The US military has ‘investigated’ itself about the attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz that killed 30 people. The US commander in Afghanistan spoke at a press briefing today with the expected language, saying that ‘mistakes were made, equipment failed, and we will fix them’, so let’s forget about this and move on.
He detailed a series of blunders that ended in tragedy. The aircraft launched without a normal mission brief or essential materials, including no-strike designations that would have identified the location of the MSF centre.
During the flight, the onboard electronic systems malfunctioned, preventing the operation of command and control and limiting the ability to send email or video. In addition, as it arrived in Kunduz, it also mistakenly reported the aircraft had been targeted by a missile, putting it off course, and in turn degrading the accuracy of some targeting systems.
Even when these were corrected, the crew remained “fixated” on the physical description of their original target, Campbell admitted, even though there were some “contradictory indicators”.
The crew of the AC-130 gunship relied on a physical description of the compound provided by Afghan forces, which led the crew to attack the wrong target on 2 October. It said the intended target, thought to be under Taliban control and being used in part as a prison, was 450 yards away from the hospital.
Of course, the very fact that the US is resisting an independent investigation means that one has to suspect that they are hiding facts that contradict their claims of minimal wrongdoing. If the usual pattern holds, expect to see in the coming days careful analyses by outsiders of how the US’s explanations are contradicted by facts. Then the military will issue another report correcting their previous report while still claiming they were not guilty of a war crime. And that cycle will be repeated.
And the US media will aid in this process by suggesting that the military’s verdict is the last word on the topic, because independent investigations are only meant for those actions done by those perceived as enemies of the US.