Obama apologizes for airstrike on Doctors Without Borders hospital, DWB demands independent investigation

October 8, 2015 • 9:15 am

According to the New York Times, President Obama has apologized for last Saturday’s airstrike at the Doctors Without Borders (DWB) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The death toll has risen to nearly two dozen, including both doctors and patients.  We now know two things: the attack on the hospital was ordered and carried out by American forces—via an AC-130 gunship, which truly is a death machine (see below)—and that DWB insists that it provided the GPS coordinates of the hospital to both Afghan and U.S. forces. This puts the rest to rumors that the Taliban or some other insurgent force pretended that they were Afghan government forces and gave the coordinates to the U.S. as a propaganda tactic.

Here’s the gunship in action; this is what the DWB hospital endured (and I’m amazed anyone survived):

Obama’s apology wasn’t well received by DWB:

But five days after an American AC-130 gunship devastated the medical facility, Mr. Obama’s personal expression of regret in a telephone call from the Oval Office appeared to do little to satisfy the leader of the doctors group, who issued a terse statement saying the president’s apology had been “received.”

Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, repeated her demand for an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to “establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened.”

The deliberate bombing of hospitals is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. I seriously doubt whether U.S. forces did this deliberately. No matter how much you demonize the U.S., there was nothing to be gained, and a lot to lose, by going after such a hospital. Rather, it’s a cock-up; one of the many instances of “collateral damage’ (aka, the side effect of killing innocent civilians) that the U.S. has inflicted in its futile war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Sadly, we don’t see this same level of outrage against this “collateral damage” as when that damage involved not a hospital and an international team of doctors, but Afghan civilians. But lives are lives, no matter whose body lives them, and, if any good is to come out of this incident, it’s time we realized this, and time that we calculated whether this war is accomplishing anything.

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in the history of the U.S., and it’s been unsuccessful. We haven’t quashed the Taliban, innocents continue to be massacred, and we’re propping up a weak Afghan military and a corrupt Afghan government. While slowing the decline in American troops in the country, President Obama has vowed to bring the American presence to an end by January of next year—the time he leaves office.  What will happen then?

I think we know. As in Vietnam, we’ll declare victory and get the hell out. Some readers have commented that we must keep fighting there, for the alternative—the Taliban overrunning the country—is odious. Yes it is, but the only alternative to withdrawal is a full-on American assault of the country involving thousands of troops, which is even more unthinkable. The slow attrition of our troops now, with the consequent loss of both American lives and innocent civilians, is not a good compromise.

It’s time to admit that we’ve lost this war. Obama’s plan is no plan, but a military dog-and-pony show. Let us leave the country, make what reparations we can, and stop adding blood to our hands.  How sad, though, that it takes the loss of non-Afghan lives to make us realize such a thing.

134 thoughts on “Obama apologizes for airstrike on Doctors Without Borders hospital, DWB demands independent investigation

  1. Tragic mistakes happen in war zones, but we need to own this mistake fully and completely. A sincere apology is OK as a first step, but from a moral standpoint we need to do much more. We need to make sure the victims families are compensated and a SUBSTANTIAL donation to DWB should be made by the U.S.

    1. Whether the GPS coordinates were accurately given or not, what is considered actionable intelligence is about the same as what’s required to convince a grand jury. I speak from personal experience as a two time campaign veteran (2 years) operating in a explicitly counterterrorism role. The really concerning thing is that it takes us destroying a Doctor’s Without Borders to make warrant a response from the man himself. It’s disconcerting to think of the unknown number of innocent individuals whose lives are ended or impacted by our acting upon intentionally misleading information or simply unsubstantiated information.

    2. There was no mistake. They knew it was a hospital. One of the first stories was that it was “taken over by the enemy” another was “the hospital was collaborating with the enemy” both were sufficient to bomb it regardless of those inside. Then other stories came out as the propaganda machine revved up and none of them seemed to be real.

      1. “They knew it was a hospital,” and they bombed it because __________ ???? Because they felt like they needed a good scandal and some horrible publicity????

      2. The US story has been pretty consistent and backed up so far by the Afghan side. Originally, they weren’t sure what had happened. Then it was stated that a US plane had fired after being called in to aid US troops under assault. The more detailed version we currently have is that the air support was called in by US special forces at the request of an Afghan unit under fire with whom they were working. Allegedly, the soldiers in the AC 130 fire with visual guidance, they weren’t given a set of coordinates as would be the case with a missile strike, and therefore wouldn’t know the location was on a protected list.

        Somebody still fucked up. Presumably, there should be some mechanism to inform troops of protected locations in the vicinity and some process for confirming a legitimate target. There is, however, at present no indication that anyone intentionally targeted an active hospital. Why would they? All this does is embarrass the US and make for an international mess they don’t want.

        1. That seems reasonably consistent with what we know about the background politics: the Afghan army hates DwB and their hospitals because they treat and release *all* wounded people – including taliban soldiers. It is very easy see how someone in the Afghan forces – with or without official orders – could manipulate the US into hitting a target they wouldn’t otherwise hit. You have to expect that in a war like this, the locals are going to use their allies to settle any grievances they might have.

          We should still apologize, investigate, support the survivors, and do all that stuff. We can’t wash our hands of using bad intel. But we should also revise how we use intel and be more suspicious/cautious of it.

  2. Maybe the Afghan war was warrented? But the boobs tnen decided that they were not having enough fun and tried to plunder Iraq. If the war in Afghanastan was not devastating enough, invading IRAQ was sheer lunacy, especially with the flimsy reasons they used to justify their actions. What is even more amazing is the lack of consequences for the (lack of)leaders involved in the decision making.

    1. IMHO, if the same effort that was expended on Iraq had, instead been expended in Afghanistan, the Taliban would have been defeated a long time ago. There is now no question that the Iraq war was a disaster which was unnecessary and was based on administration lies concerning Saddam’s participation in 9/11 and WMDs in Iraq.

  3. I suspect that this is a textbook example of the fog of war in action.

    However, here’s another slant on MSF from someone who spent 18 months in Afghanistan attempting to build a sustainable Afghan health system for that country and his take on MSF is rather less favorable, at least as regards their activities in Afghanistan, then is portrayed in the media. This in no way, shape, form or regard should be considered a defense of the attack. This was a series of comments posted on Ed Brayton’s Patheos blog, apparently by an individual who appears to know what he is talking about.

    https://disqus.com/by/disqus_iHrz1O5UVF/

    1. The complaint at Brayton seems to be mainly that DWB has their own policy and doesn’t act as an agent of the US Defense Department.

      1. Not so, his complaints seem to state that, in his considered opinion, the actions taken by MSF in Afghanistan are not in the best interests of the Afghans they are supposed be serving. Just as an example, consider his concluding remarks in his earliest post.

        Yes, they do good work on ACUTE patients, but they refuse to augment existing health facilities, displace local health providers, initiate unsustainable care, etc. All of which plays directly into the hands of the insurgents and undermines the attempts of Afghan National and Coalition Forces to actually build a SUSTAINABLE health system.

        Consider point #5 in the same comment.

        5) They leave whenever they choose, which results in a medical vacuum because they’ve displaced local providers. The net result is a LOSS of medical capacity.

  4. The US military really needs to explain, in detail, how such a mistake can actually occur given modern GPS technology (and why it was not called off for about 30mins after MSF telephoned to tell them what they were bombing).

    I also entirely agree that these occupations of Afghanistan etc are achieving nothing.

