Margaret Flowers Arrested Protesting Afghan Hospital Bombing

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Note: Margaret Flowers, MD was arrested demanding an independent investigation of the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan by the US military (see story below this note). Glenn Greenwald has reported on this bombing and the varying stories that the Department of Defense has putting forward which demonstrate why an independent investigation is needed.

In, “The Radically Changing Story of the U.S. Airstrike on Afghan Hospital: From Mistake to Justification.” As Greenwald reports the initial official statement suggested: an airstrike it carried out in Kunduz “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” This is a common response to controversial military attacks, but it did not hold in this case because doctors with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) pushed back against the story. 

As Greenwald reports “They give compelling, articulate interviews in English to U.S. media outlets” and “As the Guardian‘s Spencer Ackerman put it last night: ‘MSF’s been going incredibly hard, challenging every US/Afgh claim made about hospital bombing.’”  MSF added some key facts:

Doctors Without Borders office in Geneva. Those number are the GPS coordinates of the hospital, which all fighting parties, including the United States, were well informed of prior to the airstrike that killed 19 people.

Doctors Without Borders office in Geneva. Those number are the GPS coordinates of the hospital, which all fighting parties, including the United States, were well informed of prior to the airstrike that killed 19 people.

– The organization had repeatedly advised the U.S. military of the exact GPS coordinates of the hospital, most recently on September 29, just five days before the strike.

– MSF personnel at the facility “frantically” called U.S. military officials during the strike to advise them that the hospital was being hit and to plead with them to stop, but the strikes continued in a “sustained” manner for 30 more minutes. 

– And, they reported that “The hospital was repeatedly & precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.”

Greenwald concludes that MSF’s fational additions “make it extremely difficult – even for U.S. media outlets – to sell the ‘accident’ story.”

The new story from the DoD Greenwald reports “the predominant narrative from U.S. sources and their Afghan allies is that this attack was justified because the Taliban were using it as a ‘base.'” Various news outlets reported on anonymous sources in DoD and the Afghan military. The New York Times had a much more detailed story about heavy gunfire around the hospital at the time of the bombing where US and Afghan soldiers called in air support so they could pull back. They even quoted a member of parliament from Afghanistan claiming that a lot of senior Taliban were also killed.” 

Greenwald then reports on how MSF pushed back on this new story, saying there were no Taliban forces in the hospital and:

“MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present. 

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as ‘collateral damage.’

“There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.”

Then the story changes again, as Greenwald reports: “The Pentagon’s top four-star commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Campbell, now claims that ‘local Afghans forces asked for air support and U.S. forces were not under direct fire just prior to the U.S. bombardment’ of the hospital. As NBC notes, this directly contradicts prior claims: ‘The Pentagon had previously said U.S. troops were under direct fire.'”

MSF continues to push back on the DoD evlovling story. It has issued this statement:

“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

Reporting on the testimoney from the hearing where Dr. Flowers was arrested, the NY Times reports: “Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, told lawmakers Tuesday that the airstrike that ‘mistakenly struck” a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz and killed 19 people resulted from ‘a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command.’”

All of this is why we and Dr. Margaret Flowers more specifially are calling for an independent investigation to determine whether the US violated international law by bombing a hospital.


Doctors without borders Kunuz hospital after attack. Source NBC News.

Doctors without borders Kunuz hospital after attack. Source NBC News.

Dr. Flowers Calls For Independent Investigation Into Hospital Bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Washington, DC –– Before the start of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about Afghanistan, Dr. Margaret Flowers was arrested for speaking out against the recent US bombing of a Doctors Without Border hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Dr. Flowers was holding a sign which read “BOMBING HOSPITALS= WAR CRIME”. In the attack on Kunduz, twelve staff members and at least seven patients, including three children, were killed; 37 people were injured, including 19 staff members including 19 staff members.

Dr. Flowers, a pediatrician from the Washington DC-based activist group Popular Resistance, was with several members of the peace group CODEPINK at the hearing wearing “bloodied” doctors garb with “bloody” hands to draw attention to the culpability of the US military, and specifically the hearing witness General John Campbell who is responsible for US forces in Afghanistan, in the Kunduz massacre. As she left the hearing room she said: “Bombing hospitals is a war crime. Stop the bombing now. Several members of Doctors Without Borders were present in the audience at the hearing.

“There needs to be an independent investigation into the hospital bombing in Kunduz because targeting hospitals is against international law. I am appalled first that the US did this and second that instead of taking responsibility, the military is trying to avoid it.” Dr. Flowers said from the Capitol Hill jail. “People should be held accountable for violating the law.” Flowers is also a candidate for the US Senate seeking Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat.

