07
Oct
15

war crimes

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On Saturday, the US launched an airstrike on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including 12 aid workers, 3 children, and wounding 37. Doctors Without Borders is calling the incident a war crime.

“Under the rules of international humanitarian law, a hospital is a hospital and the people inside are patients—to target a medical facility in this way is a violation of that, whatever the circumstances,” Vickie Hawkins, executive director of the UK branch of Doctors Without Borders, said in an interview on PRI’s The Takeaway. “The statements that have been coming out of the Afghan government in the past 24 hours would lead us to believe that there was some kind of intent behind the attack. We can only presume, on this basis, that that constitutes a war crime.” Doctors Without Borders says it will now withdraw its support from Kunduz.

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The US says the strike in Kunduz, which is under investigation, was issued after Afghan forces came under fire near the hospital and then called for help.

“An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck,”  the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said during a press briefing Monday. This is the first time I’ve heard 59 casualties being characterized as “several,” but it’s certainly not the first or last time “the truth” has become a casualty of war.

It seems to me that Doctors Without Borders is splitting hairs. They’re working in a war zone for chrissake. All kinds of bad shit happens in war zones. Their people must accept certain risks when they choose to serve in such a place as Kunduz. Doctors Without Borders as an organization is supporting an immoral war by choosing to participate there, versus countless other places in the world where people are suffering. Let’s get real.

The real “war crime” is that we’re (still) in Afghanistan in the first place. The Bush Administration used 9/11 as a thin excuse to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that neither country had anything to do with destroying the Twin Towers, attacking the Pentagon, or downing the passenger jet in Pennsylvania. The real war criminals are Bush, Cheney, and others who engineered this phase of our endless war using falsified information.

This graphic is making the rounds right now on Facebook and the Internet:

politifact_photos_Budget_pie_chart_meme.

It’s fairly misleading because it only describes our discretionary spending. If you were to combine the US government’s discretionary and mandatory spending, the truth would look more like this:

discretionary and mandatory spending.

Yet what both charts describe is how dependent we’ve become on war as a component of our economy. We have been in a state of constant war since the end of World War II. Maybe I’m guilty of hyperbole, but it seems all we’re good at anymore is producing weapons, building prisons, and scheming new ways to charge interest on loans. We’ve become a coercive society. This is what Eisenhower warned of when he spoke of the military-industrial complex.

This ethic of coercion and control has fouled many sectors where it has no business existing:

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We’re being spied upon, lied to, exploited (if we’ve got the money to pay), enslaved (if we don’t have the coin), and manipulated into believing we’re the most free people in the world—but we’re not.

If an ancestor who fell at Kip’s Bay, Shiloh, Belleau Wood, Kasserine Pass, or Khe Sanh were to return to the America of today, would he think he’d died in vain? Would he believe himself to have been the victim of a war crime—or at least a betrayal?

۞

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