The international aid agency whose hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed over the weekend is refusing to let the U.S. military forgo responsibility for the attack even as the Pentagon changed its story again on Monday and tried to pass blame to Afghan forces.
"The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical." —Christopher Stokes, MSFThe U.S. military admitted on Monday that its initial account of its bombing of a hospital run by Doctors Without Border/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was false.
General John Campbell, who commands the 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and holds ultimate responsibility for Saturday's bombing, said that—contrary to the military's initial claims—the deadly attack was not in response to fire from the facility, but was "called in" by Afghan commanders.
Campbell, however, provided few details, stating that the military will release a "preliminary report" in a few days. However, MSF has repeatedly demanded a transparent investigation to be conducted by an independent body—not the U.S. military—into the attack, which the group charges was a war crime.
What's more, Campbell declined to apologize for the attack that killed 22 people, including 12 staff members and 10 patients—3 of them children. Thirty-seven others were wounded in the bombing.
Reportedly, MSF had given repeated notification to the U.S. military of its coordinates, including five days before the attack, and called the U.S. during the bombing urging them to stop.
In addition, Campbell appeared to pass off responsibility for the killings, declaring: "Unfortunately, the Taliban decided to remain in the city and fight from within, knowingly putting civilians at significant risk of harm."
MSF, which has strongly criticized the U.S., once again blasted the military for continuing to evade accountability.
"Today the U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff," said Christopher Stokes, general director for MSF, in a press statement.
"Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government," the organization added. Previously, U.S. Army Colonal Brian Tribus, spokesperson for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that the airstrike was conducted "against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby facility."
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"The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs," Stokes continued. "The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical."
"If you read U.S. corporate media coverage of this incident... US culpability would likely not be evident." —Ben Norton, FAIRAs FAIR writer Ben Norton pointed out on Monday, major media outlets were quick to run with the U.S. military's narrative, downplaying U.S. responsibility for the attack and spinning the narrative of accidental collateral damage.
"If you read U.S. corporate media coverage of this incident, however, US culpability would likely not be evident," notes Norton. "Instead, readers would learn that a hospital was bombed in Afghanistan, and that people died. Who exactly carried out the bombing would not be clear."
Many observers also noted that, if the U.S. had not struck a hospital affiliated with a western organization, its false account would likely have gone unchallenged.
"Usually, the only voices protesting or challenging the claims of the U.S. military are the foreign, non-western victims who live in the cities and villages where the bombs fall," journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote. "Those are easily ignored, or dismissed as either ignorant or dishonest."
"In this case, though, the U.S. military bombed the hospital of an organization—[MSF]—run by western-based physicians and other medical care professionals," Greenwald continued. "They are not so easily ignored."
Dr. Hakim, a humanitarian doctor and organizer with Afghan Peace Volunteers, said that—as horrific as the incident is—few Afghans are surprised by the attack.
"Afghans have been inured to the many, many years of 'mistakes' that the U.S.-NATO coalition have made in not only bombing, unfortunately, the hospital in Kunduz, but ordinary civilian events—like weddings—that Afghans hold," Dr. Hakim told Democracy Now. "So I don't think Afghans are surprised. They are definitely angry."
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is weighing whether to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, defying its own pledge to reduce the presence to 1,000 military personnel for the purpose of embassy security by the end of next year.