primary education to children who must work in the streets of Kabul to help support their families. The parents do not pay tuition, but with the support of Voices, are instead allotted a sack of rice and jug of cooking oil each month to compensate for the hours their children are studying.
While the New York Times proclaims that “Life Pulls Back in Afghan Capital,” these volunteer teachers are a sign that life goes on, sometimes with startling joy and abundance as I have experienced in recent days, even in this place ravaged by war and want. It was heart breaking, then, to hear these brilliant, resourceful and creative young people who clearly represent Afghanistan’s best hope for the future, discuss frankly whether they have a future there at all and whether they should join so many other Afghans seeking sanctuary elsewhere.
The reasons that any of these young people might leave are many and impelling. There is great fear of suicide bombings in Kabul, air raids in the provinces where anyone might be targeted as a combatant by a US drone, fear of getting caught between various combatant forces fighting battles that are not theirs. All have suffered greatly in the wars that began here before they were born. The institutions charged with the reconstruction of their country are riddled with corruption, from Washington, DC, to Afghan government ministries and NGOs, billions of dollars gone to graft with little to show on the ground. The prospects even for the brightest and most resourceful to pursue an education and then be able to find work in their chosen professions in Afghanistan are not good.
Most of the volunteers admitted that they had given thought to leaving, but even so they expressed a strong sense of responsibility to stay in their county. Some had come to a firm resolution not to leave, others seemed unsure if future developments would allow them to stay. Like young people everywhere, they would love to travel and see the world but in the end their deepest wish is to “remain and help build the country up” if only they are able.
The vast majority of Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and others risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea in flimsy crafts or by land through hostile territory in hopes to find asylum in Europe would stay home if they could. While these asylum seekers should be given the hospitality and shelter that they have a right to, clearly the answer is not the absorption of millions of refugees into Europe and North America. In the longer term, there is no solution except a restructuring of the global political and economic order to allow all people to live and flourish at home or to freely move if that is their choice. In the shorter term, nothing will stem the massive tide of immigrants short of stopping all military intervention in these countries by the United States and its allies and by Russia.
The November 4 New York Times story ends with a cautionary tale, a warning that “even efforts to avoid the dangers in Kabul come at a terrible cost.” Three weeks before, one of the many helicopters that now fill the skies moving embassy personnel around had a tragic accident. “Trying to land, the pilot clipped the tether anchoring the surveillance blimp that scans for infiltrators in central Kabul as it hovers over the Resolute Support base.” Five coalition members died in the crash, including two Americans. The blimp drifted off with more than a million dollars’ worth of surveillance equipment, ultimately crashing into, and presumably destroying, an Afghan house.
The efforts of the US, UK and Germany “to avoid the dangers in Kabul” and other places we have destroyed will inevitably “come at a terrible cost.” It cannot be otherwise. We cannot forever keep ourselves safe from the bloody mess we have made of the world by hopping over it from fortified helipad to fortified helipad in helicopter gunships. Millions of refugees flooding our borders might be the smallest price we will have to pay if we continue to try.
Brian Terrell lives in Maloy, Iowa, and is a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)
Rep. Keith Ellison, joined by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and 14 additional House colleagues, sent a letter to President Obama requesting a full and independent investigation into the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that killed 12 humanitarian workers and 10 patients.
Additional signers of the letter include: Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
October 26, 2015
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We write to request a full and independent investigation to determine what led to the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan. We appreciate your willingness to reach out directly to MSF to apologize and your call for a Pentagon investigation. We believe a civilian-led independent investigation is also necessary to ensure an impartial assessment and confidence in the findings of the investigation.
We are deeply disturbed by the news that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan destroyed the MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz, killing 12 humanitarian aid workers and 10 of their patients lying in their beds, including three children. The repeated airstrikes on the hospital also injured 37 civilians, including 19 MSF staff members.
Cooperating with a thorough investigation conducted by the United Nations or other independent body would send an important message to the world that the United States is unequivocally committed to the transparency and accountability required to ensure such a catastrophic event does not happen again.
Under international law, hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. An independent investigation will help ensure future military engagements keep humanitarian heroes, like the MSF staff, safe.
