9 members of Doctors Without Borders killed, dozens of others wounded as “collateral damage” in US airstrike in Afghanistan

October 3, 2015 • 10:00 am

The American government is culpable for every innocent civilian (euphemistically described as “collateral damage”) killed accidentally in airstrikes or dronestrikes in the Middle East. Every such person killed has others who love them, and values their life as much as any other human, and in that sense each person is intrinsically valuable. But those who devote their efforts to saving the lives of others have a special value, for the deaths of such workers implicitly entail the deaths of others—what might be called “second-order collateral damage.”

And so so, once again, the U.S. has slaughtered a bunch of innocent civilians, this time including nine members of Doctors Without Borders (or MSF, for Médecins Sans Frontières) ,an organization near and dear to my heart, as its members help the suffering in time of disaster regardless of the victims’ ethnicity, religion, or “side” in a war. (It’s our Official Website Charity™).

As reported by CNN, in an airstrike Saturday morning on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, U.S. planes killed not only the nine MSF workers, but also injured 24 other members of the group along with at least 13 other people. (I’ve heard no reports yet of the deaths of patients.)

The worst part is that MSF gave the U.S. the GPS coordinates of the hospital as early as Thursday to prevent something like this, for the Taliban was fighting in the area. But there’s more: CNN reports (see the video at the link) that the strikes appear to have been deliberately aimed at the hospital.

Now that must have been a mistake, for there’s no reason why the U.S. would target an MSF hospital, especially because of the public-relations disaster that would ensue. It’s also a violation of the Geneva Convention, and serves no military purpose. But you can’t undo the deaths caused by that mistake.

Here’s the statement from MSF:

MSF condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz full of staff and patients. MSF wishes to clarify that all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS Coordinates) of the MSF facilities – hospital, guest-house, office and an outreach stabilization unit in Chardara (to the north-west of Kunduz). As MSF does in all conflict contexts, these precise locations were communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months, including most recently on 29 September.

The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed. MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened.

From the International Committee of the Red Cross:

Update, Saturday 3 October 2015: We condemn the shocking bombing of Médecins Sans Frontières’ hospital in ‪‎Kunduz. Under international humanitarian law, medical facilities must be respected and protected.

We call on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety of the civilian population and to facilitate the work of those trying to provide humanitarian support to the people of Kunduz.

And the boilerplate U.S. statement of contrition, on of all places the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan’s Facebook page:

The U.S. Embassy mourns for the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors without Borders hospital, and for all those suffering from the violence in Kunduz. Doctors without Borders performs heroic work throughout the world, including in Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with their team at this difficult moment. We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Kunduz and the difficult humanitarian situation faced by its residents.

Why are we still in Afghanistan, and why are we still killing innocent Afghanis and aid workers? Is the “collateral damage” justified by the “primary damage?”  I don’t think so. Perhaps our incursion into Afghanistan was justified right after 9/11, but what have we accomplished since then? Virtually nothing: the Taliban is still strong, we’ve poured endless resources into a useless war that’s now been going on for fourteen years, it is the longest war in U.S. history, and innocent people continue to die, while we prop up a corrupt government. It’s becoming the Vietnam War of our era: a conflict we cannot win and will not win.

The report by MSF is what brought this to my attention, but I don’t for a minute see their deaths as any more tragic than those of Afghanis themselves, except that MSF was saving the lives of the locals. It’s time for President Obama to stop bombing Afghanistan, get out troops out of the Middle East, and render whatever humanitarian aid we are capable of giving. Yes, we and other countries should continue to absorb genuine refugees from war and terrorism, but it’s time that we leave the region to settle its own accounts. The “collateral damage”—better called, “unavoidable killing of innocent people”—is not outweighed by any benefits that I can see.

87 thoughts on “9 members of Doctors Without Borders killed, dozens of others wounded as “collateral damage” in US airstrike in Afghanistan

  1. How the hell did this mistake happen? The NSA is allowed to build a state within a state (or more like it a country within a planet) but military intelligence appears incapable of using Google Earth.

