Yesterday the nation’s highest ranking military leader, the Commander of the US Central Command, announced that 16 servicemen would receive what amounts to a slap on the wrist for errors they made in bombing a hospital operated by Doctors without Borders last October. 42 civilians were killed and even more injured in the attack. The military’s report of the incident was released yesterday and says they confused the hospital with a military building located 1/4 mile away in Afghanistan’s largest city. The punishments range from reassignment, demotion, retraining and a letter of reprimand. Doctors Without Borders says the punishment hardly fits the action as it describes the horrific event “Some of them lost their limbs and were decapitated in the explosions, others were shot by the circling gunship while fleeing the burning building. We were forced to leave patients to die on the operating table and others burning in their ICU beds.” The military is criticized by Doctors Without Borders and some Congressmen for not allowing an outside independent investigation of the event.
Yesterday’s story received relatively little coverage in U.S. news channels. The timing of the Pentagon report comes only one day after news that Russia and Syria bombed another hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. CNN and Wall Street Journal carries coverage without investigative effort or editorial slant. President Obama has already apologizes and the U.S. has already made payments of approximately $6,000 to the families of each of the civilians killed.
I think that citizens have good reason to be suspicious that a series of human errors and communication failures as described could lead to such a brutal attack of civilians. If such an explanation persists such as “Oops, sorry I misused these billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and killed y’all. It was just a mistake” then I don’t see why we should continue to believe in any level of operational competence of our overseas troops. I personally have a difficult time accepting that such action is purely the result of incompetence and circumstance. The combination of these enabling events occurring at random seems statistically improbable. It just doesn’t sound credible that our war machine could be so poorly managed. If it is then God help us; our problems could be worse than we imagine.
I’ve been a financial supporter of Doctors Without Borders and occasionally write to promote the organization’s positions.