Your leadership and statements by our top military officials communicates the sentiment of many who are saddened by this tragedy: deep regret and a desire to ensure it never happens again. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the United States prioritizes protection of civilians in its conduct of military operations around the world.
By Kathy Kelly
“These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people... and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.
“The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.
“What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.” - Lajos Zoltan Jecs
Lajos Zoltan Jecs survived October 3rd in the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, which the U.S. bombed for well over an hour, at fifteen minute intervals. The bombing continued, despite frantic communication by the hospital staff who told U.S., NATO and Afghan officials that their hospital was under attack. Afterwards Jecs reported the indescribable horror of seeing patients burning in their intensive care unit beds.
U.S. people have much to bear in mind as the Pentagon prepares to release its investigation of the attack.
One consideration is that the MSF staff, as a matter of humanitarian policy, treated anyone needing care that was brought to the hospital. The U.S. may have regarded some of the patients as enemies of the U.S., but this does not justify bombing a hospital. Recent leaks of U.S. drone assassination policy, published by the online journal, The Intercept, clarify that the safety of U.S. people and the elimination of U.S. enemies have long overridden concern on Washington's part for the preservation of other peoples’ lives, including civilians.
Secondly, the U.S. Government seems unable to imagine that attacks supposedly taken in U.S. national interests can be war crimes.
Thirdly, Medecins Sans Frontieres has issued a strong, globally-echoed call for an independent investigation into the attack. The U.S. insists on pursuing its own investigation, one element of which was an evidence-endangering attack actually crashing a tank through the burnt hospital's shell of a first floor.
According to the New York Times, U.S. military commanders are expected to cite the ongoing partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to help explain why a U.S. C-130 transport plane killed 25 people, 12 staff and 13 patients, three of them children. In a front page story, the NYT reported that Pentagon investigators asked whether “lack of experience in working together” on the part of U.S. and Afghan troops “may have directly contributed to the series of mistaken decisions that led to the attack.” The NYT report goes on to say that: “They attributed those problems, in part, to the withdrawal of American forces from northern Afghanistan that has been part of the United States’ gradual drawdown of forces in the country.”
The following day, AP reported that the Army's $5 billion DCGS intelligence network, criticized by many as a boondoggle but elsewhere praised as having "saved lives” by collecting “drone footage, mapping software, human source reports, social media and eavesdropping transcripts”, was non-functional during the attack. The report was based on anonymous government leaks.
Does this mean that on the day in question, the U.S. lacked a staff trained sufficiently well to consult a map, identifying the hospital they were attacking? Had the U.S. military lost its most convenient means of checking the map online? And despite these handicaps, the military went on killing anyway? It went on killing blind?
We ought not to be blinded by media theater, or by habits of dismissing the doubts, and even the deaths, of countless people just like ourselves, overseas, whenever our government offers us its unsubstantiated explanations, its sincere good will, its apologies. The world can't be blinded to attackers in a tank lunging through the gaping sockets, familiar to us from haunting pictures, of the hospital's blackened windows and doors. The United States must allow the world to see what it has done.
Ordinary people worldwide should be encouraged not to cooperate with the war makers and war profiteers who masquerade as providers of security.
I think ordinary people can understand Lajos’s affection for colleagues, his pride in hard work. But it’s difficult, perhaps impossible to grasp even a fraction of the terror Lajos experienced when the U.S. airstrikes destroyed the Kunduz hospital and killed so many innocents.
We must nevertheless try to imagine Lajos’s shock and terror and then imagine further how he might feel upon learning that the attackers, the killers, relied on 5 billion dollars’ worth of “intelligence” systems, which happened to be on the blink that day, and that they didn’t understand that it’s murderously wrong to bomb a hospital, at fifteen minute intervals, causing six separate blasts, even after being notified by panicked staff that their hospital was in flames and patients were burning.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul--Tall, lanky, cheerful and confident, Esmatullah easily engages his young students at the Street Kids School, a project of Kabul’s “Afghan Peace Volunteers,” an antiwar community with a focus on service to the poor. Esmatullah teaches child laborers to read. He feels particularly motivated to teach at the Street Kids School because, as he puts it, “I was once one of these children.” Esmatullah began working to support his family when he was 9 years old. Now, at age 18, he is catching up: he has reached the tenth grade, takes pride in having learned English well enough to teach a course in a local academy, and knows that his family appreciates his dedicated, hard work.
