Saturday, October 03, 2015

"Stuff happens" in our super-precise military strikes too

And it needs to stop.

Hamid Shalizi and Andrew Macaskill report (U.S. says conducted air strike near Afghan hospital that killed 19 Reuters 10/03/2015):

The U.S. military said it conducted an air strike on Saturday near a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern city of Kunduz that killed 19 staff and patients, including three children, the medical aid group said.

The U.S. military said it had launched a strike during battles with the Taliban that "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility" but said details were still not clear and promised an investigation.
Which will almost inevitably find that no one in our glorious military didn't anything the tiniest bit wrong.

"Stuff happens," Jeb! BUSH said after the latest mass shooting in Oregon. (Jessica Taylor, 'Stuff Happens' Comment Creates Firestorm For Jeb Bush NPR 10/02/2015) That's also what the military typically comes up with in investigating their own killing of innocent civilians unintended collateral damage.

The Tampa Bay Times also reports on the US attack on the hospital in U.S. defense secretary offers condolences after airstrike kills 16 at Doctors Without Borders hospital (w/video) 10/03/2015. A general offered the ritual "thoughts and prayers": "'While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected,' said Gen. John F. Campbell in a statement."

I guess that's now permanent standard boilerplate for all mass killings, foreign and domestic. "Stuff happens," after all, and what can our glorious generals do about it?


U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein led a chorus of condemnation, without saying who carried out the strike, and that an assault on a hospital could amount to a war crime.

The medical charity said its staff phoned military officials at NATO in Kabul and Washington during the morning attack, but bombs continued to rain down for nearly an hour. [my emphasis]
Charles Lane wrote in Crimes of War 2.0 (2007):

Hospitals, of course, enjoy a special protected status under international humanitarian law. It is a war crime deliberately to attack a hospital or other medical unit, whether civilian or military. It is also unlawful to use a hospital in direct support of a military operation - to convert one wing of the hospital into an ammo dump, for example. (Indeed, hospitals that are misused in this manner Lose their legal protection.) Medical personnel in general may not be attacked; but at the same time it is unlawful to use medical facilities, or related equipment such as ambulances, as camouflage or protection for military personnel, or as a shield for military forces.

International humanitarian Law is not. however, completely inflexible in how it evaluates collateral damage to hospitals that may result from attacks on legitimate military targets nearby. The rule of thumb is that if the damage to the hospital is not excessive in view of the direct and concrete military advantages to be gained from attacking the nearby target, then the damage may be considered lawful. [bolding in original; italics mine]
More from Reuters:

The hospital had treated almost 400 patients in the 150-bed hospital since fighting broke out on Monday, most for gunshot wounds. So many patients have flooded in that the hospital had to put them in offices and on mattresses on the floor.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman said last week there would be no air strikes inside the city because of the risk of mass civilian casualties.

Ghani's predecessor, Hamid Karzai, fell out with his backers in Washington in part over the number of civilians killed by bombs in the nearly 14-year-old war, America's longest military conflict.
Knut Dörmann and Jose Serralvo recently wrote (The Obligation to Prevent Violations of International Humanitarian Law Intercross 09/24/2015):

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is convinced that international humanitarian law (IHL) continues to strike a judicious balance between the principles of humanity and military necessity. There is no doubt that compliance with existing rules of IHL would significantly alleviate the suffering of the victims of war. Unfortunately, contemporary armed conflicts – like those in Syria, South Sudan or Ukraine, to name but a few – illustrate how lack of respect for the law has become one of the biggest challenges facing IHL today. [my emphasis]
Needless to say, the United States, which still prides itself as being Leader Of The Free World, contributed mightily to that present state of affairs through the criminal invasion of Iraq, the torture program, and the continuing reckless military interventions in various states from Libya to Yemen will little worry about the niceties of international law.

That really is a case where Both Sides Do It, even if the Republican Party today is more crassly enthusiastic about it than the Democrats.

No comments: