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 Francoise Saulnier, Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, lead counsel, Joanne Liu, President of MSF International, and Bruno Jochum, Director General of MSF Switzerland, from left to right, attend a news conference on Oct. 07, 2015.(Photo: Martial Trezzini/AP)

Francoise Saulnier, Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, lead counsel, Joanne Liu, President of MSF International, and Bruno Jochum, Director General of MSF Switzerland, from left to right, attend a news conference on Oct. 07, 2015.(Photo: Martial Trezzini/AP)

Not Satisfied With Obama Apology, MSF Repeats Demand for Independent Probe

Head of aid organizations says only acceptable response is US endorsement of an independent, global investigation into what happened in Kunduz

Sarah Lazare

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) officials signaled on Wednesday that they are not satisfied with President Barack Obama's apology for his military's deadly bombing of their hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan and reiterated their demand for the U.S. to "consent" to a global, independent investigation.

In a sharply-worded statement, MSF International president Dr. Joanne Liu said, "We received President Obama's apology today for the attack against our trauma hospital in Afghanistan."

"However," Liu continued, "we reiterate our ask that the U.S. government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission [IHFFC] to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened."

"Whatever apology or excuse Obama has prepared he can save it because, at the end of the day, what counts here is accountability."
—Suraia Sahar, Afghans United for Justice

Obama's rare phone call from the Oval Office came five days after the deadly attack and followed reluctance from the White House to issue a formal apology. It followed at least four changes in the U.S. military's official story about how and why its forces carried out the bombing that killed 22 people—three of them children—and wounded 37.

According to a statement from the White House, the president "assured Dr. Liu of his expectation that the Department of Defense investigation currently underway would provide a transparent, thorough, and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident and pledged full cooperation with the joint investigations being conducted with NATO and the Afghan Government."

However, the pledge falls far short of what MSF is asking for: an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, which was created in 1991 under the Geneva Conventions. "The IHFFC is set up for precisely this purpose: to independently investigate violations of humanitarian law, such as attacks on hospitals, which are protected in conflict zones," declared the humanitarian organization.

In a less publicized development on Wednesday, the president also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express "his condolences for the Afghan civilians killed and injured" in the attack on the MSF hospital.

However, the U.S. bombing of the MSF-run hospital was by no means unique. As Jon Schwarz pointed out at The Intercept on Wednesday, the United States has a long history of bombing civilian facilities and infrastructure, from the Al Jazeera office in Kabul, Afghanistan (November 13, 2001) to the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq (April 8, 2003).

"Whatever apology or excuse Obama has prepared he can save it because, at the end of the day, what counts here is accountability," Suraia Sahar, organizer with Afghans United for Justice, told Common Dreams. MSF's status as a well-known foreign organization is "the only reason this even got attention," Sahar said.

"If we were to collect the amount of times they killed Afghans," she added, "Obama should have given countless apologies."

Meanwhile, General John Campbell, who oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is using the bombing to bolster his argument to prolong the war in Afghanistan, which entered its 15th year on Wednesday.


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