Margaret Flowers Arrested Protesting Afghan Hospital Bombing

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.

KZ

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.”