Archive for the ‘War on Terrorism’ Category

US Issues Report on Airstrike on DWB Afghan Hospital

November 28, 2015

On October 3, 2015, a US AC-130 plane bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that was operated by Doctors Without Borders (DWB). According to DWB, at least 30 people were killed: 13 staff members, 10 patients, and 7 yet-unidentified bodies. The US military conducted an investigation and recently issued a report and held a briefing for the media on the report’s findings.

Below are excerpts from CNNs report.

U.S. general: Human error led to DWB strike

Nov 25, 2015

A U.S. airstrike that mistakenly killed 30 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last month was, in part, the result of military personnel inadvertently aiming at the wrong target — the hospital compound … the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday.

The military personnel most closely associated with the strike have been suspended from their duties, pending the full adjudication process, according to Gen. John Campbell, the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The October 3 mission had several technical and human errors, several administration officials acknowledge. A U.S. military fact-finding investigation into the incident detailed the mistakes and revealed that the U.S. aircraft targeted the wrong facility.

The report determined that U.S. forces directly involved in the airstrike did not know the compound targeted was the Doctors Without Borders hospital, and that … U.S. personnel … believed they were striking a nearby building where there were reports of insurgents …

It was also found that electronic systems aboard the AC-130 aircraft involved in the strike malfunctioned and prevented crucial command and control functions such as the ability to transmit video and to send or receive email or other electronic messages.

The aircrew provided the coordinates of the trauma center — a known protected site — as their intended target one minute prior to firing, the report said. The operational headquarters at Bagram Airfield were aware of the coordinates for the trauma center Campbell said, but “did not realize the … aircrew was preparing to fire on a hospital.”

Campbell added that the confusion was exacerbated by the communication malfunctions the aircraft was already experiencing. …

However, in the same briefing …, Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner said that the investigation “found that some of the U.S. individuals” involved in the airstrike “did not follow the rules of engagement.”

The investigation found that Doctors Without Borders told a U.S. military official that their facility was under attack more than 10 minutes after the attack began, Campbell said. It took an additional 17 minutes for U.S. military personnel to realize they were hitting the hospital. The airstrike was over by that time, according to Campbell.

“The U.S. version of events presented today leaves MSF with more questions than answers,” Christopher Stokes, the organization’s general director, said in a written statement. “It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S. forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list, and have malfunctioning communications systems.”

He continued, “It appears that 30 people were killed … simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and ‘roughly matched’ a description of an intended target.”

Campbell took the unusual step on Wednesday of releasing a brief summary of the investigation’s conclusions. …

An official … said that although authorities are still determining potential disciplinary action, the commander believes the incident is serious and has garnered so much public attention it warrants this step.

It will now be up to Campbell to decide whether to take further action himself or refer the matter to the various military services that oversaw the troops involved. He could also decide to take no action.

The Pentagon has already concluded that the Doctors Without Borders group that ran the facility had followed all proper procedures in notifying the U.S. of the location of the hospital. The group “did everything right,” a U.S. official said last month.

Hospitals, like schools and mosques, are prohibited from being attacked by the U.S. military even if there may be militants present. Doctors Without Borders has consistently said there were no Taliban fighters at the hospital on October 3 and that it was a particularly quiet night that followed several days of clashes.

[Full story]

[MSF Releases Internal Review of Kunduz Hospital Attack]

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Solidarity With the People of France

November 14, 2015

French Flag

US Airstrike on DWB Afghan Hospital: Mistake or War Crime?

October 6, 2015
AC-130A Hercules gunship

AC-130A Hercules gunship

A US AC-130 plane bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that was operated by Doctors Without Borders. DWB had told US military command where the hospital was, and when the attack started, staff members called the military to ask them to stop, but the aerial attack continued. Twenty two people were killed, including patients (some of whom were children) and staff. The US military initially said the attack was an error, then said they were called in by Afghan forces, and now says they are awaiting the findings of their investigation. DWB has left Kunduz and is demanding a full, independent, investigation.

Below are excerpts from an Associated Press story about the incident, and links to commentaries.

Top general in Afghanistan: US strike on hospital a mistake

Oct 6, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The deadly American attack on a hospital in northern Afghanistan occurred despite “rigorous” U.S. military procedures designed to avoid such mistakes, the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

Testifying three days after the medical clinic strike that killed at least 22 people, [Gen. John F.] Campbell said Afghan forces requested air support Saturday while engaged in combat with Taliban fighters in the city of Kunduz, communicating with U.S. special operations troops at the scene. Those U.S. forces were in contact with the AC-130 gunship that fired on the medical clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, he added.

