Pentagon investigates itself, finds no war crimes committed in MSF bombing

msf-protest-kunduz-apOver six months after a trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), “was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals” the US Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a 120 page report and a 5 page summary of its investigation.

The summary states, “The investigation concluded that the personnel involved did not know that they were striking a medical facility. The intended target was an insurgent-controlled site which was approximately 400 meters away from the MSF Trauma Center.”

For a variety of reasons it is difficult to believe the “personnel involved did not know that they were striking a medical facility” especially in light of the fact that initial findings by the Pentagon said “that Doctors Without Borders ‘did everything right’ in informing the US of the location of the facility, and that MSF, as they reported the day of the incident, contacted the Pentagon immediately upon the first strike on the facility.”

After the attack on the hospital, MSF reported, “The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.”

After all these months of investigation, CENTCOM concluded “this tragic incident was caused by a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.” This is the same thing the Pentagon said after their initial investigation in November. And nearly seven months after the attack on the hospital in Kunduz, the official narrative still “rests on the idea that the attacking warplane had taken off without [access to] a no-strike list, then had to dodge a non-existent missile, never corrected its targeting systems, and when ordered to attack a target at empty coordinates, chose to attack the ‘closest large building’ even though it was out of view of the troops who claimed to be under attack.” Antiwar.com adds, “[the targeting system problem] could’ve been mitigated except for a ‘technical failure’ that left the plane without electronic communications, another in a long line of unlikely problems that, according to the Pentagon, aligned and led to them attacking a site they were explicitly forbidden from attacking.”

The CENTCOM summary states, “The investigation identified 16 US service members whose conduct warranted consideration for appropriate administrative or disciplinary action.” Adding, “The Commander of US Forces-Afghanistan concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the law of armed conflict and rules of engagement.” However, these failures did not amount to a war crime. “[Because] the label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts – intentionally targeting civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects.” (emphasis as in original)

As reported by Just Security, “a number of international cases and UN-mandated inquiries have found that ‘recklessness’ or ‘indirect intent’ could satisfy the intent requirement.” It is clear from the Pentagon’s own investigation that at least 16 people acted in a manner that in most circumstances would be considered reckless, thus with intent.

Is it possible the US government is worried that opening a war crimes investigation into the bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz could lead to even more war crimes, like those exposed by Private Manning, being investigated and exposed for the atrocities they are?

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