The news that a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital was struck in a US air raid in Afghanistan has been met with widespread shock. Twenty people are believed to have been killed in the attack on Saturday morning – all of them staff members and patients.
The US described the incident as "collateral damage", while the Afghan defense ministry has said that “armed terrorists” were using the hospital “as a position to target Afghan forces and civilians”. In response, the MSF said that this implied "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 minimise the attack as 'collateral damage'" If this is true, and a war crime has been committed, it wouldn't be the first time that America or the UK have killed civilians as part of “collateral damage”. Here are five other very similar cases, some of which you may not have heard of before.
1) A US helicopter opens fire on civilians and kills 18 people, 2007
The most famous cause of “collateral damage” in the coalition war on Afghanistan came from 2007 as Wikileaks leaked footage of American Apache helicopters fire on civilians. Up to 18 people were killed, including two journalists working for Reuters. Two children were also badly wounded. One of the most controversial elements of the footage was the nonchalance of US soldiers. When they discover that a child had been hit, one is heard saying "Ah damn. Oh well”, later adding: "Well, it's their fault for bringing kids into a battle”.
2) A US airstrike hits a wedding procession, 2014
In December 2013 a US airstrike killed 12 Yemeni civilians who were suspected of being “terrorists”, and seriously injured 15 more. Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed that those who had been killed were part of a wedding procession. HRW argued that this may have violated the rules of law by “failing to discriminate between combatants and civilians.” International outcry was at a minimum however, and the US distanced themselves from the reports.
3) Nato admits killing civilians in Libya, 2011
Nato admitted that a bomb misfired hitting a residential area of Tripoli as coalition forces ramped up their campaign against former ally Muammar Gaddafi. The bomb killed nine people, including two children, after it a struck a two-story house. Nato expressed “regret” at the loss of “innocent lives”, and blamed the mishap on “a weapons system failure“.
4) A CIA strike on a school in Pakistan kills 69 children, 2006
It was barely reported on, but in 2006 the CIA launched a drone strike on a school in Pakistan which left 69 dead. This was reportedly to hit just one target – the headmaster, who was apparently a known militant. However, dozens of children were also killed in the attack. The youngest was seven-years-old.
5) Nato attacks on Yugoslavia, 1999
In 1999 Nato undertook ”humanitarian“ action in Yugoslavia, launching 78 days of airstrikes to ”liberate“ the country from dictator Slobodan Milošević. Nato reportedly dropped over 14,000 bombs, and killed over 2,000 civilians in the process, including 88 children. Reports claim that more than 300 schools and 20 hospitals were hit. Nato's airstrikes took a huge toll on Yugoslavia that has never been scrutinised enough.
With this all in mind, the incident surrounding MSF should come as no surprise. Western forces often declare themselves to be peaceful and acting for a greater good, but have a long history of targeting civilians and civilian institutions. At a time when politicians are being urged to drop bombs in Syria, this is something that we cannot forget.
Amit Singh is the co-editor of Consented. To follow: @ConsentedukReuse content