“To be clear, the decision to provide (airstrikes) was a US decision, made within the US chain of command,” Campbell said. “The hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said he could not provide more details about what happened, including who may have failed to follow procedures for avoiding attacks on hospitals. He said he must await the outcome of multiple investigations. Campbell had disclosed on Monday that the attack had been requested by Afghan troops.

Campbell has said the airstrike, now under investigation, was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire. It’s unclear whether the clinic was targeted in error or whether U.S. military personnel followed procedure. They are required to verify that the target of a requested airstrike is valid before firing.

Christopher Stokes, general director of Doctors Without Borders, has said “there can be no justification for this horrible attack” and that it was critical to conduct “a full transparent independent investigation.”

[Full story]

[Incident Report from Doctors Without Borders]

[New Yorker: Five Questions About the Bombing of a Hospital in Kunduz]

[Glenn Greenwald: The Radically Changing Story of the US Airstrike on Afghan Hospital]

[UPDATE Oct 7: US alters story for fourth time in four days]

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US Airstrike kills 19 at Doctors Without Borders Afghan Hospital

October 3, 2015

Excerpts from a New York Times Story:

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, Oct 3, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — A US airstrike appeared to have badly damaged a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Afghan city of Kunduz early Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including patients and staff members, and wounding dozens.

The US military, in a statement, confirmed the 2:15 a.m. airstrike, 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.”

… 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 inside the hospital.

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

The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked the Afghan security forces.

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.

However, a statement from the American defense secretary, Ashton Carter, while calling the strike “tragic,” stopped short of an apology. “The area has been the scene of intense fighting the last few days,” Mr. Carter said. “U.S. forces in support of Afghan Security Forces were operating nearby, as were Taliban fighters.” …

Doctors Without Borders said at least 12 members of its staff and seven patients, including three children, had been killed and 37 wounded, 19 of them hospital staff members. The group described the hospital as “very badly damaged.”

In a statement, the aid group, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or M.S.F., 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 M.S.F. facilities – hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.

The nurse, who asked not to be identified because he had instructions not to speak to reporters, said that two other nurses at the hospital had been killed by severe burns from the fires set off by the bombs. “Most of my colleagues died in the fire after the bombing,” he said.

Doctors Without Borders said 105 patients and caretakers had been at the hospital, along with 80 staff members. …

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, called for a full and transparent investigation. “This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” Mr. al-Hussein said in a statement.

[Full story]

[Incident Report from Doctors Without Borders]

[Update: Death Toll Increased to 22; Doctors Without Borders leaves Afghan city after airstrike]

[Commentary: One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the US Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan]

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Remember: They Led Us into an Unnecessary, Counterproductive War

September 13, 2015

Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and others

Krugman: Iraq War Was Fraud, Not Mistake

May 19, 2015

Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate and New York Times Columnist, corrects the current BS circulating about the Iraq War, namely, that if only we had known in 2003 what we know now, we would have known invading Iraq was a bad idea. That’s pure BS because we did know then most of what we know now, and we invaded anyway.

Some of you may recall a video circulated by in late 2002 that warned of, among other problems, sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites if we removed Saddam Hussein. Even former Defense Secretary and Vice President Dick Cheney, asked why the elder George H.W. Bush did not invade Iraq, predicted that invading Iraq would cause it to fall apart.

Here are excerpts from Krugman’s essay, followed by a link to the full essay.

Excerpts from “Errors and Lies”

by Paul Krugman, New York Times, May 18, 2015

… Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.

But many influential people … would prefer that we not have that discussion. … Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were … lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games: the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons … with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. …

We were lied into war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. [The Iraq war]… was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

[Read Entire Article]

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Prospects for Peace in Middle East: Slim to None

February 6, 2015

The Middle East will never be at peace until revenge and eye-for-eye thinking cease. Excerpts from an AP news story:

Anger, grief in Mideast at IS killing of Jordanian pilot

February 04, 2015 4:49 PM EST

Jordanians react angrily after pilot killed by ISIS

CAIRO (AP) — The horrific fate of a captured Jordanian pilot, burned to death by the Islamic State group, unleashed a wave of grief and rage on Wednesday across the Middle East, a region long riven by upheavals and violence. Political and religious leaders united in outrage and condemnation, saying the slaying of the airman goes against Islam’s teachings.

From the world’s most prestigious seat of Sunni Islam learning, Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb said the IS militants deserve the Quranic punishment of death, crucifixion or the chopping off of their arms for being enemies of God and the Prophet Muhammad.