When Esmatullah was nine, the Taliban came to his house looking for his older brother. Esmatullah’s father wouldn’t divulge information they wanted. The Taliban then tortured his father by beating his feet so severely that he has never walked since. Esmatullah’s dad, now 48, had never learnt to read or write; there are no jobs for him. For the past decade, Esmatullah has been the family’s main breadwinner, having begun to work, at age nine, in a mechanics workshop. He would attend school in the early morning hours, but at 11:00 a.m., he would start his workday with the mechanics, continuing to work until nightfall. During winter months, he worked full time, earning 50 Afghanis each week, a sum he always gave his mother to buy bread.
Now, thinking back on his experiences as a child laborer, Esmatullah has second thoughts. “As I grew up, I saw that it was not good to work as a child and miss many lessons in school. I wonder how active my brain was at that time, and how much I could have learnt! When children work full time, it can ruin their future. I was in an environment where many people were addicted to heroin. Luckily I didn’t start, even though others at the workshop suggested that I try using heroin. I was very small. I would ask ‘What is this?’ and they would say it’s a drug, it’s good for back pain.”
“Fortunately, my uncle helped me buy materials for school and pay for courses. When I was in grade 7, I thought about leaving school, but he wouldn’t let me. My uncle works as a watchman in Karte Chahar. I wish I can help him someday.”
Even when he could only attend school part-time, Esmatullah was a successful student. His teachers recently spoke affectionately about him as an exceptionally polite and competent student. He would always rank as one of the top students in his classes.
“I am the only one who reads or writes in my family,” says Esmatullah. “I always wish that my mother and father could read and write. They could perhaps find work. Truthfully, I live for my family. I am not living for myself. I care for my family. I love myself because of my family. As long as I’m alive, they feel there is a person to help them.”
“But if I had the freedom to choose, I would spend all my time working as a volunteer at the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s center.”
Asked how he feels about educating child laborers, Esmatullah responds: “These children shouldn’t be illiterate in the future. Education in Afghanistan is like a triangle. When I was in first grade, we were 40 children. By grade 7, I recognized that many children had already abandoned school. When I reached grade 10, only four of the 40 children continued their lessons.”
“When I studied English, I felt enthusiastic about teaching in the future and earning money,” he told me. “Eventually, I felt I should teach others because if they become literate they will be less likely to go to war.”
“People are being pushed to join the military,” he says. “My cousin joined the military. He had gone to find work and the military recruited him, offering him money. After one week, the Taliban killed him. He was about 20 years old and he had recently been married.”
Ten years ago, Afghanistan had already been at war for four years, with U.S. cries for revenge over the 9/11 attacks giving way to unconvincing statements of retroactive concern for impoverished people who are the majority of Afghanistan’s population. As elsewhere where the U.S. has let “no fly zones” slide into full regime change, atrocities between Afghans only increased in the chaos, leading to the maiming of Esmatullah’s father.
Many of Esmatullah’s neighbors might understand if he wanted to retaliate and seek vengeance against the Taliban. Others would understand if he wished the same revenge on the United States. But he instead aligns himself with young men and women insisting that “Blood doesn’t wipe away blood.” They want to help child laborers escape military recruitment and ease the afflictions people suffer because of wars.
I askedt Esmatullah how he feels about joining the #Enough! campaign, - represented in social media by young people opposed to war who photograph the word #Enough! (bas) written on their palms.
“Afghanistan experienced three decades of war,” said Esmatullah. “I wish that one day we’ll be able to end war. I want to be someone who, in the future, bans wars.” It will take a lot of “someones” to ban war, ones like Esmatullah who become schooled in ways to live communally with the neediest of people, building societies whose actions won’t evoke desires for revenge.
This article first appeared on Telesur.
