US airstrike on Afghan hospital instigates controversy

On Oct. 3, the US Air Force bombarded a field hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a nonprofit humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, natural disasters, and epidemics. The attack led to the deaths of 12 medical staff members, 10 patients, three of whom were children, and wounded 37 people. Whether or not the assault was intentional remains in question, making the case a topic of both outrage and controversy to the international community.

According to the New York Times, some experts claim that the attack occurred inadvertently. For instance, General John F. Campbell, the US military chief in Afghanistan, explained how the US Army would never target a protected medical facility, and that the incident was a mistake.

“Comprehensively speaking, I would not consider the US bombing as a war crime,” said Michael Stanton, MUN adviser. “The US, a country that is continually making efforts to create world peace, would not deliberately bomb a hospital to murder such innocent people, especially not against the good-willed workers of the MSF. Because the government is slow and uncooperative in releasing information due to liability issues, I can only speculate that the attack occurred due to miscommunication and did not follow through in the chain of command.”

On the other hand, the MSF reported the occurrence as an intentional act, a potential war crime that cannot be brushed aside as a mere accident. Likewise, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, condemned the attack and requested a thorough and impartial investigation.

“Although the US airstrike might not have been deliberate, the bombardment still says a lot about the US foreign policy, especially its arbitrary nature,” said Jeffrey Park (11), MUN member. “[The event] was a good example of the potential harms that come with the US foreign policy, since some of us may only consider its benefits. For instance, US has actually misused drones and mistakenly targeted unintended subjects in the past, but only now do I think that this issue is finally being brought to public light.”

In response to the accusations, President Obama issued a personal apology to MSF on Oct. 7, expressing his condolences for the losses and promising a thorough investigation into this issue. General Campbell also demanded that all forces under his command be reinstructed on the rules pertaining to operations in Afghanistan.

“The President did the right thing to issue a formal apology, just like the Pentagon decided to make ‘condolence payments’ to the wounded victims and the families of those who perished due to the attack,” said Iris Jeong (10), forensics member. “Of course, however, such actions do not make up for the lost lives of the innocent civilians. Most importantly, I believe that the US should determine if the bombing was intentional as soon as possible, and then punish those responsible so that situations such as this airstrike will not reoccur.”