Thursday, November 26, 2015

US airstrike on a Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan attributed to "human error"

According to a 3000-page investigative report on the Oct. 3rd attack on the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, the verdict was that the U.S air strike was a result of "human errors, failures in procedure and technical malfunctions" (NYT).  Two other military officials said that the Air Force AC130 gunship that attacked the hospital was intended to target a different compound several hundred meters away that was believed to be a Taliban base of operations. Times reports, "the crew had been unable to rely on the aircraft's instruments to find the target. Instead, they relied on verbal descriptions of the location that were being relayed by troops on the ground, a mix of American and Afghan Special forces." 30 individuals were killed in the bombing, many being injured patients, and at least 37 more were injured.

Doctors Without Borders, known also by its French name, Medecins San Frontieres (MSF), is an international humanitarian NGO (non-governmental organization) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The organization is known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries. In a written statement issued by the organization's general director, he demands a call for an international investigation as to the root cause behind the attacks and the reason behind the US military's gross incompetence and failure: "The U.S version of events presented today leaves MSF with more questions than answers... it is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a non-strike list, and have malfunctioning communications system.. thousands of people were denied life-saving care simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and 'roughly matched' a description of an intended target."

The Pentagon has already concluded that the Doctors Without Borders group that ran the facility had properly followed all the necessary procedures in notifying the U.S of the location of the hospital. MSF "did everything right," according to a US official last month. The authorities are still determining potential disciplinary action, though it is still unclear at this point whether or not any action is even needed or the severity of the punishment.

How should the US be held accountable for their actions? Can they even be truly held accountable in any meaningful way for this gross miscarriage of justice and failure on the part of the US military? Being the world's largest and best-equipped military by far, how can something like this even be allowed to happen? 



ETHAN CHAO said...

On the battlefield, anything can be confusing. The crew of that gunship just wanted to get rid of that enemy facility, but could have rushed their judgement of the target. Unfortunately, the U.S. can't really be accountable for what happens at the front lines; there is no democracy and little justice in war, and the actions of troops are, in terms of order execution, up to the individuals at the trigger. Although the U.S. is the best equipped military in the world, that means they see more action, and are therefore more prone to mistakes. It is, unfortunately, inevitable. You really can't prepare the individual for war.

Maggie Yeung said...

I agree with Ethan that in the chaos of wartime, accidents are inevitable. Obviously, the U.S. should always take necessary safety precautions but the sheer size of the military makes it impossible for every action to be executed perfectly. I also think that at the end of the day, the U.S. is responsible for this mistake, but there isn't really anyone to hold the country accountable. This accident was tragic, but unfortunately, I doubt the U.S. will suffer any repercussions as a result of this mistake.

Jessica Yeh said...

I agree that accidents and mistakes are inevitable in war, but I don't think it is fair to fully dismiss such a horrific mistake that killed 30 innocent people and injured more. According the the CNN and Reuters sources that Jeffrey posted, the US investigation found that the accident was "avoidable" and mainly due to human error and individuals that "did not follow the rules of engagement." There were also malfunctioning electronic systems, which prevented crucial communication. If this is true, then perhaps steps could be taken, like making sure no strikes are made if communications are malfunctioning. It may be hard to hold the US or even individuals accountable for this, as Ethan and Maggie said, but at the very least, officials can learn from this to help prevent mistakes such as this from occurring in the future.

Alex Binsacca said...

Agreeing with everyone else I too believe that anything can happen in war, no matter how technically advanced that military is, there will always be flaws. Humans are anything but perfect especially when on the battlefield with everyone dying around you. In fact, these situations can be so bad that there are sometimes friendly fire, where one solider accidentally wounds one of their allies. If there really was a malfunction, that proves that even machines are imperfect, thus anything can go wrong at any given time. I think the U.S should be held accountable for such a tragic event, however like Maggie said there really is nobody to take the fall for this one. These 30 people will just have to go down as one of the many statics of civilian war casualties.