Global Days of Listening
led by the Afghan Peace Volunteers
October 21, 2015
5 – 8 pm : Kabul, Afghanistan
3:30 – 4:30 pm : Gaza, Palestine; Israel
1:30 – 4:30 pm : UK
8:30 – 11:30 am : Eastern time US
Listen to the conversation live: GlobalDaysofListening.
... as we talk of:
Afghan Peace Volunteeers supporting
What does it mean to Afghans that the US changed the end-of-war date?
THE CLIMATE CRISIS MUST BE ADDRESSED
JOIN THE CALL see the schedule
write to: globaldaysoflistening@
Signers of this statement are listed below.
“The U.S. and NATO occupy my country under the name of all the beautiful banners of democracy, women’s rights, human rights. And for this long time, they shed the blood of our people under the name of the war on terror…” —Malalai Joya
President Obama’s decision to leave actually ending, as opposed to officially “ending,” the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan to his successor (barring Congress developing the nerve and the decency to act) illustrates our collective and his personal failure to overcome what candidate Obama once called the mindset that gets us into wars. The idea that year 15 or year 16 is going to go better in Afghanistan than the first 14 years have gone is based on no evidence whatsoever, but merely the hope that something will change combined with a misguided and arrogant sense of responsibility to control someone else’s country. As numerous Afghans have been saying for nearly 14 years, Afghanistan will be a disaster when the U.S. occupation ends, but it will be a larger disaster the longer it takes to do so.
This longest-ever U.S. war since the destruction of the Native American nations is, when measured in deaths, dollars, destruction, and numbers of troops and weapons, far more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Yet President Obama has been given credit for “ending” it, without actually ending it, for nearly seven years, including while he was more than tripling the U.S. troop presence. The idea that escalating a war helps to end it, built on myths and distortions about past wars (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Iraq “surge”), has to be set aside after these many years of failure. The pretense that a military can both end and not end the occupation of another people’s country by shifting to “non-combat” troops (even while bombing a hospital) must be abandoned.
The view that further war, in particular with drones, is counterproductive on its own terms is shared with us by
—U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014: “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”
—Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer, who says the more the United States fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism.
—The CIA, which finds its own drone program “counterproductive.”
—Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence: While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.”
—Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”
—Sherard Cowper-Coles, Former U.K. Special Representative To Afghanistan: “For every dead Pashtun warrior, there will be 10 pledged to revenge.”
—Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan): “I believe it’s [the escalation of the war/military action] only going to fuel the insurgency. It’s only going to reinforce claims by our enemies that we are an occupying power, because we are an occupying power. And that will only fuel the insurgency. And that will only cause more people to fight us or those fighting us already to continue to fight us.” — Interview with PBS on Oct 29, 2009
—General Stanley McChrystal: “For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”
Afghanistan need not be “abandoned.” The United States owes Afghanistan reparations in the form of significant actual aid, the cost of which would of course be less than that of continuing the war.
The U.S. air strikes on the Kunduz hospital have generated more attention than many other U.S. atrocities committed in Afghanistan. Yet horrific attacks have been the mainstay of this war which was begun illegally and without U.N. authorization. The motivation of revenge for 9-11 is not a legal justification for war, and also ignores the Taliban’s offer to have bin Laden face trial in a third country. This war has killed many thousands of Afghans, tortured and imprisoned, wounded and traumatized many more. The top cause of death among members of the U.S. military who have gone to Afghanistan is suicide. We shouldn’t allow continuation of this madness to be depicted as reasonable and cautious. It is criminal and murderous. A third U.S. president should be given no opportunity to continue “ending” this war for additional years.
End it now.
