As SEYM Friends sat in committee meetings at Fall Interim Business Meeting last Saturday morning, they were shocked by news of the US bombing of the MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
In the afternoon business session, Warren Hoskins, clerk of the Peace & Social Concerns Committee, expressed the grief we all were feeling as he brought forward this report:
“Doctors Without Borders informed the United States today (10/03/2015) that US warplanes had repeatedly bombed their hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, with many, many lives lost, including lives of at least 9 doctors. The military had been fully informed of the location, well in advance, repeatedly.
“If this had been an airplane crash, the US would make a profound investigation. The crash of bombing the Doctors Without Borders hospital merits no less.
“Quakers are appalled and grieving, and seeking to prevent this happening again.
“We ask that Friends organize to fully inform themselves on this tragedy; that this information be shared in all monthly meetings; that Friends be queried what can be done to make the US ascertain accountability, make reparations and win commitment that this shall not happen again.”
Friends united in sending a letter—to President Obama, Secretary of Defense, Congresspeople, and newspapers— condemning the action, and urging an immediate stop to all bombing, an investigation, and reparations to MSF and the victims. Phoebe Andersen, SEYM Clerk, is writing the letter, which will be posted soon.
Warren urges Friends to stay informed as the story of this tragedy unfolds in the days ahead:
“I urge Friends act today to inform themselves and other Quakers, to talk about this in Meeting, put our thoughts together and as we work hold MSF in the Light, and seek unity in support of MSF (Doctors Without Borders is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF. We should include that in all our communications, along with their website for current statements from MSF: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/ ).
Here are some news links available at this writing:
More Background Information, from Warren Hoskins, P&SC Clerk
Today, President Obama “telephoned MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, International President Joanne Liu to apologize and express his condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. Asked whether Obama offered some explanation to Liu, Earnest said no.” From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/07/us-afghanistan-attack-msf-idUSKCN0S10SX20151007 He also apologized to the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/obama-apologises-msf-afghans-kunduz-strike-151007173041063.html
Through it all, some clarity is emerging: That the repeated air strikes happened over about an hour*, carried out by a massively armed slow-flying American airplane**; that the main building of the hospital itself, inside its walled compound in Kunduz, was the target of the fire, and that these acts were in violation of the Geneva Accords and of what the US has stated as its own rules of engagement in Afghanistan.
Early today (10/7), according to this site, http://kff.org/news-summary/msf-calls-for-fact-finding-mission-under-geneva-convention-protocols-to-investigate-kunduz-hospital-bombing/ “News outlets report on a speech given Wednesday in Geneva by Médecins Sans Frontières International President Joanne Liu, in which she called for an International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate the bombing of the group’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.” This Fact-Finding Commission has 76 nations in it, so it exists http://www.ihffc.org/index.asp?Language=EN&page=home but it is not activated yet on this investigation, and there are obstacles. Quakers could press for the US to acknowledge its authority too.
A word on the applicability of international law, especially the Geneva Conventions (IV) – I am not a lawyer and this is tough international law. It is quite possible that Doctors Without Borders and Afghan civilians in Kunduz are each, for different reasons, not fully protected by the Geneva Conventions. That the US prefers that interpretation goes without saying – otherwise we could not have the prison camp at Guantanamo, Cuba, with captives in it from Afghanistan, some of whom are civilians and some of whom were working for reportedly nonprofit organizations when swept up.
And this is not the first time that the US has been involved in this kind of incident in Afghanistan, although the first one back in 2001 was a major incident at the time. From:https://theintercept.com/2015/10/07/a-short-history-of-u-s-bombing-of-civilian-facilities/
Red Cross complex, Kabul, Afghanistan (October 16 and October 26, 2001)
“At the beginning of the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. attacked the complex housing the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul. In an attempt to prevent such incidents in the future, the U.S. conducted detailed discussions with the Red Cross about the location of all of its installations in the country. Then the U.S. bombed the same complex again. The second attack destroyed warehouses containing tons of food and supplies for refugees. ‘Whoever is responsible will have to come to Geneva for a formal explanation,’ said a Red Cross spokeswoman. ‘Firing, shooting, bombing, a warehouse clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem is a very serious incident. … Now we’ve got 55,000 people without that food or blankets, with nothing at all.’”
It was a singularly horrifying event, this time. It cannot go unremarked in the history of this long, long war in another land so far away, where so many of our sons and daughters have been transported at such expense, that this is a natural fruit of the monstrous sprawling toxic system our government has created to “wage war on terror.” This system must be checked in its excesses, and balanced with humanitarian relief and reconstructive aid.
As the USA is the cause of the nightmare assault being reported, I believe Friends must ask that our Government accept an international investigation with full transparency, and accept the accountability where it applies, without evasion – because this appears to have been commission of war crimes. We must take our turn to urge the US to make reparations, as there is an actual cost for this that is far above and beyond what can be resolved with an apology. What is the cost of a doctor’s education? How many nations were impacted by this?
There must be binding international agreements meaningfully protecting civilians from airwars, and a binding international agreement that any such event in the future as destroying a reported hospital or killing medical personnel in their medically marked vehicles or buildings can never be described as an accident, collateral damage or mere violation of the rules after the investigations are completed by a competent authority.
—-Warren Hoskins, Clerk, Peace & Social Concerns, 10/7/15