In Saudi Arabia, prominent cleric Sheik Salman al-Oudah cited on Wednesday a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, which reserves for God alone the right to punish by fire.

In Qatar, cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi — respected by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists — issued a five-page statement listing Quranic verses and sayings, also attributed to the prophet and telling Muslims to not mistreat prisoners of war.

Bahrain, a Gulf state that is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, denounced the killing as “despicable,” and Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, blasted the killing as “criminal” and “vicious.”

In predominantly Muslim Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the killing an act of “savagery,” adding that “there is no such thing in our religion.”

Iran, which has aided both Iraq and Syria against the IS, said the killing of the pilot was an “inhuman” act that violated the codes of Islam, according to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham.

Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry decried the “cowardly” and “savage” act. The newly elected President Beji Caid Essebsi said the pilot’s slaying was an “odious crime” incompatible with the principles of Islam and all other divine laws.

In his native Jordan, the killing of al-Kaseasbeh — who had been the subject of intense negotiations over a possible swap with an al-Qaida prisoner on death row — drew swift retribution.

The prisoner, an Iraqi woman convicted of involvement in a triple hotel bombing in Amman in 2005, was executed along with another al-Qaida prisoner at dawn on Wednesday.

The pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper denounced the pilot’s killing with a one-word headline on the front page: “Barbarity.”

Jordanian politician Mohammed al-Rousan wept openly on national television as he described watching al-Kaseasbeh’s death, saying even people accustomed to violence could not bear to see a man burned alive.

Then, his tears turned to rage.

“Let’s use the same methods as them!” he shouted during the interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV. “Let’s kill their children! Let’s kill their women!”

[Read Full Article]

US Drone Strikes Kill More Bystanders than Terrorists

November 27, 2014

A human-rights group examined US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, calculated the number of unintended civilian deaths for these strikes, and published a report. Many of the drone strikes did not even succeed at killing the person who was the intended target. The results are sobering and should fuel efforts to stop the drone strikes.

The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Guardian summarizing the report.

“41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground”

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, 24 Nov 2014

The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.

…[F]ewer [Americans] are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.

Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

A new analysis of the data … about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.

In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.

[Read Full Story, including charts]

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US Drone Strikes Have Prominent Critics

October 22, 2013

The US program of using unmanned drone aircraft to launch missile attacks against ground targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen is drawing some prominent critics.

The Obama administration, which increased the use of drone-launched attacks significantly compared to the Bush adminstration, has consistently defended the use of drones as an imperfect but necessary tool in combatting terrorist organisations. For example:

Predator drone

Predator drone

People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen have protested since the drone-attacks began. Peace activists have similarly argued against the use of offensive weaponized drones on the grounds that they cause many civilian casualties and are counterproductive. How much weight do their protests carry with the administration? We all know the answer: very little.

Now, at last, other, more well-known and well-respected people and organizations are speaking out against the use of combat drones:

  • Jimmy Carter: Jimmy Carter savages US foreign policy over drone strikes. According to the former President, drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad have seen the US violating human rights in a way that “abets our enemies and alienates our friends”.
  • Arianna Huffington: ‘Signature Strikes’ and the President’s Empty Rhetoric on Drones. Huffington writes: “The missiles from the drones might be exploding in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen, but the fallout will impact us here at home for years to come.”
  • Malala Yousafzai: Malala to Obama: “Drones Fueling Terrorism”. The 16-year-old Pakistani student whom the Taliban shot for promoting educating girls, who won Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and who was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, recently met with President Obama. Afterwards, she told reporters: “I … expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
  • Amnesty International: Amnesty criticizes US drone program in Pakistan. A report issued by the organization documents several civilian casualties of drone attacks in Pakistan and calls on the US to investigate those attacks and possibly to change its policies concerning the strikes. Amnesty expressed concern that the attacks discussed in the report and others may have resulted in extrajudicial executions or war crimes. Estimating civilian casualties is highly error prone, but Amnesty’s report estimates the number of people killed by drone-attacks in Pakistan to be 2,065-3,613, of which 153-926 were thought to be civilians.
  • Human Rights Watch: Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda. A report from Human Rights Watch says that US drone airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law. The report examines six US targeted killings in Yemen. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths. The report concludes that the strikes are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda. [Read HRW report] [View HRW video summarizing report]
Predator drone firing missile

Predator drone firing missile

Perhaps momentum is building for an international campaign to ban the use of combat drones, similar to the campaigns to ban land-mines and chemical weapons, which both won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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