David Swanson, director of World Beyond War
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, Code Pink
Ret. Col. AnnWright, former U.S. diplomat, including in Afghanistan
Mike Ferner, former Navy Hospital Corpsman and president of Veterans For Peace
Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan)
Elliott Adams, former National President, Veterans for Peace, FRO
Brian Terrell, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Ed Kinane, Steering committee, Syracuse Peace Council
Victoria Ross, Interim Director, Western New York Peace Council
Brian Willson, Esq., Veterans for Peace
Imam Abdulmalik Mujahid, Chairperson, World Parliament of Religions
David Smith-Ferri, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Dayne Goodwin, secretary Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice, Salt Lake City
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Randolph Shannon, Progressive Democrats of America – PA Coordinator
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers
Jan Hartsough, San Francisco Friends Meeting
Judith Sandoval, Veterans for Peace, San Francisco
Jim Dorenkott, Veterans for Peace
Thea Paneth, Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Arlington United for Justice With Peace
Rivera Sun, author
Michael Wong, Veterans for Peace
Sherri Maurin, Global Days of Listening co-coordinator
Mary Dean, Witness Against Torture
Dahlia Wasfi MD, Iraqi-American activist
Jodie Evans, Co-Founder, Code Pink
Let us bomb your neighborhood
Guided by our intelligence.
Let us erase your neighbor
Out of love.
Kunduz hospital attack was no mistake: US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
By Dave Lindorff
Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.
There is video and audio. It exists. The Pentagon says it's critically important. Congress has asked for it and been refused. WikiLeaks is offering $50,000 to the next brave soul willing to be punished for a good deed in the manner of Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and so many others. You can petition the White House to hand it over here.
The entire world thinks the U.S. military intentionally attacked a hospital because it considered some of the patients enemies, didn't give a damn about the others, and has zero respect for the rule of law in the course of waging an illegal war. Even Congress members think this. All the Pentagon would have to do to exonerate itself would be to hand over the audio and video of the pilots talking with each other and with their co-conspirators on the ground during the commission of the crime -- that is, if there is something exculpatory on the tapes, such as, "Hey, John, you're sure they evacuated all the patients last week, right?"
All Congress would have to do to settle the matter would be to take the following steps one-at-a-time until one of them succeeds: publicly demand the recordings; send a subpoena for the recordings and the appearance of the Secretary of "Defense" from any committee or subcommittee in either house; exercise the long dormant power of inherent contempt by locking up said Secretary until he complies; open impeachment hearings against both the same Secretary and his Commander in Chief; impeach them; try them; convict them. A serious threat of this series of steps would make most or all of the steps unnecessary.
Since the Pentagon won't act and Congress won't act and the President won't act (except by apologizing for having attacked a location containing white people with access to means of communication), and since we have numerous similar past incidents to base our analysis on, we are left to assume that it is highly unlikely that the hidden recordings include any exculpatory comments, but more likely conversation resembling that recorded in the collateral murder video ("Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.")
There isn't actually any question that the U.S. military intentionally targeted what it knew to be a hospital. The only mystery is really how colorful, blood-thirsty, and racist the language was in the cockpit. Left in the dark, we will tend to assume the worst, since past revelations have usually measured up to that standard.
For those of you working to compel police officers in the United States to wear body cameras, it's worth noting that the U.S. military already has them. The planes record their acts of murder. Even the unmanned planes, the drones, record video of their victims before, during, and after murdering them. These videos are not turned over to any grand juries or legislators or the people of the "democracy" for which so many people and places are being blown into little bits.
Law professors that measure up to the standards of Congressional hearings on kill lists never seem to ask for the videos; they always ask for the legal memos that make the drone murders around the world part of a war and therefore acceptable. Because in wars, they imply, all is fair. Doctors Without Borders, on the other hand, declares that even in wars there are rules. Actually, in life there are rules, and one of them is that war is a crime. It's a crime under the U.N. Charter and under the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and when one mass-murder out of millions makes the news, we ought to seize that opportunity to draw attention, outrage, and criminal prosecution to all the others.
I don't want the video and audio recordings of the hospital bombing. I want the video and audio recordings of every bombing of the past 14 years. I want Youtube and Facebook and Twitter full, not just of racist cops murdering black men for walking or chewing gum, but also of racist pilots (and drone "pilots") murdering dark-skinned men, women, and children for living in the wrong countries. Exposing that material would be a healing act beyond national prejudice and truly worthy of honoring Doctors Without Borders.
By Dave Lindorff
Really? The best that Nobel Peace Laureate President Obama can do after the US bombs and destroys a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including 12 volunteer doctors from Doctors Without Borders, is to say, “We’re sorry”?
