US military bombs Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan –


MSF/AFP

Seems like the old days doesn’t it? All we need is George W’s sad voice giving us the “oops” excuse. Oh well, President Obama learned how to do it pretty well. No doubt he remembers exactly the tone required.

A hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike. At least 19 people were killed, including 12 hospital staff members, and dozens wounded.

The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

The airstrike set off fires that were still burning hours later, and a nurse who managed to climb out of the debris described seeing colleagues so badly burned that they had died…

President Ashraf Ghani’s office released a statement Saturday evening saying that Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, had apologized for the strike. In a statement, however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said blah, blah, blah

Airstrikes resulting in civilian casualties have caused tensions verging on hostility between the Afghan government and the United States for years. The former president, Hamid Karzai, was often in the uncomfortable position of explaining to his countrymen why Afghanistan’s biggest ally was killing innocent Afghans…

Accounts differed as to whether there had been fighting around the hospital that might have precipitated the strike. Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters in the hospital.

But a Kunduz police spokesman, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, insisted that Taliban fighters had entered the hospital and were using it as a firing position.

Doctors Without Borders, which released the casualty numbers, said 37 people were wounded of whom 19 were hospital staff and 18 were patients or their caregivers, which means mostly family members. The organization described the facility as “very badly damaged.”

In a statement, the aid group accused the American military of continuing the bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling military contacts that the hospital was being bombed.

“All parties to the conflict including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the MSF facilities — hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.

Who do I believe? I’ll take Doctors Without Borders over the Pentagon any day of the week.

RTFA for a long, detailed account of the deaths and destruction.

Remembering absent friends and more…

30 seconds over Tokyo

It’s been a tough morning.

Up early as usual. Because of my wife’s work routine, we’re usually up before 5AM. Habit runs right through the weekend.

I figured to watch the start of the German Gran Prix. Had it set to record so I could check back through the race after it was over. But, I started to look around to see what else was on TV this early. I certainly wasn’t going to watch the news. Guaranteed it would be them dangerous furriners killing each other in Ukraine; brave little Israel killing Arabs in self-defense at a rate of 200 to 1; crowds of white Americans demonstrating our freedom by massing to keep children fleeing North towards our border from crossing into the Land of Liberty.

I don’t recall the channel; but, there was 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO…the story of the shock raid by a few American bombers that took off from an aircraft carrier in 1942 to bring the war started by Japan – home to the Japanese nation. You can read about the raid any number of places. The movie is pretty accurate.

It became harder to watch than I thought. I saw the movie when it came out in the autumn of 1944 at our neighborhood movie theater. My sister and me, mom and dad. Four of my uncles were still overseas in the war. One of my older cousins was missing in the Pacific.

I didn’t remember General Doolittle’s speech to the pilots and crew before they lifted their B-25 Mitchell bombers off the flight deck of the Hornet. So, it took me by surprise when he finished by explaining to the airmen this would be the first time American pilots bombed a city. Yes, these were military targets; but, innocent civilians were inevitably going to be killed and injured. Anyone who didn’t want to take part in what some would feel was murder of the innocents could step aside and no one would think the worse of them.

And I had to cry.

First and foremost, all the emotions of those days of war flooded back into my heart and mind. People I loved, people I didn’t even know. Tens of thousands dying horrible deaths around the globe from England to Asia and the Pacific. Then, I couldn’t help but reflect on what our nation has become; how hardened and distorted our culture has become – we now only describe the murder of innocent civilians as “collateral damage”. We can send in pilotless drones to fire missiles at our enemy du jour and maybe only kill a few members of their families. Guilty of being kin to evil men. What have we become?

I couldn’t finish watching the movie. I got as far as the Ruptured Duck, one of the B-25s crash-landing in the ocean just off the coast of China – as did all the planes after the mission. Running out of fuel near China or the Soviet Union. Crashing into the sea or just inland. Most of those who flew the attack survived the mission.

In what was called one of the worst war crimes of the century, Japan executed 250,000 Chinese civilians along the coast because some had aided our airmen to survival and eventual safety.

U.N. report politely asks U.S. to ‘clarify’ use of drones in conflicts – 18% of deaths are civilians

Civilians account for almost one fifth of the deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan over the past decade, a U.N. report says…Of the approximately 2,200 Pakistanis who have died in drone strikes, the report says 400 (18 percent) were not militants…

Ben Emmerson, a U.N. special rapporteur who wrote the report, said that Pakistani officials who provided the number indicate that, “owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate.”

Some 31 civilians have been killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan and between 12 and 18 in Yemen in the past 18 months, the report added.

The 22-page report was released ahead of a debate on the use of remotely piloted aircraft scheduled for next Friday at the U.N. General Assembly, The Guardian reported…

Emmerson contrasted British and U.S. policies on drone usage. He said Britain’s Royal Air Force “thoroughly scrubbed” its intelligence before authorizing the use of drones. As a result, he said, there had been only one incident in which civilians were killed.