    The US should just stop bombing people for a while.

    1. How did it happen?


      There was somebody in the hospital, or we thought that there might have been a certain somebody in the hospital, whose death we valued more than the lives of those we killed.

      And, even in the I-don’t-believe-it circumstance that it was somehow an “honest” mistake, it’s still the fact in the general case. That’s the entire definition of “collateral damage,” after all.


      1. The best way to avoid these collateral damage incidents (other than to pull out entirely), is to have eyes-on-target. This means having forward observers on the ground calling in the airstrikes. As we pull out our ground forces, these forward observers will increasingly be the Afghans. It’s already being reported that the Afghan army is insisting that there were Taliban firing from the windows of the hospital…so I’m thinking that they called in the strike. In the heat of battle, we didn’t check to see what that building might be. Big mistake.

          1. Command or the individual pilot? I’m not sure what the rules of engagement were in this particular battle. Did the pilot get an go-ahead from command or did he open fire solely based on requests from ground sources? If it’s the latter, then it wouldn’t matter if command knew this was a hospital.

            1. Does it matter?

              If the pilot didn’t know that he was targeting an hospital, he’s criminally incompetent. If his briefing didn’t include the fact that the hospital was within the range of operations, whoever briefed him shares in his incompetence. And if command didn’t provide his briefers with the hospital location, they, too, share in the incompetence.

              It’s still voluntary manslaughter up and down the chain.

              And it’s much, much easier to believe that they knew and simply didn’t give a fuck. Why should they care? The only people who would be in the hospital would be Afghanis and doctors treating Afghanis. Or, wounded Taliban insurgents and those helping the Taliban insurgents return to the battlefield. Either there was somebody specifically targeted in the hospital, or they were simply sending MSF a message that they’ll pay the price for providing aid and comfort to the enemy.

              Remember, the US isn’t the pure and noble nation we’d like to pretend we are. Abu Grahib was all ours, and we still haven’t closed Guantanamo. We might or might not still be outsourcing torture operations to the Saudis, but we unquestionably were doing so for a looooong time. The CIA is still flying drone strikes, more than ever before. The whole thing is one giant clusterfuck of evil, as bad as anything from any other empire before us. You’d suspect malice of any other empire rather than presume well-intentioned incompetence; why should the US get the generous presumption in this case?


              1. Another “yes”.

                PS – excellent definition of “collateral damage”.

                PPS – I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw Tim Harris’ reply! 😀

              2. Now, now, MB! When Ben says things that are sensible, I am happy to agree. When he says things that are not, then I disagree. That’s all there is to it.

      2. I wish I could take the standard skeptical approach and ask what kind of evidence you have for that assertion, but I can’t bring myself to. I don’t know which would be worse — incompetence of the order necessary for such a mistake, or deliberate strategy camouflaged with “blunders were made”.

        1. Even if incompetence is to blame, it’s no better. At the very least, it’s the incompetence of a pilot who crashes a plane because he never bothered to look at the fuel gauges.

          They’ve already admitted to voluntary manslaughter. I’m just suggesting that, in addition to the voluntary manslaughter of the MSF volunteers, they also committed (or tried to commit) first-degree murder in the case of somebody else who was at the hospital, and that (would-be?) murder victim was the primary target of their criminal activity.


  2. This bombing was about as stupid as stupid gets. It seems that a pilot or their ground advisers had their head up their ass and should be charged accordingly for gross incompetence.
    Onto the point of staying to support the Afghan army versus pulling out completely: What would happen if we did pull out and leave the Afghans to their ongoing war? I think the Taliban would once again overrun the country within 1 or 2 years, and that country and its people would once again disappear under a dark cloud of punitive Islamic law where things like playing music and kite flying are high crimes. Today in Afghanistan girls can go to school and learn to read and write. That too would end, and those who did teach the girls to hope for a better tomorrow would be severely punished. Remember they used to use the soccer stadium in the capitol to stage public executions.