    What does amaze me is how people can read posts such as the one above and then assert (as one nameless culprit did) that:

    “the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Coyne … are all embedded in the political Right”, and then, when challenged, insist that “… they clearly express support for State Power and justifications for wars of aggression. In that sense they are very much aligned with the “Right”.”

    Nope, I really don’t see that in the above! Maybe the answer is that such critics don’t actually read the New Atheists, they only read other critics of the NAs.

        1. I’m deliberately ignoring this. You can work out why for yourself. I suspect the answer you come up with will be inaccurate.

    1. I hadn’t seen that particular accusation which at least in the case of Prof. Coyne, is far off the mark. What the accusations of Islamophobia agains Coyne, Harris, and Dawkins are based on is that they have the temerity to point out the deficiencies of Islam, which to many on the left equates to prejudice against Muslims. This is particularly true of people like Glenn Greenwald who, while criticizing the US and Israel for alleged transgressions, completely ignore the transgressions of the ISIL, Hizbollah, Hamas and the other bad actors in the Middle East.

      Just as a for instance, the ISIL executed several men by throwing them off the top of a building for allegedly being gay. I haven’t seen any comment on Greenwald’s website about this atrocity, although his coverage of the MSF incident is quite extensive. Considering that Greenwald is an out of the closet gay man, this is inexplicable.

      1. Zealotry has many forms and Mr. Greenwald left reason by the wayside on this issue some time ago by making one deliberate misrepresentation of Sam Harris after another. If the “regressive left” had a mount Rushmore, Greenwald would be on it.
        BTW, I don’t care for the term, “regressive left.” I don’t grant the premise that those folks are liberals in any meaningful way. I think “fascistic post-modernists” fits much, much better.

          1. My impression is that Greenwald’s initial resentment against his country came because they didn’t, at the time, recognise his marriage to a non-citizen as valid because he was married to a man, which is perfectly understandable.

            1. No, so far as I remember Greenwald was writing critically about the American government’s policies for some time before the the problems about whether his partner could live in the US came up. His criticisms do not derive first of all from personal resentment.

              1. Thanks. Good to know. I saw an interview with him which gave the interpretation I had, but that situation may have just exacerbated things.

              2. GG started writing, as I recall, after GWB came to power, and he certainly wrote well and cogently at the time. At least that is when I first came across his writing. I have not really been following subsequent altercations with Sam Harris et al, but GG was also the person whom Snowden trusted; and Snowden was surely right to blow the whistle on what was – and is – happening. Perhaps one should simply try to sift the good from the bad in what he says (as is the case with anybody). I find the suggestion that Greenwald’s criticisms derive not from what he perceived as wrongs but from personal resentments, and that they may therefore be dismissed as mere expressions of personal resentments (and a gay man’s resentments to boot, which in many people’s eyes are trivial and to be despised) – well, if someone has a suitable adjective, put it in.

      2. “Just as a for instance, the ISIL executed several men by throwing them off the top of a building for allegedly being gay. I haven’t seen any comment on Greenwald’s website about this atrocity”

        The problem with Greenwald, and his ilk is they see any, and all anti-Islam criticism, or reporting of such atrocities as feeding right wing anti-muslim propaganda machine. While there is some truth to that, when they bury their heads in the sand and ignore it popular sentiment sides with, and supports those don’t ignore it, and offer solutions, even if they are bad ones.

    2. Please note that this comment is not an attempt to make excuses for the US military or government, but only as a bit of explanation how such screw ups can still happen given modern navigation and communications.

      GPS is great, but knowing the exact coordinates doesn’t necessarily entail identifying the place. The target would either have been designated before the plane left the ground, or the plane would have had to get permission from higher authority to fire at a “target of opportunity.” The main reason for having to get permission from higher authority is that higher authority is tasked with confirming that whatever the shooters are looking at is the enemy and is OK to shoot. That second case in particular leaves all kinds of room for mistakes.

      Between the people pulling the trigger and the top of the chain of command their are several layers of communication, all with restricted access and strict protocals for security purposes and to try and prevent errors of the sort that very likely occured in this case (as opposed to the hospital being targeted intentionally). Despite the effort major mistakes still occur. Murphy is tenacious and human nature is fickle. Most likely several people along the way fucked up.

      1. I think there probably were several people along the way who got it wrong. There inevitably are in major problems. That’s why there needs to be an independent inquiry imo.

  5. Unless and until an independent investigation occurs, the US military damages its credibility. There are plenty of people out there ready to believe this is deliberate, and anything less won’t wash. MSF put their lives in the hands of the US military – that trust was somehow betrayed. This shouldn’t have happened, and the loved ones of the victims have a right to know how and why.

  6. Bush and Cheney used the model of World War II rather than Vietnam when they got the country into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The World War II model was that overwhelming force would crush the enemy and that the people of the defeated countries would accede to the occupation and rule by the conquerors. The Vietnam model was largely a civil war in South Vietnam (with the Viet Cong aided by North Vietnam and China). Lyndon Johnson thought that the U.S. troops could aid the South Vietnamese anti-communists in this civil war. This strategy was an abject failure because the South Vietnamese did not have the heart to fight without massive American support. This was the failure of the “vietnamization” of the war. After the U.S. troops pulled out, the South Vietnamese army quickly collapsed as did the regime.

    The analogy of both Afghanistan and Iraq to Vietnam is uncanny. Both regimes cannot survive without a large number of American troops on the ground. The current crop of Republicans refuse to acknowledge this. They still subscribe to the delusion that increased American support to these regimes (somehow without a massive number of American troops) will somehow save them. There is no evidence for this, but under a Republican president we can look forward to endless war, many thousands more death, and billions wasted.

    The fall of these countries to Islamic radicals is nothing any civilized person would want. But, due to the disastrous Bush-Cheney policies, the alternative seems worse: endless war without victory.

    1. There is no evidence for this, but under a Republican president we can look forward to endless war, many thousands more death, and billions wasted.

      If you think Hilary would be any different, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      Eight years ago, on the campaign trail, Obama was promising the exact same thing he is today: a brief and relatively minor intensification of hostilities in order to bring the war swiftly to a close soon after inauguration day. Only now it’s the next president’s inauguration day, not his own first or second inauguration.

      b&

      1. In total agreement here. At least with Sanders I can be pretty assured that there won’t be some kind of further aggressive Executive action, but all-in-all, I think we have a DoD and intelligence apparatus that is uncontrollable, at this point.

        1. The military’s probably still reliable. But the spooks (NSA, CIA) are clearly out of control — and the CIA is now conducting a pretty big fraction of our military operations, becoming our de facto robot air force.

          The military would still follow civilian orders they didn’t like, most likely. But the NSA will manufacture incriminating evidence to plant on somebody’s smartphone if need be, and the CIA wouldn’t hesitate to cut somebody’s break lines.

          Not that they’d ever use such tactics on the President or the like. But good luck getting anywhere near the White House without being in their good graces…and, frankly, in their debt, too.

          Remember how much of a benefit Nixon hoped to gain by bugging the Watergate Hotel? Imagine how much help the NSA could be by performing a similar service for a candidate. And why wouldn’t they? They already bug their romantic interests, by their own admission.

          b&

          1. agree again. every one I know in the military seem a bit freaked about how cavalier the powers-that-be seem to be, re: throwing them to the winds of war. (hoping a neighbor comes home in 2-3 weeks w/o anything getting in the way). The spooks just seem content to sit behind their screens, concocting the next excuse.