The protesters are also calling for a US commitment to rebuild the hospital, provide health care for the injured parties and compensate the families of the deceased. They delivered to General Campbell a petition to that effect signed by over 5,000 members of CODEPINK.

“Only an independent investigation will give us answers as to why a hospital was bombed and why the bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after Coalition and Afghan forces were informed that they were bombing a humanitarian hospital. The 22 civilians killed in this attack, including 12 staff of Doctors Without Borders deserve a transparent investigation,” said Ella Watson-Stryker, who was named Time magazine person of the year for fighting Ebola with Doctors Without Borders.

“I feel like one part of me, my government to which I pay taxes, has bombed the other part of me, my vocation as a humanitarian worker,” says Athena Viscusi, a social worker who has worked with Doctors Without Borders delivering mental health care. “Accusations that Doctors Without Borders was harboring Taliban fighters are offensive and impossible. I echo the call for an independent investigation.”

  • AlanMacDonald

    Hats off to you and Code Pink, Margaret.

    While local and Popular Resistance is the most visible and effective form of public revolt against the crimes and slaughter of Empire, I would add this connecting the dots of foreign and domestic slaughter of people by bombs in Afghanistan and bullets in Oregon:

    I submitted, and the New York Times surprisingly published about 4 hours ago, my following comment regarding this attached NYT article, linking the slaughter “abroad” with the ‘slaughter’ of college kids “at home”:

    The focus of this Editorial Board Editorial, like most well written cover-ups of the Empire’s media/propaganda sector, is to hide the big picture by focusing the attention of the population to be deluded on the unconnected details of many diverse and distractive small ‘issues’

    Focusing on a specific troublesome ‘issue’ (or ‘symptom problem’) of living in an undiagnosed and actively hidden Disguised Global Crony-Capitalist Empire gets the
    herd’s attention glued on little questions like; who was responsible for this tragic error, how can such things happen again, what technical screw-up happened, can a different ‘rule set’ or laws prevent this in the future, what’s the president (Congress, the military, the police) going to do to insure this never happens again?, and raising other distractive and ‘settling’ thoughts and behaviors — eg. “move along folks, nothing to see (or do) here.”

    In other words, this tragedy caused by the Empire “abroad” is handled identically to last week’s tragedy “at home” (in the Empire) on a college campus in Oregon. The population, unaware they are in the metropole of an Empire, is settled down by convincing them as Jeb infamously said that, “stuff happens” — but he did not complete the sentence that “stuff happens in an Empire, and its not understood by the masses”.

    Of course, hidden by the media/propaganda sector (and the dual-party Vichy-political sector) of the extant but well hidden Empire this “stuff happens” because we all live not in a “Yellow Submarine”, beneath the sea, but in a deep driving and hidden Global Empire beneath the see.

    “Empire abroad entails tyranny at home” Hannah Arendt.

    People need to be aware and alarmed that the same Empire that rained bombs on a hospital in Afghanistan sent college students to the hospital and morgue in Oregon!!

  • John McGloin

    According to John McCain how had Flowers arrested, “not expelled” the bombing was justified because the Taliban was in the vicinity, that is, “somewhere in Kunduz.” Does that mean it’s open season on hospitals now as long as your enemy is in the same city? You know they have high tech targeting systems. How does a Doctor’s Without Borders hospital not light up as a big no-go?

  • Woods and Water

    MSF treats all patients regardless of faction, ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion…this hospital was off limits to all parties of war according to the Geneva Convention…there are no armed guards at any MSF facility, regardless of how dangerous.

  • Margaret you are a wonderful caring humane doctor activist. Thank you for being true to your spirit and the cause of moving towards a more sane and healthy social order where all people who are sick or injured get medical care and where people in positions of power are held to account when they do criminal actions, especially war crimes. Thank you again, peace and hugs

  • Aquifer

    Have been a fan of Dr. Flowers – didn’t know she was running for Sen., on which party line? Would like to contribute – where to send donations?

  • kevinzeese

    We don’t get involved in elections but I am sure if you google Flowers for Senate. She is running for the Green nomination for the open seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski.

  • Aquifer

    Thank you …

  • CO$CUZ

    Why was she arrested?

  • Margaret Flowers

    For speaking out before the hearing started. Sen. McCain ordered my arrest.

  • CO$CUZ

    The more I pay attention, the more frustrated and sad I become. Thank you for speaking out and thank you for all that you do.

  • Margaret Flowers

    Activism is a good remedy for that! xo

  • kevinzeese

    Get inspired. People are taking action and building their strength.

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  • Jenny Haskell

    I didn’t know ‘speaking out” was an arrestable offense.

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