    1. The same point I was going to make, but tempered with the reality that we can’t maintain this artificial state forever.

      Of the two wars, at least this one had some justification and positive outcome. Malala Yousafzai would have never had the chance to stand up for herself and other women without our presence. And if we withdraw now, those women will once again be oppressed in horrible ways.

      But it doesn’t seem realistic to occupy the country forever, especially with these kind of boneheaded moves.

  3. I heard on the BBC that NATO was providing air support so the US may have caused this terrible accident but all the nations of NATO are responsible to some degree. It’s all very sad.

  4. Nine people were mistakenly killed by American forces, therefore we should pull out of Afghanistan and leave the people there to their fate? Living under the hard heel of the Taliban is preferable to having even a few innocents get killed by American forces? We saw what happened in Iraq when we eliminated that government and then left them to their own devices; ISIS and the misery that they brought, including rape, murder, slavery and genocide.

    Are we going to do what the Russians did in Afghanistan? They suddenly withdrew their forces and left a power vacuum in the country. That vacuum was filled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The current government is not capable of keeping the Taliban at bay without our air support. Are we ready to inflict the horrors on the populace that the Taliban brings, in order to assuage the pain we feel when our forces make these mistakes? I’ve talked to some Afghanis who live here now and to veterans of that war and the consensus seems to be that the population doesn’t want us there permanently, but are not ready for us to leave yet. We should listen to them.

    1. Sadly, if we were going to help Afghanistan (I say “we” because Canada was there for a long time and incurred many casualties for a small country), we would have had to occupy it for generations. We did it half asses. We had to be all in. We couldn’t maintain that and now things are have gone downhill.

    2. I agree with Diana: we either have to be all in in Afghanistan–for decades–or we should get out. the half-assed approach hasn’t worked. I’m not calling for us to leave simply because 9 people were killed; I’m calling us to leave because that’s symptomatic of our failed approach to stopping terrorism in the country. Besides, Obama has called for all cessation of American military action by next year anyway. We’ll see if that happens.

      1. It won’t happen next year…I’d be willing to put money on it. Hopefully, this time we learn something about destabilizing an entire society (for good or bad) and the commitment that incurs. We are still in Japan and Germany after 70 years and would go to war with anyone who attacks them. We have recently named Afghanistan as, “one of our closest allies”, which I translate into, “We are not leaving”.

        1. You are, of course, correct, that there are no plans at all to end this war.

          And if you don’t see that as horrifically evil…I don’t know what to suggest.

          There are American kids in high school today who had not yet been born when the war started who will soon enlist and die there.

          I don’t see how there can be any possible pretense that a war like this that never ends can possibly be just, let alone justifiable.

          Whatever the hell it is we’re doing over there, it’s evil — over-the-top, Nazi stormtrooper evil.

          We are, indeed, the baddies.


          1. Russia was in Afghanistan before American. Think about what it would be like for the people who live there – forever occupied by foreign forces and forever dealing with what happens in their wake. The book The Kite Runner shows us this very well.

              1. As I understand it, the Russians (Soviet Union) were pretty well along in establishing a secular socialist government in Afghanistan when the CIA came along and upset their apple cart.

              2. Yes, but the Soviets weren’t saints, either…they were using the same violent skullduggery as the CIA famously used in Iran. The puppet government the Soviets had in place in Afghanistan was no more enlightened than the one that deposed Mossadegh and replaced him with Shah Pahlavi.


        2. “We are still in Japan and Germany after 70 years”

          I would think the case is very different. “We” (i.e. the US) only has a presence in Germany and Japan for historical political reasons (i.e. the cold war), as an advanced front line. It is NOT there, or needed, to protect those countries from internal strife or terrorism, they can both do that perfectly well themselves.