        1. Yeah. The cynical part of me says that’s because she’s a woman and doesn’t want to be seen as weak, so she overcompensates with her unapologetic hawkishness. But then that same cynical part of me wakes up, slaps itself in the face, and screams at me that it really doesn’t matter….

          b&

          1. Hillary’s cynicism in this regard is hard-bitten and bone-deep. It was defined by her seeing up close, while her husband was gearing up to run for president in 1992, what had happened to the presidential aspirations of some of Bill’s potential rivals — the Democratic senators who had opposed the first Gulf War — after the US-led coalition forces cruised to victory against the Iraqis in Kuwait, after the troops were welcomed home with tickertape parades, and after the country had (supposedly) exorcised the ghosts of Vietnam.

            Hillary took this as a profound lesson that the surest way to frustrate one’s ambitions for higher office, the way to instead reduce oneself to political ignominy, was to get on the wrong side of a potential American military victory.

            She hasn’t taken a chance on that happening since.

            1. And since there haven’t really been serious political repercussions for those military actions that ended in quagmire, there’s been nothing to disabuse her of this strategy.

        2. Sanders was against the various Middle Eastern wars was he not? Regardless, I fear that the President has far less power than most people realise.

          1. Yes, Marella. On all counts. Most seem to think (judging by their opinions on such matters) that the Prez is King. There is a LOT of power involved in the amassing of one’s administration, esp. if it is somewhat aligned with the military/intelligence apparatus – and a lot of power with executive orders in light of the last 30-40 years, but it is thankfully a far cry from the matters of nearly a century ago. This could change fast, though. – in a heartbeat – esp. if supply chains disintegrate, as they just might soon.

    2. … the South Vietnamese did not have the heart to fight …

      Well some of them did, the ones with the initials Victor Charlie. It was the ones with the initials ARVN — the ones whose rifles, as the old saying went, had never been fired and only dropped once — who never showed much heart for the fight. But then, given the corrupt and unpopular Vietnamese regimes they were conscripted into fighting for, that shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

  7. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in the history of the U.S.

    Don’t worry, it’s got decades more to run. Whether the US army sticks around for the denouement, is another question.
    The Russians had nearly a dozen years in Afghanistan, with an approximate body count of 70,000 Russian troops (quite comparable with Vietnam), 18,000 Afghan troops, around 150000 mujehedin of various ilks, and a million or so civilians. Are there any reasons to believe this bout will be significantly shorter or less bloody?

    1. If neither the British at the height of their powers, nor the Russian Empire could conquer Afghanistan successfully, it seems fair to say that it is unconquerable. But the military-industrial complex is happy to keep trying.

      1. The only one who managed to conquer the area of modern day Afghanistan, which had pretty much the same reputation in ancient times as it does in more modern times, was Alexander III. He managed to do it relatively peacefully, and married a local princess, Roxanna.

          1. Indeed!

            Roxanna’s beauty was legendary, though Alexander’s general’s were seriously pissed about the marriage because, well, you know how those Bactrian girls are!

            1. Me, too!! I actually tried to post this link but could only find it in German for some reason. Eddie still wailin’ in English:-). A real classic!

      2. Nothing like a military to not learn from other people’s errors.
        It’s probably something to do with that “basic training” indoctrinating them that they’re “the best unit in the world” when that patently cannot be true for more than one unit (and it’s probably the Bhutanese Tiger Stalkers).
        But don’t tell the Marines (any country’s Marines) ; it’ll disturb their implausibly high self-opinion.
        Sorry for picking on the Marines. But we have an ex-Marine Security Ossifer, and while I value his work, his incessant bullshit does grate after the first 3 seconds of acquaintance.

        1. These days, every other unit seems to be sucking the Seals’ exhaust (although you might not want to mention that to the Green Berets in Delta Force).

          Was the proud jarhead at your place of work a member of “Marine Recon” (the Marine version of the airborne)? They’re the elite of The Corps. (FWIW, GIs who have served in The Corp generally refer to themselves as “former Marines”; they can get a bit prickly about the “ex-Marine” stuff.)

  8. What does “deliberate” mean? I watched a video of a news interview with a Afghan government representative in Kabul who claimed that the attack was justified because 10-15 rebels had sought refuge in the hospital compound. The spokesman, in Oxford English, further claimed that the rebels had been successfully killed, implying that this further justified the action.
    Perhaps Afghan army units called in the strike. If the USAF ‘deliberately’ obeyed illegal Afghan orders, the Air Force (and America) was itself party to war crimes. Your posted video suggests that the fire-control officer knew well which building was a mosque and off limits. There is no reason to suspect that in the Kunduz action he did not know the building was a civilian hospital. If the US is bombing buildings without knowing or seeking to know what they are, or is aware that they are off limits and bombing them anyway, this is also a war crime.
    An almost equally serious issue, more serious to some people, is the implication that USAF combat missions have been put literally in the hands of Afghan war lords.

  9. Let me put a different perspective on this.

    Start with the video above. Now, imagine you’re a native of the land targeted by the aircraft, and, from a safe distance, you’ve just watched this scene from the ground.

    Go ahead. Picture a nearby mixed-use district, with some light industry, a strip mall nearby, some residences, a church. You’re half a mile away or so, it’s nighttime, and you’re watching death rain down from invisibly above, massive explosions falling on people desperately running away. The next day, you walk past the site, and it’s the figurative war zone — nothing but carnage and destruction left.

    Can anybody here honestly say that this is something they’d be happy to see? That they’d be thankful for the people who caused it? That it’d be a good thing?

    Now, imagine that you see your cousin’s detached and burnt head lying amidst the rubble. Sure, it’s your crazy cousin who was always ranting and raving about Teh Gheys at family gatherings…but, still, your own cousin.

    I think the overwhelming majority of us in such a situation would give very serious thought to taking up arms to try to drive out those raining death from above, even if our ideologies in the abstract bore more similarity to theirs than the local government’s.

    And now you know why you can’t win a war of ideology with bullets. Hell, every bullet you shoot only strengthens the position of your opponents…so why the fuck are we shooting more and more and more bullets!?

    b&

    1. If it was happening here, you can guess what many would say in the same vein. Yet our military and political leaders seem oblivious to it or skeptical.

      1. …even as they cite attacks against us as justification for us “strengthening our resolve.” But similar attacks against our enemies will somehow weaken their resolve? How’s that supposed to work…?

        b&

    2. “And now you know why you can’t win a war of ideology with bullets.”
      Without necessarily supporting the Afghanistan war, I have to say this doesn’t make much sense. How did the Allied powers win against Nazi or Imperial Japanese ideology? How did the North Vietnamese communists win? How did the Afghanis with American support force the Soviets out? Whether it is worth the cost in lives is a different, crucial question, but wars are won with bullets.

      Furthermore, your description of the airstrike is pretty dubious. Instead, imagine your cousin has been running around with a machine gun fighting in a civil war that’s gone back and forth through your town. Then imagine that your cousin’s side is responsible for something like 4 times as many civilian deaths as his enemies.

      None of this is to excuse civilian deaths caused by the US, but we should talk about it in realistic terms.

      1. How did the Allied powers win against Nazi or Imperial Japanese ideology?

        They didn’t. They didn’t defeat the ideology at all.

        They bombed the fucking shit out of the Nazis to the point that there weren’t enough Nazis left to stop the Allies from doing as they pleased — which was imprisoning and / or hanging any remaining Nazis they could get their hands on. And we fucking nuked the Japanese, twice, with the promise that we’d keep nuking them until there weren’t any Japanese left unless they agreed to do as we said.

