‘I Would Have Refused Such An Order’: Former RAF Pilot Gives His View Of US Bombing Of MSF Hospital In Kunduz
‘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, The Associated Press has learned.’
‘A day before an American AC-130 gunship attacked the hospital, a senior officer in the Green Beret unit wrote in a report that U.S. forces had discussed the hospital with the country director of the medical charity group, presumably in Kabul, according to two people who have seen the document.’
‘First time I have ever come across your organisation and I am very impressed by your work.’
‘It has been my firm opinion from the very beginning that Kunduz hospital was indeed deliberately targeted. I slightly digress from the Lindorff article in that the C-130 Gunship is a pinpoint platform with a choice of munitions. The fact that the hospital was targeted on five separate occasions with unerring accuracy simply underlines how deliberate this attack was. The Gunship itself is a revered weapon on the battlefield, manned by elite crews who are very highly trained. I was involved in the Afghan campaign almost from the beginning when things were pretty hairy. The aircraft of choice for UK Special Forces on the ground was the Gunship and they lobbied for a UK version. It is expensive and due to the side-mounted howitzer limited to one role and so their requests were denied. The Gunship gives unsurpassed support to troops on the ground because of its multi-hour endurance and loiter capability and the accuracy of its smaller calibre cannon and capability of its enormous 105mm howitzer.’
‘I do not accept that the target could have been mistakenly targeted. The crew and command centre would have been fully aware they were attacking a hospital. I followed one of your links suggesting that the C130 crew challenged their orders to target the hospital. This is the very least that I’d have expected to happen. I have extensive operational experience flying in Afghanistan. I am struggling to comprehend in what circumstance I would blindly follow an order to attack a fully manned civilian hospital. If the description provided by MSF’s director-general is accurate I can say without hesitancy that I would have refused such an order for it is an obvious war crime. During the Kosovo war it was fairly routine for RAF Harrier pilots to return home with bombs still loaded because they had been unable to confirm visual acquisition of targets. RAF pilots are probably more inclined to think for themselves than American crews who are extremely tightly controlled. American military personnel give up many rights when they join up, but I am still disappointed that this crew did not appear to do more to challenge their orders. Back in the UK, we lost crown immunity many years ago and it is essential to challenge every questionable act carried out on the battlefield (our emphasis).
‘Given that we agree that the hospital was deliberately targeted it would be useful to try and understand why. It is my opinion that whilst possible, it is unlikely that this was a mistake, intentional or otherwise, by Afghan commanders on the ground. I saw an unconfirmed report stating that US Special Forces were on the ground in Kunduz so it is unlikely that Afghans alone would have called in the attack. So the alternative is that the crew were given their mission from US Central Command or it was called in on the ground by their own people. This is why I doubt we’ll see an independent inquiry. Very senior military officers would be on the hook for what happened in Kunduz because they would have authorised the sustained attack. It is still possible that the Kunduz hospital is seen as an operational “success”; the world of special operations is opaque. It is also a vague possibility that this was an act of gross incompetence, but that would still constitute a war crime. In any case, I simply do not believe it to be incompetence because of the sustained nature of the attack.’
‘The response in the mainstream media mainly consisted of repeating what came off the wires. Unfortunately, the US military changed their version several times which weakened their case immediately. My own experience of BBC journalists is positive but when it comes to describing a major news event there is an immediate suspicion of editorial control from on high. I think it is extremely valuable that you target both individual journalists and the reporting of such events in general. I absolutely commend this approach, which is why I am happy to support you in your endeavours.’
‘There is a widespread, and well-sourced, belief based on both experience and evidence, in both the British military and academia, that the US is not “just in Iraq to keep the peace, regardless of what the troops on the ground believe. It is in Iraq to establish a client state amenable to the requirements of US realpolitik in a key, oil-rich region. To doubt this is to be ignorant of the motives that have guided US foreign policy in the post-war period and a mountain of evidence since 2003.” (quote from Media Lens).’
‘That the invasion was “illegal, immoral and unwinnable”, and the “greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez”… is the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers, and they speak of loathsome six-month tours, during which they led patrols with dread and fear, reluctantly providing target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties, and squandering soldiers’ lives, as part of Bush’s vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-US rout until after the next US election.