    3. That assumes that US intervention is preventing atrocious governments from arising, which is the story that would make the pro-US faction look good. What evidence do we have that it’s the US that has accomplished any such thing, as opposed to other factors within the country or around it? If the US withdraw and some mad Islamist faction takes over, it’s probably because the US intervention weakened the existing governmental and social system and made things worse in the first place.

      1. I really don’t think it’s fair to put all or even a large part of the blame on the U.S. for the lack of stability in Afghanistan. The country’s been a mess for centuries, and decades of British and Russian intervention before us did little to solve the corruption and tribal war-lordism. Don’t get me started on Karzhai, who just takes takes takes aid $ and does virtually nothing to help his own people. If I felt we really were keeping the schools, especially for girls, open and safe I’d be in favor of keeping some kind of presence. But jesus h christ on a four-man bobsled, can’t the Afghan gov’t accomplish SOMEthing on its own!!!???

        Not to say I do not feel absolutely sick about the fubar at the MSF hospital…

        1. Yes, and NATO was part of the most recent war in Afghanistan. We’re all guilty of this together.

        2. I’m not saying the country isn’t on fire. I’m saying the US intervention is pouring oil on it and saying it’s water.

        3. Firm central government in a country like England, say, developed out of existing political institutions, and wasn’t something that some other nation sought to impose from outside. The assumption that Karzhai’s government should be able to take charge, like a Western government, of a country whose political institutions are fundamentally tribal is a dubious one.

          1. Fair enough, but he seems to love taking our money even if it’s put to little use besides lining his own pockets. I basically agree that we should get the hell out of there.

            1. I imagine there is little else he can do, and that it is fond delusion on the part of the US government to suppose that he can.

  5. for there’s no reason why the U.S. would target an MSF hospital, especially because of the public-relations disaster that would ensue.

    Wow, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Never a very effective strategy, and doing so with a bazooka loaded with “PR-disaster” grenades is just plain … sorry, I can’t think of a word that scrapes the barrel of stupid ineffectiveness adequately.
    I’m sure the investigation will cover up all the important people involved and protect them from the consequences of their actions – that being in the nature of armies. “My corps, right or wrong. Oh, and I’ll pay a bit of attention to the country and the flag too. Unless it conflicts with my loyalty to my corps.”

    1. Actually, there can be a legitimate reason: if Taliban fighters were shooting from inside the hospital, it could stop being an off-limits target. And it’s not a theoretical scenario, since Hamas fighters have been doing the same in their wars against Israel.
      So I wonder if that was the case, or was it incompetence, or something else.

      1. Sorry…I don’t buy that.

        In the most favorable plausible scenario for the US, we’ll assume that the Taliban had retreated to the hospital and were continuing a running gun battle from within the hospital. As soon as the request came to rain down flaming death on that location, whoever was in charge of coordinating such things should have identified the location as the hospital and called off the entire operation. MSF should have then been immediately contacted, alerted that their hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, and offers made to conduct a rescue operation.

        Otherwise, the accusation is that MSF was colluding with the Taliban to provide human shields for a Taliban forward operating base…which is not only an outrageous and baseless accusation, but still one that wouldn’t warrant raining down flaming death.

        No, I’m afraid that there really is no plausible excuse for this wanton act of murder.


        1. I am not making the accusation that MSF invited Taliban to use them as a human shield. If that had happened, it would have been over the objections of doctors – not that it would stop armed Taliban fighters, of course.
          So I am going to withhold my outrage until more is known about this attack, because faster outrage isn’t going to bring those killed back to life, and it’s only too common for a news story to change radically within days.
          As for rescue operations, I’m not sure that MSF neutrality policy would allow them to ask for military assistance by one belligerent against the other.

          1. So, you think the Taliban took over the hospital, over the objections of the doctors…and that somehow justified bombing the fucking shit out of them?


            Not under any circumstances was this bombing justifiable. Not under any circumstances is an error in this case excusable.

            Even in the situation as you’re describing, the answer is to retreat and regroup. Not to kill the presumed hostages along with their captors.