        We defeated the Nazi and Imperial Japanese people.

        Not their ideology.

        Big, big difference.

        Defeating a people isn’t much of a challenge these days. We could do it in minutes in the Middle East if we wanted. But not an ideology.

        …with a footnote, of course. Defeat a people, truly defeat them, and their ideology dies with them. But only as an afterthought.

        b&

        1. The ideology of the Japanese is rising again. They can’t hope to win a war against China or the USA, but they knew that last time and still decided to go for it. I don’t mean to suggest that Japan is a threat at this time, but I think it would be naive suggest that it never would be again. The ideology that moved them in the past is not gone.

          1. Oh, dear. Forgive me for asking, Marella, but are you American? I don’t want to sound anti-American, but as an outsider – a Briton who has lived for over forty years in Japan and who came, as a result of the accession to power of G.W. Bush and his merry men to have an interest in American politics – I find quite extraordinary the obsession many Americans seem to have with possible ‘threats’. And this obsession with threats feeds a thoroughly unpleasant American nationalism. Yes, Japan has the most right-wing government in power since World War II, and, yes, Abe is someone whose politics I loathe, and, yes, there is a very nasty chauvinistic right in Japan… but ‘THEY can’t hope to win a war against China or the USA, but THEY knew that last time… The ideology that moved THEM in the past…’ Who the devil is ‘THEY’? – plenty of Japanese people are strongly opposed to what Abe and his lot are doing, people have been demonstrating in the streets for weeks- the Japanese people are not some sort of monolithic non-Caucasian THEY who all think the same thing and are apt to run amok and treacherously attack unsuspecting and right-minded Caucasian Americans at the drop of a hat, and they never have been.

            1. I am not American, I am Australian; and while I am Caucasian I lived in Asia for 5 years and recently visited Japan. I watch world events with interest and I am aware that the Japanese ideology which caused their suicidal entry into WWII never died. I am sure that what you say is true, but they (sorry about the pronoun which you so dislike but saying “the Japanese” over and over is clumsy) will act in the region as a nation not as individuals. As an Australian I have, perhaps, a cultural memory of Japanese aggression which makes me pay them rather more attention than the English feel the need to. I think you inferred rather more from my brief comment than was intended.

              1. I might say that I had two uncles (by marriage), who were caught by the Japanese in Sarawak. One of them was made to dig his own grave and shot into it. The other spent the whole war in a prison camp. So I have a bit of ‘cultural’ memory, in addition to having lived for a long time in Japan and having in consequence a loathing for Japanese chauvinists – but then again, chauvinists are much the same anywhere and I dislike the British and American varieties just as much.

        2. They bombed the fucking shit out of the Nazis to the point that there weren’t enough Nazis left to stop the Allies from doing as they pleased …

          Actually, the Wehrmacht was broken on the Eastern Front, at the cost of some 24 million Russian (and other Soviet) lives.

          The Allied forces that fought their way from Normandy across the Siegfried Line and on into Berlin, and the British and US bomber and fighter squadrons that flew so many parlous missions over Germany, fought nobly, under often extreme conditions, in many harsh engagements. But none of that would have been possible if the German Army hadn’t been utterly destroyed in the meat-grinders of Stalingrad and Kursk and the other battlefields up and down the Eastern Front.

          Like I said: 24,000,000 Soviet dead, soldiers and civilians alike. (Accounting for almost half the total casualties incurred by all participants in the war.)

          No wonder in Russia it’s known as “The Great Patriotic War.”

    3. I confess to being quite as appalled by that video as by the photograph of gay men being thrown to their deaths by ISIS.

      1. Indeed, we should be even more appalled, for the people in the gunship are acting in our name and at the orders of the government that is, ostensibly, of We the People.

        b&

        1. “Indeed, we should be even more appalled”

          I’m sorry but I think that’s ridiculous. You’d have a point if those gunships were intentionally targeting people who’s only “crime” was being gay. You can certainly argue that we shouldn’t be there, or that we should put our soldiers in harms way to so we’re less likely to inflict “collateral damage”. But morally equating those two cases, just make me shake my head in amazement.

          1. I don’t think the dead, dying, injured, and their families care much that they’re the victims of American “collateral damage” as opposed to Islamists. Would you?

            b&

            1. “I don’t think the dead, dying, injured, and their families care much that they’re the victims of American “collateral damage” as opposed to Islamists.”

              No, I don’t expect they do, but unlike them we’re in a position to understand the difference. At least some of us do.

              1. When you understand that no, there really isn’t a difference, despite all the lies told to excuse the evil we do, you’ll understand why such an high bar is morally required before war can be justified…and why that bar hasn’t been cleared at least since WWII.

                To begin, you might harken back to a lesson you obviously didn’t learn in childhood: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

                b&

              2. “When you understand that no, there really isn’t a difference, despite all the lies told to excuse the evil we do, you’ll understand why such an high bar is morally required before war can be justified…and why that bar hasn’t been cleared at least since WWII.”

                I never claimed it was justified, I said there’s a difference. Just as there is a difference between someone walking up to you and intentionally putting a bullet in your head, and someone accidentally running you over with their car. Even if they were drinking and driving. The former is more appalling than the latter.

              3. Just as there is a difference between someone walking up to you and intentionally putting a bullet in your head, and someone accidentally running you over with their car. Even if they were drinking and driving.

                As somebody who was recently rear-ended by a drunk, who got beat up real bad several years ago by a speeding idiot in an SUV yakking on a cellphone who rear-ended me on my bike, and more…

                …let me assure you.

                No.

                There’s no difference.

                Moments of incoherent terror, followed by days, weeks, months, or more trying to put your life back together again.

                After that woman rear-ended me on the bike, I had months of literal torture, the most excruciating pain imaginable as the therapist tried to make my arm move right again. Had I secrets to tell, I’d have told them after the first session. And then surgery, more therapy and more torture…and I’m fully recovered and have been for quite some time. But that torture….

                b&

              4. “There’s no difference.”

                I don’t understand why I have to keep clarifying what I’m saying. I know you aren’t stupid. Certainly from a strictly consequential perspective there is no difference from the perspective of the victim, dead is dead, but to argue there is no moral difference is silly. No rational person would argue the drunk driver, and the assassin (from my example) are guilty of equally appalling acts. Even if the driver killed 10 schoolkids on a bus no one would suggest (except perhaps the families of the victims who are overcome with grief) that he should receive the death penalty, or even life in prison.

              5. You apparently haven’t been paying attention to me and Jerry on the subject of (the illusory and / or incoherent nature of) “Free Will” and its relationship to criminal justice and moral culpability.

                I wouldn’t sanction the death penalty for either. And I really would treat the both the same: do whatever is necessary to ensure that the person no longer poses a similar threat to others, but do no more than whatever is necessary.

                I’d naïvely think that it’s more likely that enforced quarantine (prison) is going to fit the bill for those who commit intentional forms of murder rather than accidental ones…but it’s not difficult to come up with circumstances where that’s reversed. The battered spouse who kills her abusive husband is unlikely to kill anybody else again, but the habitual drunk driver may well keep driving drunk, license revocation or no.

                The only way to justify a difference between your reaction to the two…is to give free rein to your bloodlust.

