Relentless bombing of a civilian hospital staffed by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
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(updated below -- Update II)
Shortly after the news broke of the U.S. attack on a Doctors without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, there was abundant evidence suggesting (not proving, but suggesting) that the attack was no accident: (1) MSF repeatedly told the U.S. military about the precise coordinates of its hospital, which had been operating for years; (2) the Pentagon's story about what happened kept changing, radically, literally on a daily basis; (3) the exact same MSF hospital had been invaded by Afghan security forces three months earlier, demonstrating hostility toward the facility; (4) the attack lasted more than 30 minutes and involved multiple AC-130 gunship flyovers, even as MSF officials frantically pleaded with the U.S. military to stop; and, most compellingly of all, (5) Afghan officials from the start said explicitly that the hospital was a valid and intended target due to the presence of Taliban fighters as patients.reported that "the Army Green Berets who requested the Oct. 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma center in Afghanistan were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed it was under Taliban control." Last night, NBC News cited a new MSF report with this headline: "U.S. Plane Shot Victims Fleeing Doctors Without Borders Hospital: Charity." As the New York Times put it yesterday, the "hospital was among the most brightly lit buildings in Kunduz on the night a circling American gunship destroyed it" and "spread across the hospital roof was a large white and red flag reading 'Medecins Sans FrontiÃ¨res.'" For reasons that are increasingly understandable, the Obama administration is still adamantly refusing MSF's demand for an independent investigation into what happened and why.
All of this led MSF's general director, Christopher Stokes, to say this at a news conference yesterday in Kabul:
"A mistake is quite hard to understand and believe at this stage."
As my colleague Murtaza Hussain reported yesterday, Stokes added: "From what we are seeing now, this action is illegal in the laws of war."