American Airstrikes Kill Civilians Too

Airstrikes carried out in a war-torn country in the Middle East have struck a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), killing 16 civilians and injuring 37 civilians. But the airstrikes weren’t done by Russia, and the site of this tragedy wasn’t in Syria. These were US airstrikes in Afghanistan–the latest reminder that 14 years after the US invaded, and nearly 1 year after the “combat mission” ended there, the country remains in utter chaos, and the war is still not over in any way that matters.

Glenn Greenwald has a great, if painful, write-up on this story over at The Intercept that I highly recommend:

https://theintercept.com/2015/10/03/one-day-after-warning-russia-of-civilian-casualties-the-u-s-bombs-a-hospital-in-the-war-obama-ended/

The hypocrisy that has surrounded this week’s events, from the massive casualties in Yemen, to the criticism of Russia’s complementary intervention in Syria, has been pretty incredible. In light of yet another tragedy, two particular examples of this hypocrisy are worth highlighting here:

First, there has been an update of sorts on the situation in Yemen. The Dutch and other nations have been pushing for an independent, international investigation into the possible commission of war crimes by both sides of the war in Yemen. However, after Saudi Arabia strenuously objected to such an inquiry, plans for an international investigation have been abandoned. It’s like asking a murder suspect if he wants the police to investigate, him saying no, and everyone else just going along with it. As it stands, Saudi Arabia is apparently planning to conduct an investigation on their own. I wonder what they’ll find? Vice News has the story and credibly suggests that the US had a hand in helping kill the international inquiry.

Second, as Greenwald alludes to in his piece, US military officials recently talked to Time magazine about the imprecision of Russia’s weapons. They actually referred to Russia’s weapons as “dumb bombs” and suggested that Russia will kill far more civilians than the US strikes. You could take virtually any excerpt out of this piece and achieve the same awful effect, but this one was especially good:

The U.S. and its allies have been using smart bombs against ISIS targets, and won’t attack them unless it believes there is a low chance of civilian casualties. That’s kept the number of bombing missions low, [Lieutenant General] Otto added.

The U.S. and its allies have been attacking ISIS targets that “are the most precise in the history of warfare,” Army Colonel Steve Warren said Thursday from Baghdad, where he is a spokesman for the anti-ISIS campaign. “The amount of care that we have taken to preserve civilian life, to preserve civilian infrastructure, is unprecedented.”

So does that mean we meant target the hospital in Afghanistan? Are doctors considered terrorists now too? No, of course not. But it does strongly suggest that US claims to moral superiority over the Russians in Syria cannot be taken seriously. All wars kill innocent people, and that’s true regardless of whether the pilot is Russian or American.

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