                Sam Harris addresses this often. One instance is towards the bottom of this response to Dan Dennett:

                http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-marionettes-lament

                There’s an even more-to-the-point example he gives of a person who does something horrific because of a brain tumor, another who does something equally horrific because of the manipulations of an evil neurosurgeon, and another who does something equally horrific but for some other reason. I couldn’t find it; maybe my description will trigger a recollection in somebody else who will find it…?

                b&

              6. “You apparently haven’t been paying attention to me and Jerry on the subject of (the illusory and / or incoherent nature of) “Free Will” and its relationship to criminal justice and moral culpability.”

                Now I’m shaking my head in disbelief. YOU were the one who initially said the gun ship video was more appalling than the gays being thrown off roofs video. So you judge moral culpability when it suits you, and then say because we have no free will there is no such thing. Since there is no free will there are no different levels of appalling, both things just are what they are. Nothing right, or wrong about either. I don’t think that’s actually what you believe because again you were the one who said otherwise.

              7. ‘You apparently haven’t been paying attention to me and Jerry on the subject of (the illusory and / or incoherent nature of) “Free Will” and its relationship to criminal justice and moral culpability.’

                Here we go again. Everyone has to pay attention to Ben, and as happens all too often Ben goes on a Gish gallop filled with inconsistencies, non sequiturs and wild accusations.

              8. What inconsistencies? What Gish Gallop?

                I’ve been consistently and vociferously pacifist in my writings on this Web site, and for decades before that. Indeed, the last thing I can remember writing in an hawkish vein…was as a twelve-year-old in an history class when I wrote a justification of the nuclear attacks on Japan in WWII, and I’m still ashamed of what I wrote then to this day. Everything I’ve written about in this thread has been the horrors of war and why we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Where’s the inconsistency?

                And, really? I’m somehow insisting that everybody pay attention to me if I make reference to a topic that I’ve spilled thousands of electrons about and that our host has spilled at least as many thousands of electrons about? Is it all that unreasonable to expect that a frequent poster here might at least vaguely recognize that I’m one of the ones who keeps calling for prison reform and abolition of the death penalty at the same time that he’s defending the status quo?

                b&

              9. !

                I think also it would be better if you spoke for yourself without availing yourself of Jerry’s authority.

              10. Did you read why I wrote that we should find the attack on the hospital more horrific than the image of the people being tossed off the building?

                Let me remind you: because we’re the ones responsible for the attack on the hospital. At least partly responsible. Were we faithful Muslims in Saudi Arabia, I’d invert it.

                It’s one thing to be horrified at the brutality that others commit. But when the blood is on your own hands? How can you not be more horrified?

                b&

              11. I’m being silly for expressing horror and outrage at atrocities committed in my name and with my tax dollars? Or for suggesting one should feel more horror and outrage for those atrocities in which one shares responsibility than atrocities over which one has no control?

                Or maybe I’m just being silly for being horrified and outraged at war in the first place?

                What, exactly, makes you think I’m being silly? And why are you so eager for my silence?

                b&

              12. You have expressed a great deal more than that, Ben. Perhaps you should read what you write.

              13. And that’s where I’m going to leave it, I’m afraid. I’m not very fond of this kind of squabble (‘squabble’, because I do not want to say ‘argument’).

              14. Oh, and let me make a couple things clear so you don’t continue to misrepresent, or attempt to smear me with you “blood lust” BS. I’m a determinist, I’m opposed to the death penalty, and I don’t support the use of gunships in residential neighborhoods where innocents can be killed. That doesn’t change the fact that some things are more appalling (your word) than others.

    4. “Can anybody here honestly say that this is something they’d be happy to see? That they’d be thankful for the people who caused it? That it’d be a good thing?”

      If the people being targeted were those who would throw my innocent gay neighbors off roofs, then hell yeah it would be a good thing, even if it meant my life was part of the “collateral damage”.

      1. Are you suggesting that the lives of gay men are worth more than the lives of doctors? Or that the death of a soldier in an hospital is worth more than the lives of the doctors trying to heal him?

        You’re certainly claiming that the most effective way to stop people in Iraq from throwing gay men off buildings is to bomb the fucking shit out of hospitals in Afghanistan. Do I need to further address the absurd horror of such atavistic illogic?

        You’re not calling for a solution to the problem of violence in the Middle East. You’re urging us to satiate your own bloodlust.

        b&

        1. “Are you suggesting that the lives of gay men are worth more than the lives of doctors?”

          That’s not something I even implied, you either misread, or are intentionally misrepresenting me.I’ll assume the former. What I’m suggesting there is no moral equivalence between intentionally throwing innocent people off buildings, and unintentionally killing innocents when attempting to kill bad guys. Your implication sounds like one of the Greenwald types when they equate Hamas intentionally targeting civilians, and Israel responding while attempting to avoid killing civilians (assuming they do). One is certainly more appalling than the other, unless all that matters to you is body count.
          As far as the rest of your comment it again has nothing to do with anything I actually said.

      2. Can we stop this one-on-one argument? As usual, nobody is going to change their minds, so we have people dominating a thread with a personal discussion. Remember the rule: your comments should constitute no more thatn 10% of a thread except on special occasions.

  10. I too want to see an independent investigation.

    Also, although I’ve been told that the US ignores it, there’s the Nuremberg principle too – if the conflict itself is illegal, then *anything* that happens is a war crime.

    1. Yes the US and many of its govt and military officials are guilty of War Crimes. However unless they stupidly go over seas to certain places they are otherwise immune.

  11. The war in Vietnam most certainly did not teach us anything. To repeat the same mistake twice again in Iraq and Afghanistan is the proof of this inability to learn or even understand with all the hindsight available.

    Committing your military to war or conflict, whatever you want to call it, requires a full understanding of what you are getting into. This was totally lacking in all three of these conflicts. Also knowing specifically what you intend to achieve with this commitment, must be fully explained to your people so that they are with you on this engagement. None of this was done and no real thought went into any of these disasters. It should be no surprise that the outcome would be the same as well.

    Notice in all three cases, the congress did not declare war. Why is this so? Because congress failed to do its job and simply allowed the executive to plunge ahead into darkness. Nobody takes responsibility for any of it.

      1. Au contraire, the Korean War was a success in that it preserved the independence of South Korea. Would Mr. Goren like to argue that what is now South Korea would have been better off of the US had stayed out and the country was taken over by North Korea? Mr. Goren, you are approaching Glenn Greenwald territory.

        1. Yes, we can look back on Korea and say it was a win. Interesting that lots of folks thought otherwise until the mess in Vietnam showed what losing was really like. We went into Korea because the North attacked the south and attempted to simply take it over. We prevented this and returned to the before war lines. That was our purpose, although a certain General MacArthur attempted to turn it into something else. Thankfully, Truman fired the bastard and the proper strategy was returned.

          We had no strategy in Vietnam other than to fight communist aggression. That is not a proper reason or purpose for war.

          1. We prevented this and returned to the before war lines.

            Not before the UN troops took a run all the way up north to the Yalu River — then got pushed back to the south. (There are still former marines who fought at the Chosen Reservoir that you can ask about that.) After first moving down the Korean peninsula (to the Pusan perimeter) then all the way up to the Chinese border, then back down again, the fighting stalemated near the old North/South border. This represented a success of sorts for the UN forces, in that it ultimately recovered the territory the South initially lost during the North’s attack. But it wasn’t a “victory.” The Korean War didn’t even end in a peace treaty, but merely an armistice, one that remains in effect to this day, which is why there’s still a “demilitarized zone” broaching the 38th parallel between the North and South.

