Another MSF hospital hit by airstrike


Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is one of the few organizations that provide medical services in war-stricken regions of the world, often being the first ones in and the last ones to leave. They take care to let all the combatants know that they are there and avoid any hint of favoring one side or another, so that there is no excuse for attacking them. But despite all those precautions, yet another one of their field hospitals, a pediatric one this time, was hit by a horrific airstrike, killing possibly up to 50 people.

This hospital is in Aleppo, a region hotly fought over by Syria, Russia, the US, and various Islamic groups and all have denied responsibility. But the preliminary evidence points to Syria being the culprit.

Marco, with Doctors Without Borders, told CNN that two barrel bombs hit buildings near the hospital. The injured were rushed to the hospital and relatives hurried there. A third barrel bomb landed at the facility’s gate, causing many of the casualties, he said.

“We cannot be certain who is responsible for this attack,” he said. “What we know is it is the Syrian government that has been usually using these barrel bombs in the past.”

Whether the bombing was accidental or intentional remains to be determined. Either way, the bombing of a hospital has to be investigated as a war crime.

Of course the US, in the form of Secretary of State John Kerry, has denounced the attack in the strongest terms.

“We are outraged by yesterday’s airstrikes in Aleppo on the al Quds hospital supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which killed dozens of people, including children, patients and medical personnel,” he said in a statement.

“It appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders. These strikes have killed hundreds of innocent Syrians.”

Conveniently omitted by Kerry is how the US excused itself when they bombed an MSF hospital. Glenn Greenwald reminds us how little was done to the people responsible for that atrocity but that it is typical of the hypocritical double standard that is routinely used.

Ever since the U.S. last October bombed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the U.S. vehemently denied guilt while acting exactly like a guilty party would.

U.S. officials scoffed at global demands for a real investigation into what took place here, and then doled out “punishments” of counseling, training classes, and letters of reprimand for those responsible for this carnage.

Yesterday in Syria, an MSF-run hospital was targeted with an airstrike, almost certainly deliberately, by what was very likely the Syrian government or the Russians, killing at least 50 patients and doctors, including one the last pediatricians in Aleppo. On behalf of the U.S. Government, Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced: “We are outraged by yesterday’s airstrikes in Aleppo on the al Quds hospital supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which killed dozens of people, including children, patients and medical personnel.” On the list of those with even minimal credibility to denounce that horrific airstrike, Kerry and his fellow American officials do not appear.

UPDATE: To no one’s surprise, today the US has issued a report absolving itself of war crimes and slapping a few people on the wrist.

A U.S. military investigation has concluded that a deadly air strike in Afghanistan last year that destroyed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders did not amount to a war crime but was caused by a number of factors, including human errors.

Forty-two people were killed and 37 were wounded during an Oct. 3 strike that destroyed a hospital run by the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres..

The report into the deadly air strike said that condolence payments had been made to more than 170 individuals and families and $5.7 million had been approved to reconstruct the MSF facility.

Votel said that $3,000 had been paid for those injured, and $6,000 for those killed.

Votel added that the investigation found that the incident was caused by “unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.”

The report said that General John Campbell, who was then head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, took action against 12 personnel.

“The actions included suspension and removal from command, letters of reprimand, formal counseling and extensive retraining,” the report said.

Move along, nothing to see here.

UPDATE 2: MSF is not satisfied with the US report and has fired off a set of questions about the US attack that its report did not address.


  1. Siobhan says

    Man, I wish I could kill 40 people and get away with nothing but a letter of fucking reprimand. Makes a girl rethink her stance on the death penalty…

  2. says

    The article about the “investigation” of the bombing is self-contradictory. They didn’t know it was a hospital; the attack was accidental; the building was targeted … Uh, wait -- it was targeted, then it’s not accidental. Then it’s “indiscriminate fire”

    Deliberately attacking a hospital is one form of war crime.
    Indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets is another.
    In fact, unless you’re firing on what you strongly believe to be a military target, and it actually is a military target there is no excuse.

  3. Broken Things says

    There is no doubt in my mind that the strike was intentional. How the attackers intended to use or what they through was being accomplished is the only thing unclear. Syria probably thinks it is denying services to rebels. The US military probably thought the same thing in Afghanistan. It is horrific that military leaders think that bombing hospitals and civilians is a legitimate tactical decision.

  4. says

    Broken Things@#3:
    There is no doubt in my mind that the strike was intentional

    The DoD’s original story was that it was an airstrike that was called in. I.e.: intentional. Worse the DoD’s updated version of the story is that they knew it was a hospital but got confused and mumble mumble blew it the fuck up “unintentionally” Well, the idea of designating a building as a target really belies the idea of “unintentional.”

    Besides, it’s not like an AC-130 to circle a target for 1/2 hour and unintentionally blow it the fuck up with carefully placed shellfire. “Unintentional” in that case looks like “single round accidentally landed in the kids’ playground” rather than “prolonged bombardment.”

    Next time a cop pulls me over for speeding I’m gonna tell them it was “unintentional” and that my gas pedal just sorta happened to be there.

  5. says

    PS -- when US B-52s dropped most of a string of 1000lb bombs on Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi, that was “unintentional” too. They meant for them all to hit.

  6. doublereed says

    I agree that the report is entirely self-contradictory. It’s like “Yes we committed war crimes. However, they are not war crimes.”

    Initially I wrote “because reasons” but it doesn’t even do that.

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