            1. I am saying IF Taliban was using a hospital, the attack COULD be justified by Geneva conventions under certain circumstances.
              I’m not sure why you are reading my comments as “Taliban DID take the hospital” and “it’s ALWAYS justified to bomb them anywhere”.

      2. That’s a scenario for sending in ground troops, not nuking the site from orbit (because it’s the only way to be sure).
        Unless, of course, you’re implying that MSF have become a stalking horse for the Taliban. Which is something that MSF have a long reputation of not doing.

        1. I don’t think Geneva conventions make specific recommendations as to what should be the exact course of action in each given situation. They are concerned with proportionality, though, and with the idea that non-military facilities not used for any military purposes are not targeted. So until we know exactly what happened, we don’t know if the attack was inappropriate or disproportionate. Unless, of course, you had been at the place of the attack at that time and had seen everything that happened.

          1. Even if permitted by the Geneva conventions, so fucking what?

            Since when is the only standard we should hold ourselves and our agents to “just barely stayed within the narrow letter of the law, perhaps, if we give them every conceivable benefit of the doubt and then some?

            I damned well expect American solders to not bomb the fucking shit out of MSF hospitals with well-known locations, whether or not international treaties say they can. Is that really so much to ask?


          2. Reports are of multiple waves of bombing.
            “Collateral murder,” by the sounds of it. Of course, no-one will even peel any potatoes over it.

  6. This is disgusting. When you are in control of something that can kill people, or are in a position to order killing, you simply have to be more responsible. There is no excuse for this. I hope, but doubt, that those who clearly didn’t do their jobs properly will be court-martialed for this.

    I don’t even see how “collateral damage” can be an excuse in this case.

  7. So much of American policy boils down to, “The situation is intolerable and something must be done. Bombing the fucking shit out of the place is something, so let’s go do that.”

    But, somehow, we never stop at any point to ask if bombing the fucking shit out of the place will actually do anything to make it better — let alone whether we have any alternatives that actually would make things better, never mind whether or not anything we could do could actually make things better.

    We’ve run this experiment. Many times. Too many times.

    We should have learned the lesson in Korea that bombing the fucking shit out of someplace is far from guaranteed to make things better. I would have thought that we actually had learned the lesson, for really real, that bombing the fucking shit out of someplace actually tends to make things much worse.

    I get it. Afghanistan is a royal hellhole. The Taliban are some really badass evil motherfuckers, and they’re going to fucking rip the heads off of lots of nice people and shit down their necks.

    But, you know what? Bombing the fucking shit out of the Taliban isn’t going to stop them from ripping off heads and shitting down necks. It’s just going to kill lots of nice people along with the Taliban…and convince their survivors that ripping off heads and shitting down necks is another one of those “somethings” that has to be done to stop the intolerable situation of American flying death robots raining murder indiscriminately from the skies.

    Pretty much anything else we might have done — especially including nothing at all — would have given us and everybody else a less evil outcome than what we have today. As a trivial example…tally up the cost of each of the missiles and bombs we were about to drop, and instead parachute suitcases full of cash with the same value over civilian areas. How long do you think any of these tyrants could remain in power when their civilians are instant multimillionaires? Can you imagine what that sort of influx of capital would have done to their economies?

    So…can we please stop killing people, declare victory, and finally let everybody go home?



    P.S. Iraq, too…Iraq was bad under Saddam Hussein, but not as bad as Saudi Arabia. Today it’s worse than Saudi Arabia. It wouldn’t be if we hadn’t bombed the fucking shit out of the place. b&

    1. Unless you were a Kurd in Iraq who had chemical weapons dumped on your kids by Saddam…that might be a tad worse that living in Saudi.

      1. Two can play this game, you know. How about all the women in Saudi Arabia who live lives of slavery? How about all those whom the Saudis brutally torture and murder for non-crimes and petty crimes? How about all the foreign workers whose passports are confiscated and who are again kept as slaves and often worked to death?