        2. A major difference between Korea and Vietnam is that the former had front lines, which is the case in traditional warfare. Vietnam was a guerrilla war without front lines. American forces did not know who or where the enemy was. Guerrilla insurgences are much more difficult to win than traditional wars because it is often the case that the people you are supposedly defending often are sympathetic to the other side. Thus, when the Americans and South Koreans stabilized the boundary between North and South at essentially the pre-war position, it was legitimate for the Americans to say that their war aims were accomplished.

          In Iraq and Afghanistan, artificial countries created by the western powers, there is much more tribal or ethnic affiliation than national loyalty. Iraq was held together only under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. It should not be surprising that both countries have fallen apart. Vietnam supposedly taught the U.S. that it cannot be policeman to the world. Bush and Cheney either never learned the lesson, forgotten the lesson, or rejected the lesson. They created a quagmire worse than Vietnam, and it is one that the U.S. cannot extricate itself from. There can be legitimate reasons for a nation to fight. World War II is a classic example. But, there are wars that even the world’s preeminent superpower cannot win. Will we now have learned that lesson? I somehow doubt it.

          1. Vietnam actually had two enemy forces to deal with, the standard north Vietnam army and the VC or Viet Cong that were spread all over in the south. It made the ability to take and hole areas extremely difficult. They also had an air force who flew Russian fighters. You did not see any of this in these more current conflicts.

            There were not many large battles between our forces but when there were, we had the air power and so forth to win those. But as a well known general in the North said to some of our military after the conflict when told – every time we engaged in large battles we beat you, and he said yes, but that is irrelevant. You can have the tactics to win a battle but if you do not have a strategy (a plan to win the conflict) you are just wasting time.

            During the Tet offensive in 1968 the north committed most all of their VC and lost a big portion of these people. They were sacrificed for the greater good. The American people turned against the conflict in great numbers after this offensive. If you are looking for a turning point or awakening period for this war, the Tet was it.

          2. I shall merely say that Historian is arguing responsibly, whereas Ben, with his flood of unfounded accusations and complaints that people haven’t been paying proper attention to him and every word he has written, is once again not being responsible.

        3. The Korean War? A success? With a Supreme Leader still to this day ruling with an iron fist in Pyongyang, still lobbing artillery over the DMZ?

          With victories like that, who needs defeat?

          b&

          1. The aim of the war was to drive the North Koreans and later their Chinese allies out of South Korea so that it could retain its independence. This was accomplished. President Truman enunciated this aim and it was also supported by President Eisenhower who ended the war on these terms in July 1953.

            To terminate the North Korean regime would have meant a very protracted war with China and possibly the Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons may have had to be used. General MacArthur was willing to risk this. Truman was not and relieved MacArthur. Wikipedia puts it this way.

            “On 11 April 1951, Commander-in-Chief Truman relieved the controversial General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander in Korea. There were several reasons for the dismissal. MacArthur had crossed the 38th parallel in the mistaken belief that the Chinese would not enter the war, leading to major allied losses. He believed that whether or not to use nuclear weapons should be his own decision, not the President’s. MacArthur threatened to destroy China unless it surrendered. While MacArthur felt total victory was the only honorable outcome, Truman was more pessimistic about his chances once involved in a land war in Asia, and felt a truce and orderly withdrawal from Korea could be a valid solution. MacArthur was the subject of congressional hearings in May and June 1951, which determined that he had defied the orders of the President and thus had violated the U.S. Constitution. A popular criticism of MacArthur was that he never spent a night in Korea, and directed the war from the safety of Tokyo.”

            So, based on your comment it seems that you would have been perfectly happy with the U.S. continuing a war with the Chinese army, risking Soviet intervention, and possibly using nuclear weapons to effect the elimination of the North Korean regime. But, perhaps I misunderstand you. Would you have preferred the sacrifice of the South Korean people who actually did not want to fall under North Korean rule? Some wars are worth fighting and some are not. This one was worth fighting.

            The war did not result in a traditional victory (the unconditional surrender of the enemy), but such victories in a nuclear age are not likely to happen very often. The United States (under United Nations auspices) accomplished its goal. Unlike Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan the war was fought with front lines, i.e. it was a conventional war and the South Koreans supported the effort as did most of the non-communist world. This is why South Korea was saved. Indeed, the war was a success.

            1. The aim of the war was to drive the North Koreans and later their Chinese allies out of South Korea so that it could retain its independence.

              No, it wasn’t. Were that the case, we wouldn’t have driven the North back to the Chinese border; we would have stopped as soon as we reached the original border with the north.

              So, based on your comment it seems that you would have been perfectly happy with the U.S. continuing a war with the Chinese army, risking Soviet intervention, and possibly using nuclear weapons to effect the elimination of the North Korean regime.

              What the fuckity fucking fuck?

              Have you read nothing I’ve written on this site on the subject of war?

              We never should have set foot in Korea in the first place, we shouldn’t have stayed there, we never should have escalated, we should have withdrawn. The whole thing was a giant clusterfuck that we had no business going anywhere near.

              And you think my observation that we lost that war somehow means that I would have preferred nuclear annihilation instead?

              Fuck!

              b&

              1. You neglected to include the next sentences in my comment: “But, perhaps I misunderstand you. Would you have preferred the sacrifice of the South Korean people who actually did not want to fall under North Korean rule?” The answer is obviously yes.

                My previous sentences that you quoted were sarcastic, but you didn’t pick up on this. No matter how many times you use the word “fuck,” the fact is that despite whatever were the motives of the Truman administration including the wisdom of invading the North, South Korea survived and prospered. I don’t know if you would or would not call yourself a pacifist, but I am not. In a world of bad people, sometimes military force is necessary to counter their actions. Each situation must be evaluated on its own merits. That is why I opposed the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I think the South Korean people would be horrified at just the thought of what would have happened if the United States and the United Nations had followed your advice.

              2. You neglected to include the next sentences in my comment: “But, perhaps I misunderstand you. Would you have preferred the sacrifice of the South Korean people who actually did not want to fall under North Korean rule?” The answer is obviously yes.

                What we have here is failure to communicate.

                You’re so spectacularly misinterpreting everything I’m writing in order to twist me into some caricature that fits your self-admittedly hawkish bloodthirsty agenda that there’s no point in me continuing to participate in this discussion.

                I’ll just leave you with two observations.

                According to the logic you’re putting forth, the US is remiss in failing to give the same “support” to those in Ukraine that we gave a few generations ago to those in Korea.

                Just because you wish things were different doesn’t mean that you have actions available to you that will make them better.

                b&

          2. But that was not the mission or purpose. No plan was ever developed by our people that said destruction of the North Korean leader was the goal or plan. The sudden and surprise attack by North Korea caught the U.S. with its pants
            down but Truman said we would defend South Korea and that is what we did. In hindsight the war could have been over in about a year or not long after the Inchon landing. But the old general was feeling good and he wanted to go north. Truman should have acted sooner but he didn’t and the result was the conflict got worse and the Chinese came in big time. But without going over the complete conflict, the object, which was to remove the north from the south and stop the communist aggression. The fact that it was simply a cease-fire that continues to this day makes no difference. It was not a declared war either.

            Hell, if Truman had not stopped the general from going on we would have been going nuclear back in 1951.

            1. But the old general was feeling good and he wanted to go north. Truman should have acted sooner but he didn’t and the result was the conflict got worse and the Chinese came in big time. But without going over the complete conflict, the object, which was to remove the north from the south and stop the communist aggression.

