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May 1, 2016

Bombing of Hospitals in War-torn Places

By Habib Siddiqui

Death is almost never welcome. And it is simply unacceptable to find out that someone had died in a hospital not because of his or her illness but because of bombing sustained by the facility. 
It is a major crime to attack a hospital. Unfortunately, that is what has been happening in war ravaged territories from Afghanistan to Israel. 

Last year, the US forces bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that was managed by MSF (Doctors Without Borders). The hospital was well known to everyone, esp. the US and NATO forces. It was catering to the needs of the sick and wounded in the locality. And yet, it was bombed by the US forces killing not only the patients there but also many of the hospital stuffs, including doctors and nurses.

This week, the US military while disciplining some of its rogue members failed to acknowledge their war crime only saying that it was a mistake. Pentagon officials say that 16 personnel, including one general, will face “administrative discipline” for their role in the October 3, 2015 US attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital on the outskirts of Kunduz, an attack which killed 42 civilians. There will be no criminal charges for anyone involved.

As rightly noted by Jason Ditz, despite U.S. officials presenting this as “punishment,” the actions are overwhelmingly a slap on the wrist, with officials saying six of the 16 were sent for counseling, two were ordered to take new training courses, one was temporarily suspended and seven were issued “letters of reprimand.” The letters of reprimand are the most severe of the mild actions, with officials saying it means those seven will likely not be able to secure promotion to higher ranks, suggesting that might end some of their careers.

MSF has been harshly critical of the attack, noting it amounts to a war crime, and has been pressing for an independent, international investigation. President Obama has ruled out allowing such a probe, though the release of the final report is likely to spur more such calls.

The USA and NATO forces have done such war crimes many times not only in Afghanistan but also in other war ravaged countries, e.g., Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Of course, every time they committed such war crimes they had a face-saving excuse that it was an ‘unintentional’ mistake.

Even the big, clearly marked and visible signs painted on the roof of such buildings did not stop them from getting bombed. And the sad part of all these is that such crimes are happening in an era of unprecedented advances in science and technology when we are told that the satellites can recognize the face of an individual riding in a car, let alone walking on a busy street! What a mockery of ‘smart’ bombing and precision-guided missiles and rockets. The bare fact is the lives of those civilians simply did never and don’t matter to these war criminals. They know that no matter how horrendous their war crimes are they will not be punished harshly. Their big bosses in places like the Pentagon and Kremlin have tacitly, if not explicitly, approved such war crimes. Just as it happened last week with those 16 U.S. military personnel the most they will get is a slap on the wrist.

It won’t be any exaggeration to state that the Government of Israel has perfected the art of war crimes. As an apartheid state, it has no respect for the lives of the indigenous Palestinian people living under occupation, once again underscored by its murderous campaigns in Gaza. Saudi Arabia’s Air Force, in its war against the Houthis in Yemen, has also been following the Israeli lead in such war crimes, which have resulted in deaths of scores of patients in hospitals.

This past week once again saw an airstrike hitting and destroying a major hospital in the al-Qaeda-held eastern portion of the city of Aleppo in Syria, killing at least 27 civilians. The hospital was run by the MSF. The war crime was perpetrated by the air forces of the Syria and Russia who have been doing everything possible to strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, issued a statement Thursday, accusing attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Aleppo of being deliberate.

The White House declared the attack on the MSF hospital “abhorrent” and “immoral,” while Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Russia is obliged to do everything in its power to ensure that the Syrian government stops attacking medical facilities. As expected, the official US outrage was somewhat tempered by its own attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan last October, which killed even more civilians, and which the Pentagon declined to court-martial anyone over. It is a fat chance that the criminals in Damascus and Moscow will take such criticisms seriously.

Will the victims' families ever see justice in such war crimes? Probably not with the criminals ruling our world these days!

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia. Dr. Siddiqui is an alumnus of the prestigious University of  Southern California, Los Angeles, where he earned his Ph.D.