        Just because Iraq was an hellhole doesn’t mean that it was worse than Saudi Arabia. Bad as Iraq was…Saudi Arabia was and is worse.

        Or North Korea, too, for that matter. Any argument you can make for war in Iraq and Afghanistan…applies in spades and then some in North Korea. So why aren’t you equally eager to re-light that fuse?


  8. The Afghanistan war has been a huge mistake for a long time and this is just one more terrible reminder. I cannot think of anything better to say than you have already said in the posting. This is one that does transfer to Obama because he increased and continued the commitment when he should have been going the other direction. Very sad.

    1. Obama campaigned on ending the war in Afghanistan within a year of his election. Ever since then, he’s promised to end the war within a year. Now, he’s pushing the end of the war onto the next President, after he’s had two full terms and eight years to do it himself.

      Free lobster tomorrow, but never today.


      1. My memory is slightly different and it could be a confusion of countries. I remember him very clear on getting out of Iraq. At the same time he said Afghanistan was being forgotten and not enough attention was spent there. He even had his version of the “surge” in Afghanistan. Just like the famous surge in Iraq by Bush only smaller but with the same outcome.

        1. Here’s something from 2009 with additional links that puts it into perspective:


          He promised a short-term small-scale “surge” designed to bring the war quickly to and end. But, when in office, rather than send the 10,000 additional troops he had initially said he would, he sent almost 50,000…and, as should be obvious by now, it didn’t end the war….


  9. The responsibility for the deaths in this hospital – and ALL the deaths in the Afghanistan conflict – lies with the Taliban and their Islamist allies. If the Taliban hadn’t attempted to seize Kunduz there would have been no need for NATO bombing or any other fighting in the city. Once they had seized the city they had to be expelled or destroyed. There was no way to do that without the application of extreme military force. When military force is applied in a populated urban environment there will be innocent casualties. That’s deeply regrettable but unavoidable. In World War 2 the allies killed thousands of innocent European civilians in the course of defeating the forces of Nazi Germany. That’s a justified cause for regret but not for guilt. I feel the same way about this latest incident. If the Taliban laid down their arms, there’d be no more war in Afghanistan and no more innocents would die. Until that happens, NATO forces should continue to kill them in the largest numbers possible, using whatever means are most effective. Collateral damage is a tragedy, but it’s entirely the fault of the Islamists.

    1. The problem with your analogy is that the United States is the one who invaded the Middle East, just as the Nazis invaded the rest of Europe. The Taliban have been the governing authority in Afghanistan since long before we tried to conquer them. We have as much right to invade their homes and evict them and install an American-friendly government as Hitler did to invade France and evict the French government and install a German-friendly government in their place.

      Yes, the Taliban are nasty, evil people who do terrible things. But the world is full of nasty, evil people who do terrible things; just look at Saudi Arabia or North Korea. We understand how it’d be even worse to invade Saudi Arabia or North Korea to attempt to evict their despots and instal puppet governments there that’re favorable to us. Why is it so difficult to understand that it’s just as bad an idea to do the same thing in Afghanistan and Iraq?


      1. The Taliban have only been in power since we helped them kick out the Russians. Just another result of our short-sighted foreign policies, but we put them in power.

        1. They’re the ones the Russians invaded Afghanistan in order to get rid of in the first place. Same people, at least, whatever name they go by. Mujahideen, Taliban, al Qaeada….

          It started, as much as these things ever have a clear beginning, with the military coup by the pro-Soviet Nur Mohammad Taraki government in 1978. That sparked the civil war in Afghanistan, with the same traditional tribal Muslims who were ousted by the coup being the ones trying to kick out American troops today.

          They’re not good guys, not by a long shot…but they’re certainly the ones defending their homes from decade after decade of invasion from foreigners.