              The original object may well have been to drive the North from the South…but, as your preceding sentence (that I quoted) makes clear, that changed. We decided to turn it into a land grab and successfully, pretty much, conquered the North.

              And that’s the war that we lost, and lost big time.

              …never mind that intervening in a civil war is one of the most idiotic and generally unjustifiable things you can do in the first place, especially when you’re projecting force into a prime rival’s border nation. Can you imagine what would have happened recently had we provided the same “support” to Ukraine as we did to the Koreans? Is it any surprise that we got our asses handed to us in Korea and nearly started WWIII in the process?

              b&

              1. I had not been thinking of that but believe the doctrine you speak of was more a journalistic phrase regarding items that Powell had put down as a necessary checklist. He would be first to say that most of it did not originate with him and goes way back. Carl Von Clausewitz spelled most of it out in is book, On War written in the 1800s. Being rejected by Bush on matters of war is but a temporary and very stupid action but there would be nothing permanent about it. The requirements such as clear objectives, cost, risk, support of the people, exit and many more are all necessary items to know before any commitment of forces. Know your enemy is very high on the list and we don’t bother with that in any of these more recent conflicts and did not in Vietnam.

              2. Sorry Ben, that posting should have gone in a different place, My mistake.

                However, I must say, the idea that we almost conquered the North in the Korean War is simply not true. After reaching the Yalu river which the Chinese very clearly told us not to do, they came into the War and began pushing our forces out of the north. General MacArthur went into full scale panic as the Marines were trapped in the Chosin area and everything went down hill. The general wanted to use Nukes north of the Yalu. He was relieved of command and others had to clean up his mess.

                Unless you are willing to say yes, lets go to war with China and probably Russia, the idea that we were going to take North Korea in that conflict is just not there.

              3. Unless you are willing to say yes, lets go to war with China and probably Russia, the idea that we were going to take North Korea in that conflict is just not there.

                Again, again, again: I find war horrific and virtually never justifiable, especially in the circumstances of the Korean War, most especially escalation, most emphatically especially to the point of nuclear holocaust.

                But your own post alludes to the point that the goal of the war was, indeed, total conquest of all of Korea by American forces. As Wikipedia puts it:

                On 27 September, MacArthur received the top secret National Security Council Memorandum 81/1 from Truman reminding him that operations north of the 38th parallel were authorized only if “at the time of such operation there was no entry into North Korea by major Soviet or Chinese Communist forces, no announcements of intended entry, nor a threat to counter our operations militarily…

                And, indeed, even despite subsequent Chinese threats a few days later, we seized Pyongyang anyway — and this was after demanding unconditional surrender from the North. We were within scores of miles of the Chinese border, had the Seventh Fleet positioned offshore, and MacArthur was even preparing to cross the Chinese border itself, with, as you note, nuclear arms if need be.

                We had, in other words, successfully invaded and seized North Korea.

                If the aim of the war was merely to push the North back to the 38th Parallel, then what the fuck were we doing in Pyongyang? You don’t just accidentally conquer an entire nation.

                So, no. Sorry. Whatever our initial goals were, whether nobly coming to the aid of an underdog to preserve their freedom or using their call for help as cover for a naked land grab…in the end our goal was what we so clearly accomplished: total control of the North Korean peninsula.

                And what happened after the North was ours?

                As I wrote earlier: we got our asses handed to us, in a brutally devastating rout. We let ourselves get suckered into an ambush, got cocky, and paid the price in rivers of blood.

                We lost a war we never should have been in in the first place.

                Just as we lost the Vietnam war, and never should have been there in the first place.

                Just as we’ve already lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two places we never should have been in in the first place. Only, nobody’s admitting yet that we’ve already lost those wars, when it’s so bloody fucking obvious we already have.

                Ever since WWII, the US military has had the reverse Midas touch: everywhere we go, everything turns to shit.

                b&

          3. Also, from what I understand SK was basically a military dictatorship until 1987 or so. Yes, NK was far worse, but one cannot claim the US ally as a “democracy” until then. (Of course, they were good capitalists, so …)

            I might add that growing up that was almost never discussed, either. And Canada was involved in the original war!

            1. Yes, it was basically a military dictatorship under Park Chung-Hee, but at no time did it get close to resembling the truly awful regime to the North. On the day after in Park’s assassination in 1979, I was with an elderly Korean artist who lived in Tokyo and was holding an exhibition there. I have never seen anyone so filled with delight in my life as this artist (I think he lived in Japan because he was so politically opposed to Park’s regime.) His reaction was an eye-opener to the not very experienced young man I was then. After Park’s assassination, South Korea evolved fairly rapidly into a sort of democracy. Park’s daughter, incidentally, is the present president of South Korea. Pace Ben, MacArthur is one of the people in history I most dislike (I once played him in a historical drama on Japanese television, so learned a bit about him); the invasion of the North was a typically foolish and vainglorious action on his part, and the American government was foolish in being persuaded by him, but the South Korean people and the Japanese people, including myself, who live in Japan, are very thankful indeed that the whole of the Korean peninsula is not under the control of Pyonyang. I think that the decision not to allow Pyonyang to take over the whole country was the correct one.

    1. Committing your military to war or conflict … requires a full understanding of what you are getting into. … Also knowing specifically what you intend to achieve with this commitment …

      What you describe is the “Powell Doctrine.” Unfortunately, it was abandoned after 9/11, when Secretary Powell’s advice was outvoted at the cabinet level and rejected by the commander-in-chief. Once this fateful decision was made, Secretary Powell(loyal soldier that he always was) joined in support for decision to go to war, and was even coopted into giving that bogus WMD speech before the UN.

      1. I had not been thinking of that but believe the doctrine you speak of was more a journalistic phrase regarding items that Powell had put down as a necessary checklist. He would be first to say that most of it did not originate with him and goes way back. Carl Von Clausewitz spelled most of it out in is book, On War written in the 1800s. Being rejected by Bush on matters of war is but a temporary and very stupid action but there would be nothing permanent about it. The requirements such as clear objectives, cost, risk, support of the people, exit and many more are all necessary items to know before any commitment of forces. Know your enemy is very high on the list and we don’t bother with that in any of these more recent conflicts and did not in Vietnam.

        1. What came to be known as the “Powell doctrine” was formulated during the first Gulf War, the combined efforts of several people serving in the Bush I administration, including then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. The doctrine was a direct reaction to the debacle in Vietnam, and reflected in no small measure Powell’s personal experience commanding combat troops during his two tours of duty there — just as Clausewitz’s theories reflected his experience during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century. (Powell and many other top American military leaders have been heavily influenced by Clausewitz’s theories in On War.)

  12. I don’t believe bombing the hospital was an accident (although I think killing DWB workers was). We’ve attacked hospitals before, usually with the excuse that insurgents ran in there or that the doctors were treating insurgents and thus aiding the enemy. (But those doctors were Afghan, so they don’t matter.)

    We have a policy of killing civilians who try to help people we suspect of being insurgents. For example, when we do “double taps”, which is when we do a drone strike on a suspected insurgent and then we wait around and do a drone strike on anyone who tries to help the wounded: paramedics, passers-by, etc. Sends a message, I suppose.

    (And often we’re not even sure whom we’re killing. Consider our policy of doing “signature strikes”, which is when we kill people simply for being military-age males.)

    I doubt there will be an independent investigation because Obama opposes one.

    1. You can certainly believe whatever you want but the idea that the U.S. is purposely bombing hospitals is crazy. If you have evidence of this “policy” I’m sure many would like to hear it.

