I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: airstrikes kill civilians. It is what they are designed to do: destroy infrastructure that is operated mostly by civilians.
I hadn’t got as far as writing about what Russia were up to in Syria and why the UK government is so cross about it (it’s because fighters trained by us were targeted and we may have special forces embedded with them) before NATO destroyed a hospital in the middle of the night in Afghanistan. Médecins Sans Frontières personnel were killed as were patients.
I am always amazed by the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) personnel. Imagine doing all those years in university studying to be a doctor or even a surgeon and then, instead of going off to do a job that pays very well indeed, going to some hell-hole and making a difference to people’s lives. It is an incredibly generous gift they make of their time, comfort, skills and earning potential. When the government says you shouldn’t go somewhere on holiday because of disease or war, that is where they go. As an organisation they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for their humanitarian work around the world.
They do amazing work under incredible pressures and stress. For example, here is an account of a trauma hospital having to deal with the effects of local fighting:
“By midday our hospital was on the front line, with fighting right outside the gate. Bullets have come into the hospital, some even through the roof of the intensive care unit. But despite being in the middle of the fighting, our hospital and staff have been respected and we’ve been able to carry on our work. We’ve received 296 wounded patients, including 64 children. Most have gunshot wounds from being caught in the crossfire. The hospital has been completely full of patients. We normally have a capacity of 92 beds, but we expanded immediately and increased the number of beds to 150. There have been patients in the offices, in the examination rooms, and being stabilised on mattresses on the floor.”
Dr Masood Nasim
Nine Médecins Sans Frontières personnel were killed in the NATO airstrike and 19 more wounded, along with 18 others.
The airstrike was against the trauma hospital being described above.
In the last five days this hospital in Kabul had treated 394 people in near front-line conditions. In about 75 minutes, the six waves of bombs in the airstrike caused 46 more and prevented the treatment of future casualties by gutting the buildings; they were still burning in morning.
What a marvellous night’s work, bringing peace and hope to the region, uniting people of violently contrasting views, bringing people together despite their differences … by bombing and killing civilians. How much long-term damage has this caused by creating hatred?
Good job here were no boots on the ground. A soldier might have got hurt, instead of doctors and nurses, and without a hospital, how would they get treatment?
“No humanitarian can make war. And no humanitarian can make peace. These are political responsibilities, not humanitarian imperatives.”
Dr. James Orbinski, Médecins Sans Frontières International Council President
What a terrible waste of those volunteer physicians’ lives, the training, the investment society had made in them, the funding and support that was given to enable them to help others. Very special people: generous, selfless people who are willing to travel to a war zone to help complete strangers. How must their friends, families and colleagues at home feel? Every civilian death from an airstrike is a tragedy, but these are amplified: these were people who saved other people. How many casualties will now die or be crippled because these specialists are no longer there to help?
And how must the people of that city feel, living on the front line, now knowing their local hospital has been destroyed? That nothing is safe, anything could be bombed with no notice in the night. Little wonder there are so many refugees.