By Kathy Kelly
Before the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, a group of activists living in Baghdad would regularly go to city sites that were crucial for maintaining health and well-being in Baghdad, such as hospitals, electrical facilities, water purification plants, and schools, and string large vinyl banners between the trees outside these buildings which read: “To Bomb This Site Would Be A War Crime.” We encouraged people in U.S. cities to do the same, trying to build empathy for people trapped in Iraq, anticipating a terrible aerial bombing.
Tragically, sadly, the banners must again condemn war crimes, this time echoing international outcry because in an hour of airstrikes this past Saturday morning, the U.S. repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, a facility that served the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
U.S./NATO forces carried out the airstrike at about 2AM on October 3rd. Doctors Without Borders had already notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital. When the first bombs hit, medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued, at 15 minute intervals, until 3:15 a.m., killing 22 people. 12 of the dead were medical staff; ten were patients, and three of the patients were children. At least 37 more people were injured. One survivor said that the first section of the hospital to be hit was the Intensive Care Unit.
“Patients were burning in their beds,” said one nurse, an eyewitness to the ICU attack."There are no words for how terrible it was." The U.S. airstrikes continued, even after the Doctors Without Borders officials had notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan military that the warplanes were attacking the hospital.
Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it was patently clear that the U.S. had committed a war crime.
The U.S. military has said that the matter is under investigation. Yet another in an endless train of somber apologies; feeling families' pain but excusing all involved decision makers seems inevitable. Doctors Without Borders has demanded a transparent, independent investigation, assembled by a legitimate international body and without direct involvement by the U.S. or by any other warring party in the Afghan conflict. If such an investigation occurs, and is able to confirm that this was a deliberate, or else a murderously neglectful war crime, how many Americans will ever learn of the verdict?
War crimes can be acknowledged when carried out by official U.S. enemies, when they are useful in justifying invasions and efforts at regime change.
One investigation the U.S. has signally failed to carry out would tell it how much Kunduz needed this hospital. The U.S. could investigate SIGAR reports ("Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction") numbering Afghanistan's "U.S. funded health care facilities," allegedly funded through USAID, which cannot even be located, 189 alleged locations at whose coordinates there are demonstrably no buildings within 400 feet. In their June 25th letter they astoundingly write, “My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information for 510—nearly 80 percent—of the 641 health care facilities funded by the PCH program.” It notes that six of the Afghan facilities are actually located in Pakistan, six in Tajikstan, and one in the Mediterranean Sea.
Now it seems we've created yet another ghost hospital, not out of thin air this time but from the walls of a desperately needed facility which are now charred rubble, from which the bodies of staff and patients have been exhumed. And with the hospital lost to a terrified community, the ghosts of this attack are, again, beyond anyone's ability to number. But in the week leading up to this attack, its staff had treated 345 wounded people, 59 of them children.
The U.S. has long shown itself the most formidable warlord fighting in Afghanistan, setting an example of brute force that frightens rural people who wonder to whom they can turn for protection. In July of 2015, U.S. bomber jets attacked an Afghan army facility in the Logar Province, killing ten soldiers. The Pentagon said this incident would likewise be under investigation. No public conclusion of the investigation seems ever to have been issued. There isn't always even an apology.
This was a massacre, whether one of carelessness or of hate. One way to join the outcry against it, demanding not just an inquiry but a final end to all U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, would be to assemble in front of health care facilities, hospitals or trauma units, carrying signage which says, “To Bomb This Place Would Be a War Crime.” Invite hospital personnel to join the assembly, notify local media, and hold an additional sign which says: “The Same Is True in Afghanistan.”
We should affirm the Afghans' right to medical care and safety. The U.S. should offer investigators unimpeded access to the decision makers in this attack and pay to reconstruct the hospital with reparations for suffering caused throughout these fourteen years of war and cruelly manufactured chaos. Finally, and for the sake of future generations, we should take hold of our runaway empire and make it a nation we can restrain from committing the fathomlessly obscene atrocity that is war.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (vcnv.org) She returned from Afghanistan in mid-September, 2015 where she was a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.com)