        2. This is more about the ineptitude of the USAF & resulting “collateral damage”. I was driving in the northern Normandy region of Calvados in June 1947. I distinctly remember coming to a crossroad at which a sign had been erected with the words,”Ici fut Aunay” – here was Aunay. Aunay had been a village of some 500 inhabitants before being completely destroyed,ie: flattened, by a US bombing raid more than a week after the last Wehrmacht unit had fled.

      2. Read through all the posts and agree with Ben. In the 1980s, when it was clear that the Soviet Union had its days counted, US should have let it come apart on its own and not secretly empowered radical Islamists to fight them in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

        1. I also largely agree with Ben. But I should like to add that I find it sad that it’s only when MSF personnel become ‘collateral damage’ that the West sits up and takes notice of what has going on. There has been any amount of ‘collateral damage’ and damage that has not been so ‘collateral’ (e.g. Fallujah) in Iraq, Afghanistan and the tribal territories of Pakistan. Jerry is absolutely right to say that the deaths of the MSF doctors are not more tragic than those of the local people who are killed in these sorts of operations.

    2. Right… When terrorists take hostages why negotiate release when you can kill them all and then say “Hey, if terrorists laid their weapons we wouldn’t have to kill those innocent people.”

  10. Doubly disgusting because the US did not immediately, directly, and openly acknowledge that it was our fault.

  11. Is this incident worse than this one?

    Frankly, I don’t understand what America is doing. Bush goes all in. Obama withdraws Vietnam-style. And people in middle east are paying the price. To add insult to injury, the resulting mess is blamed upon “the “locals and their culture”.

    The US military still maintain its presence in Germany, Japan, and Korea after all these years. I wonder what would have happened if in 1955 the US withdrew forces from Germany, the president triumphantly declaring:

    “And finally, I would note that the end of war in Germany reflects a larger transition. The tide of war is receding…”


    No doubt this would have brought decades and decades of peace and prosperity in Europe and elsewhere!

  12. This is ironic in view of our news yesterday being full of American accusations against Russia for hitting the wrong targets in Syria…

    It’s all a horrendous mess and nobody’s going to come out of it with any credit.


  13. I agree with Ben.

    Has any US presidential candidate even mentioned the war? (I’m sure they all have “position papers” on it.)

    If only we could mobilize an antiwar groundswell here.

    1. I am not sure what you mean by antiwar groundswell here. But I find calls for total withdrawal of US troops in this case (and Iraq’s) a bit unscrupulous.

      Whatever you think of Bush, he committed the US to a long-term project. America is not a dictatorship where the new dictator denounces the previous one and reverses all of his predecessor’s decisions. If this is an issue of money and resources, America must sincerely declare so and ask for more resources from its allies.

      I understand no one likes diverting resources that can be spent on domestic issues to a seemingly absurd foreign war. But these people should at least admit that they don’t have the moral high ground here.

      1. The monetary expense is the least of it. We never should have started killing people in the Middle East; we’ve only made things worse by killing people in the Middle East; there isn’t even any plausible theoretical path by which killing people in the Middle East will lead to fewer deaths in the Middle East…

        …and so you think we should buckle down, stay the course, and kill as many people as we possibly can in the Middle East? Because a madman who spoke to Jesus through his hairdryer* promised the killings would continue until morale improved?

        No. Just…no.


        1. When you put it like that, it seems so easy.

          Truth of the matter is Many people in Afghanistan (possibly the majority) “want” US forces to remain there. But they have no say in the matter altogether, do they? Bush “liberates” them without thoroughly calculating the consequences and then Obama comes along with his “Don’t do stupid stuff” and hastily gets out leaving behind even more chaos.

          Current situation (fall of an important city to Taliban) is a direct result of president Obama’s short-sighted strategy in Afghanistan.

          And that “madman” or whatever was elected by the majority of American people and his decisions are seen as the decisions of the United States as a country. Why should an Afghan care who is the president of the United States? Granted, America’s politics is entertaining. But not everyone in the world is interested in following it!