‘Given a free choice most of us would never have invaded Iraq, and certainly would have withdrawn long ago.’
‘it is essential to challenge every questionable act carried out on the battlefield’.
New Evidence That US Army Deliberately Targeted Hospital in Kunduz
It is now more than three weeks since the October 3 massacre by US military forces of medical personnel and patients at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical center in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Aided by the media, the US military and the Obama administration are continuing their efforts to cover up and whitewash a war crime.
On Monday, the Associated Press published a report providing further confirmation that the facility was targeted and bombed by US military personnel with full knowledge that it was a functioning hospital. The attack lasted for an hour, destroying the building and killing 30 people, including at least 13 MSF staff members and 10 patients.
According to the AP,
“A day before an American AC-130 gunship attacked the hospital, a senior officer in the Green Beret [Army] unit wrote in a report that US forces had discussed the hospital with the country director of the medical charity group, presumably in Kabul, according to two people who have seen the document.”
A report from “a senior Green Beret officer from 3rd Special Forces Group” on October 2 stated, “MSF report that they have personnel in the trauma center,” according to the AP, citing two sources who have seen the report.
The AP states that it was the Green Berets, the Special Forces division of the US Army, that called in the attack.
According to the AP, the Army believed that the hospital was being used by the Taliban, which had recently taken control of the city. This has been repeatedly denied by MSF, both before and after the attack.
The report also cites MSF spokesman Tim Shenk, who notes that in the days before the attack, “an official in Washington” asked the group “whether our hospital had a large group of Taliban fighters in it.” Shenk continues: “We replied that this was not the case. We also stated that we were very clear with both sides to the conflict about the need to respect medical centers.”
The involvement of “an official in Washington” raises questions as to whether personnel in the Obama administration played a direct role in selecting and targeting the hospital.
The report follows a previous article citing a former intelligence official who said special operations analysts had mapped the entire area and drawn a circle around the hospital.
The new report adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that US forces knowingly and deliberately destroyed a hospital that was performing civilian functions, a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions and a violation of the US War Crimes Act. According to the latter, those found guilty of committing such a crime can be subject to life imprisonment or death.
Among the possible motivations for the attack is the fact that the hospital was the only major medical center in northeastern Afghanistan, and it provided aid to all those injured in the escalating conflict between US forces and the Taliban-led insurgency. Beyond those immediately killed, hundreds or even thousands will die as a result of their loss of access to medical care.
In a statement released on October 23, which reported an increase in the death toll from 22 to 30, MSF noted that the destruction of the hospital
“will have a huge impact on access to surgical care for hundreds of thousands of people in the region… Last year, more than 22,000 patients received care at the hospital and more than 5,900 surgeries were performed.”
“All that now remains of the three operating theaters, the ER and outpatient departments, and the intensive care unit are collapsed roofs, blackened walls, floors thick with dust, and twisted pieces of metal that were once beds and trolleys.”
The attack may also have been intended to send a message to Pakistan. According to the earlier AP report, the US Army forces suspected that the hospital was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity. MSF, however, has stated that it had no Pakistanis on its staff and that none of those killed who have been identified were Pakistani.
In either case, the US military was making clear that it was prepared to take any action and commit any crime to maintain its position in Afghanistan. Only days after the attack, the Obama administration announced that it would maintain up to 10,000 troops in the country at least through the end of 2016.
The White House and the military continue their efforts to whitewash the war crime. Since the massacre, military officials have issued a series of self-contradictory statements about what happened, including claims that the attack was a “mistake.”
On October 15, a US military patrol entered the bombed out hospital facility without informing MSF, a violation of previous agreements. An MSF official said that the entry “damaged property” and “destroyed potential evidence.”
Over the weekend, the military announced that General John F. Campbell, the overall commander of operations in Afghanistan, has appointed Major General William B. Hickman to lead a supposedly “independent” investigation into the incident. The character of this investigation was indicated by Campbell, who said in a statement, “We will be forthright and transparent and we will hold ourselves accountable for any mistakes made.”
The attack on MSF was not a “mistake.” It was a crime. The purpose of Hickman’s inquiry will be to cover up for those responsible.