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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/7/15

Shades of Vietnam: The Horrors of COLLATERAL DAMAGE Once Again!

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The recent apparently-intentional American bombing of a Doctors Without Borders civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan is not collateral damage, as claimed by a top Pentagon spokesman. Rather, and clearly, it is a war crime, as well as a crime against humanity. All of the lying about that reality cannot change or mitigate that truth, but rather can only add further insult to this already-grave and very-deadly injury.

According to the October 6, 2015 New York Times, U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell has finally admitted to Congressional investigators that the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz was "mistakenly struck" as a result of "a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command." Note that this was the fifth or sixth version of the horrendous airstrike, which was first called collateral damage resulting from an attempt to oust (nonexistent) Taliban forces from the building, and claimed to have been demanded by Afghan officials, and to have not included the hospital itself, and to have been fully justified under the rules of engagement, and to have been essential to protect American forces in the area, and to have been necessary to the war effort, etc. etc. etc. None of these tall tales was even close to the truth -- all of them were a pack of despicable lies. It took the courageous stance of Doctors Without Borders officials to force out the truth: those officials correctly termed the killing of more than twenty of their staff and patients a war crime. But even more than that, it should be the death knell for America's longest war!

For well over a dozen years now, the United States has been engaged in combat in Afghanistan. Repeated promises to bring home all of our troops -- and whatever NATO forces remain -- have been repeatedly broken. The purpose or goals of this misbegotten war are unclear and slippery, to put it mildly. We have heard that America is seeking to remove the Taliban, defeat terrorists using Afghanistan as a base, support the corrupt Afghan government, protect nearby Pakistan, prevent the spread of ISIS and Al Qaeda and additional so-called justifications for the unjustifiable.

The Doctors Without Borders hospital bombing is far from the first war crime perpetrated by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Drones have been used unmericifully to attack, damage, and destroy civilian targets, such as the infamous drone attack on an Afghan wedding party which killed dozens of noncombatant men, women, and children. Each time one of these tragedies occurs, there is, first, an effort at cover-up, then a fruitless attempt at justification, and finally a sort-of apology which lasts until the next war crime occurs.

When will America learn that there is no such thing as collateral damage -- there is only the toll in innocent lives, followed by the attempted cover-up of each atrocity, the false denials, and eventually some semblance of the truth. And that truth is that war crimes are intolerable, just as much when perpetrated by America as by any other nation. We are better than that -- or at least, we used to be. There is no attainable goal for the War in Afghanistan, and bringing all remaining American forces home is long overdue. If the tragic destruction of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz helps bring that truth home and end this futile war, it may not have been in vain.

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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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