          1. Just because there are some in Afghanistan who want us to bomb the fucking shit out of others in Afghanistan doesn’t mean we should, let alone that it’s in anybody’s best interests to do so. The Taliban would just as soon we bomb the fucking shit out of Kabul — and, not all that long ago, we gave the Taliban weapons so they could bomb the fucking shit out of the Russians.

            The problem is with the bombing the fucking shit out of people, not who wishes we would bomb the fucking shit out of whom.

            More to the point, the real problem is with thinking that bombing the fucking shit out of people will solve any other problems, when, in fact, it just makes all the other problems much, much worse.


            1. My point is “you” (the US) have already bombed the f* sh* out of some Afghans in the past for whatever reason. The least the US (and allies) can do is to control the situation and stabilize the country to some degree. This takes time and resources.

              But it will not just do to say: “Oh, sorry. My bad! Our president now thinks this is stupid now. You deal with the situation yourself. Bye!”

              Of course, America can do whatever it pleases. It’s a superpower for God’s sake. But pretending this is the moral choice is downright hypocritical.

              1. The least the US (and allies) can do is to control the situation and stabilize the country to some degree. This takes time and resources.

                Ever since Korea, the US has demonstrated, repeatedly, emphatically, that it simply is not within its power to “control the situation and stabilize the country to some degree.” And that all our efforts to ever do anything like that only further drive the situation out of control and destabilize the country to an even greater degree.

                “But this time it’ll be different. We’ll get it right.”

                Yeah, sure. And the abusive husband isn’t going to get drunk ever again, and he certainly wouldn’t beat the fucking shit out of his wife and children if he did.


              2. Ever since Korea…

                South Korea is doing all right now. Iraq was doing good until US troops left prematurely. Every situation is different and merits careful planning and decision making. That’s all I am saying. It is not a clear cut decision.

                Simplifying it to “bombing: bad, not bombing: good”, doesn’t achieve anything, although this kind of rhetoric is useful in stirring emotions in election season in the US.

              3. South Korea is doing all right now.

                I’m sorry, but anybody who handwaves away the current situation in North Korea by pointing to South Korea and that therefore we were right to bomb the fucking shit out of the place during the Korean War…anybody who does what you just did is so far out of touch with reality that no rational discussion can be had.

                Hell, even Bush identified North Korea as one of the three most dangerous places on Earth with his “Axis of Evil.”


    2. Once upon a time, you could count on college students to be outraged about war and killing and death. Today, they get outraged at a speaker saying anything that isn’t sweetness and light and unicorn rainbow farts. What the hell happened?


      1. Which is why I always suggest that we bring back the draft.

        I’ll bet a lot of college students & Americans don’t even realize or remember we’re at war now.

        1. How could they? We’ve been at war for fifteen years. The war started when today’s freshmen were three years old. Even the thirty-year-olds finishing their doctoral dissertations weren’t yet teenagers when the war started — and they were in kindergarden and first grade during the Gulf War.

          We’re in a perpetual state of war. War is all today’s generation has ever known, their entire lives. War is the rule, not the exception.


          1. Indeed.

            And certainly nothing about our daily lives reminds one about the war; unless maybe you live next to a military base or something.

  14. Actually, Doctors without Borders should more accurately be called Doctors WITH Borders. It is unfortunate to see an organisation that started out with such purpose succumb to pressure from the BDS movement and prevent Israeli doctors from aiding their laudable cause.

  15. Stephen Pinker explains in his book, Better Angels of Our Nature, how things can go terribly wrong in a hurry, in the heat of battle. After sustained fighting, there is sometimes a point beyond which it’s very difficult to disengage. This is why war and other atrocities can occur.

  16. Steven Pinker in his excellent book, Better Angels of Our Nature, explains how these horrible things can happen in the heat of battle. After a period of sustained fighting, there is a point beyond which it’s sometimes very difficult to disengage. That is how atrocities in war and other circumstances can occur.

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