  13. I’m still horrified that the US appears to have learned nothing from Vietnam War. All that death and destruction and anti-war protests and the longest US war. Then idiotic Macnamara admits just before his death that it was all a big mistake. How those war veterans must have felt hearing that. And the gall of George Bush to start this war having grown up during the Vietnam era.

    So here we are. Obama thinks something can be militarily accomplished in Afghanistan even after the Russians got hammered there. We’ve accomplished very little and now he wants to play out the clock until out of office. For shame Obama.

    It’s hard for America to see injustice abroad and to do nothing about it. To not intervene. To admit there’s little to be done for a failed state or its suffering people.

    1. “Then idiotic Macnamara admits just before his death that it was all a big mistake.”

      Alas, it was even worse than that. By now it is clear, from multiple sources including McNamara’s own words, that the war continued for years after he and many of the chief architects of the war had concluded that it could not be won. When McNamara left the administration, he was richly rewarded for not going public with his misgivings. And the war ground on and on.

      This is a theme with variations that will play over and over until the US finally loses a war with existential consequences. How many people in today’s administration actually believe that “winning” today’s conflicts is possible or even definable? If Obama is doing a Lyndon Johnson re-enactment, who is playing McNamara today? Does he (or she) already know that the bombing of the hospital at Kunduz, however it happened, was in furtherance of a lost cause, or will that only be understood a bit later? How many more will die before reality sets in? And how much will the book deals be worth when the war-makers are free to tell their story?

      1. The most cynical player of all, however, was Richard Nixon. Before he decided to run for president in ’68, Nixon acknowledged to his closest henchmen that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable. He then campaigned on a non-existent “secret plan” to end the war with honor.

        When LBJ was on the verge of working out a peace accord just before the ’68 election, Nixon snaked the deal to ensure his victory over VP Hubert Humphrey, using the dragon-like Madame Chiang Kai-Sheck as his envoy to the government of South Vietnam to promise those corrupt bastards a better deal after Nixon was elected.

        Then Nixon continued the war for another four years — during which 30,000 more Americans, and a literally uncountable number of Southeast Asians (victims of the fighting in the South, Nixon’s escalated bombing in the North, and his illegal incursions into Cambodia and Laos) were killed — before finally capitulating to a deal (announced just in time to assure his ’72 reelection, though not actually executed until months later) essentially on the same terms that had been available since the day he took office but which, by this late date, merely sealed our South Vietnamese ally’s abject defeat. (It would have been more honorable — more honest, less bloody — to have convinced the South to accept an unconditional surrender on the spot.)

        And to think that American big-wigs from across the nation, including President Bill Clinton, hightailed it to Yorba Linda to give this resigned-in-disgrace miserable prick a quasi-state funeral, including an illegal 21-howitzer salute. Enough to make the patriots among us retch.

  14. What a tragedy, as the entire war has been. No good has come out of the war and it looks like Afghanistan will continue to suffer long into the future whether we are there or not.

    I personally have no experience with war, but my brothers did. One served in Bosnia the other in Iraq. My elder brother, who was Lt. Colonel in the army (and who was against the war in Iraq), related that it was common practice for combatants to use mosques, schools and hospitals as places of refuge and from which they launched attacks. The RPG that hit my brother’s vehicle (and which he received a purple heart) was fired from a mosque.

    So while the DWB have claimed that there were no fighters on their grounds (and I have no reason to doubt them) I also would not be in the least surprised to find out they were wrong.

  15. Don’t drink the Kool Aid. The attack on the hospital was deliberate. When the taliban had control of the country they brought an end to opium production. They burned the crops and told the farmers grow food or we’ll be back to burn the opium again. Now that the U.S. is in control not only are the farmers growing opium they now refine it into heroin right under our noses. The Taliban may use some sketchy tactics as did Saddam Hussein but the end seemed to justify the means.

    1. Did you just say that the Taliban ends justified its means? Really? Why, because it curbed opium production? What about its awful human-rights abuses of the Afghan people (and its wanton destruction of Afghan antiquities on religious grounds)?

      Are you claiming that the Taliban’s affording safe haven to bin Laden and al-Qaeda to launch their terrorist acts across the globe was somehow justified?

      And you claim others are drinking the Kool-Aid …

  16. I would recommend taking a look at the small book that Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz wrote. Nawaz said that Obama operates like they are fighting a gang, like some organized crime ring. Unless they develop a strategy to discredit Islamism and the ideology that breeds these groups, they will not win.

  17. I think suggestions the attack was deliberate are conspiracy theories. Who would benefit from it?

    But it was such an egregious blunder that a genuine investigation is more than warranted. You don’t just say ‘Oops, sorry’ and walk away.

    Having said that, Obama’s apology is welcome, necessary** and unusual. It normally takes at least 30 years before apologies are made in such circumstances. (Has the US Navy offically apologised yet for shooting down the Iranian Airbus?) It seems that the official mentality (not confined to the US military, it’s widespread) is somehow an admission they were, like, in the wrong. I expect there are people in the Pentagon busy carving Obama’s name on bullets for that. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    (** ‘necessary’ doesn’t mean it happens very often, though).

    cr

    1. I think suggestions the attack was deliberate are conspiracy theories. Who would benefit from it?

      The way it’s being described all over the places, Afghan forces called on the US to blow the fucking shit out of the building, and the US forces obligingly did so.

      When you ask what the Afghan forces would benefit from blowing the fucking shit out of an hospital in which wounded Taliban soldiers were very likely receiving treatment, the question pretty much answers itself.

      b&

      1. The American brass that authorized the AC-130 attack, and the personnel manning the gunship, plainly did not know that the building to be fired upon was a hospital.

        Not only would US forces have had nothing to gain from such an attack, the US rules of engagement expressly prohibit any such attacks, except where the hospital is being actively used by the enemy to fire upon (or launch attacks upon) friendly positions — and then only after adequate warnings have been issued at least affording non-combatants within the opportunity to vacate the building.

        1. The American brass that authorized the AC-130 attack, and the personnel manning the gunship, plainly did not know that the building to be fired upon was a hospital.

          But they did! MSF supplied them with the coordinates and regularly updated them on the building’s status.

          Now, maybe the Afghan soldiers who called in the airstrike didn’t bother to tell the Americans that it was an hospital…but if we’re simply bombing the fucking shit out of places on the say-so of the Afghan army without double-checking the coordinates they’re giving us…well, that’s just so wrong and evil on so many levels.

          Not only would US forces have had nothing to gain from such an attack

          Not the US forces! The Afghan forces, the ones who radioed for the strike, had plenty to gain, nothing to lose, and no reason to be upset even now in the aftermath.

          b&

  18. Candidate Obama was correct in 2008 when he said that Afghanistan was the correct offensive for the US to launch in the Fall of 2001 after the 911 attacks. (The initial stages of that offensive were very successful, both in chasing out al-Queda fighter and in removing the Taliban leadership from power, and coalition forces were initially greeted as liberators by a large segment of the Afghan population.)

    Candidate Obama was also correct in 2008 when he said that the US had erred gravely by taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan — first by letting bin Laden escape from Tora Bora, then by shifting concentration and resources to the adventurism in Iraq.

    Problem is, by the time Obama took office in 2009 and began the recommitment to fighting in Afghanistan, the facts on the ground were much changed, and Afghanistan had again become the quagmire that has historically served as the graveyard for so many foreign military campaigns.

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