The CIA’s use of drones had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency,” Emmerson said. Consequently, the United States has not revealed any data about the number of civilians killed or injured by drone strikes.

He called on the United States to “further clarify” its policies about the use of drones and to declassify information about the use of drones in counter-terrorism activities.

Here in the States we’re faced with the Pentagon, Defense [War] Department officials, the White house [regardless of who’s in office] and Congress ready and willing to legalize attacks upon foreign soil around the world. They will figure out some way to satisfy themselves – if not the public – about the death of civilian non-combatants under any circumstances.

This is how the US manages transparency.

The US has little credibility – Syria won’t change that


Same as it ever was

Much of the contemporary turmoil in the Middle East owes its origins to foreign powers drawing lines in the sand that were both arbitrary and consequential and guided more by their imperial standing than the interests of the region. The “red line” that president Barack Obama has set out as the trigger for US military intervention in Syria is no different.

He drew it unilaterally in August 2012 in response to a question about “whether [he envisioned] using US military” in Syria. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

On 21 August there was a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government. That changed both Obama’s calculus and his memory. “I didn’t set a red line,” he claimed last week. I didn’t draw it, he insisted, everybody did. “The world set a red line”.

This was news to the world, which, over the weekend, sought to distance itself from his line, as the US president doubled-down on his double-speak…

The alleged urgency to bomb Syria at this moment is being driven almost entirely by the White House’s desire to assert both American power and moral authority as defined by a self-imposed ultimatum. It is to this beat that the drums of war are pounding. But thus far few are marching. The American public is against it by wide margins. As a result it is not clear that Congress, whose approval he has sought, will back him. The justification and the objectives for bombing keep changing and are unconvincing. He has written a rhetorical cheque his polity may not cash and the public is reluctant to honour. On Tuesday night he’ll make his case to a sceptical nation from the White House…

…The insistence that a durable and effective solution to this crisis lies at the end of an American cruise missile beggars belief. It is borne from the circular sophistry that has guided most recent “humanitarian interventions”: (1) Something must be done now; (2) Bombing is something; (3) Therefore we must bomb…

The problem for America in all of this is that its capacity to impact diplomatic negotiations is limited by the fact that its record of asserting its military power stands squarely at odds with its pretensions of moral authority. For all America’s condemnations of chemical weapons, the people of Falluja in Iraq are experiencing the birth defects and deformities in children and increases in early-life cancer that may be linked to the use of depleted uranium during the US bombardment of the town. It also used white phosphorus against combatants in Falluja.

Its chief ally in the region, Israel, holds the record for ignoring UN resolutions, and the US is not a participant in the international criminal court – which is charged with bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice – because it refuses to allow its own citizens to be charged. On the very day Obama lectured the world on international norms he launched a drone strike in Yemen that killed six people.

Obama appealing for the Syrian regime to be brought to heel under international law is a bit like Tony Soprano asking the courts for a restraining order against one of his mob rivals – it cannot be taken seriously because the very laws he is invoking are laws he openly flouts.

Since the end of World War 2 – and the way we ended it – the United States has ignored international law, treaties and the worldwide expansion of a struggle for human rights that happened in parallel with anti-colonialism. Our nation supported any and all colonial powers that weren’t smart enough to withdraw gracefully. We volunteered the lives of our military personnel in a foolhardy quest to shut down efforts to shrug off the imperial yoke of Western corporate power – all the way to VietNam.

We lost every one of those battles more often sooner than later; but, we lost them all. Obama believes like all self-deluded American politicians he still can find some means of reintroducing that control. Most recently by technological means – as ignorant as ever of the fact that knowing which people would prefer to get your foot off their neck doesn’t mean they will stop threatening to break that foot if you don’t remove it. Declaring the rest of the world to be led by religious terrorists – from atop a pyramid of dollars worshipped by our own religious terrorists – changes nothing. And never reinstates credibility lost over decades.

Thousands evacuated in France for WW2 bomb disposal

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of a series of bombs from the Second World War in the French city centre of Rennes.

Sixty five years after the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, the city in Brittany was closed as engineers worked to defuse a 550lb RAF device…

Some 10,000 people living in Rennes were involved in the evacuation as the centre of the city resembled a ghost town…

Further east, 4,500 people were moved out of Woippy, in the suburbs of Metz, as bomb disposal experts worked on devices around a former Wehrmacht supply centre.

It is now being converted into a bus station, but was bombed so many times during the war that its basement and foundations are littered with ordnance, including RAF and US air force devices.

All of the work was being coordinated by France’s Département du Déminage (Department of Mine Clearance), which recovers around 1,000 tons of unexploded munitions every year…

Their work is concentrated on the so-called ‘Iron Harvest’ of unexploded ordnance which is littered around the battlefields and bombing targets of northern France…

Some 70,000 French civilians were killed by Allied strategic bombing during the Second World War.

Just in case you think “collateral damage” is a brand new excuse.