Even War Has Rules

By Ashley Berry

On the morning of October 3rd, 2015, an American AC-130 gunship started a relentless aerial attack on the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attacks started at 2:00 am and ended between 3:00-3:15 am. This barbaric act violates The Geneva Convention and the United States must be held responsible for their part in the unprecedented attack on a hospital that was supposed to be protected.

In the weeks leading up to the attack, there was heavy fighting between rebel forces and the Afghanistan government. This caused increased activity at the hospital as they treated civilians and wounded combatants from both sides. One of the reasons that have been given to justify the attack is that there was intelligence that suggested that the hospital was a base for Taliban fighters. This claim is false; although rebel combatants were treated at the hospital, the MSF continuously retained control and instituted their no weapons policy. Medical practitioners take an oath to treat without judgment. They don’t ask about affiliations; they just treat the individual. Although the hospital was surrounded by fighting, none was being done from inside the hospital. On September 28th, the MSF was alerted by two Taliban combatants that the area was under Taliban control.

The following day, the MSF reaffirmed the location of the hospital in an effort to prevent any firing on the hospital. They sent their GPS coordinates to the US Department of Defense, the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense, and the US Army in Kabul. The MSF received confirmation from the US Department of Defense and the US Army in Kabul. Oral confirmation was received from the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense. The MSF went a step further and provided their location to a United Nations Intermediary. The UN Intermediary immediately reported the confirmation to Operation Resolute Support.

The MSF did everything in their power to make sure their location was well known among all the competing forces in the region. Despite their efforts, at least thirty people have lost their lives and there seems to be no explanation as to why this happened.

On November 5th, 2015, MSF released their internal review on the incident. MSF has also asked for an investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission but neither Afghanistan nor the United States has agreed to the investigation. Important questions regarding why the hospital suddenly lost its protected status need to be answered. Those answers can only come from the United States and Afghanistan and their refusal to cooperate undermines the Geneva Convention, which have held some rule of law to war since after World War II.

Aside from the lives lost in this horrific incident, there is also a hospital that has been rendered useless. This leaves thousands of people with no access to healthcare as it is the only hospital of its kind in northeast Afghanistan. If the situation involved any other country as the gunship wielding villain, the United States would rally the rest of the world for justice. Our government is quick to condemn the Islamic State for kidnapping journalists and humanitarian aid workers, but the United States government launched a full aerial assault on a hospital. The hospital, like the aforementioned journalists and humanitarian aid workers, is supposed to be protected. The United States government perpetrated the same horrific crimes as a violent radical extremist group that they have placed as public enemy number one.

This is an example of United States hypocrisy at its best. The United States government needs to be held responsible for their crimes, as they would hold anyone or any country responsible had they committed the same crimes.

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