Over the weekend, U.S. military forces bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that was operated by Doctors Without Borders. At least 22 people were killed. That's not speculation, that's what the Pentagon admits:
A heavily-armed U.S. gunship designed to provide added firepower to special operations forces was responsible for shooting and killing 22 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan over the weekend, Pentagon officials said Monday.
Suffice it to say that such an outcome is horrific, not the least of which because 12 of the killed were staff for Doctors Without Borders, which has now pulled out of the city, citing safety concerns.
The area is a hot battleground between allied forces and resurgent Taliban fighters. U.S. spokesmen say that Afghan forces called for the strike, which lasted at least 30 minutes. Doctors Without Borders claims that the U.S. military must have known the precise coordinates of the hospital, which had been in operation for several years now, and that the group alerted the military to the mixed-up target while the airstrike was happening. Some people are calling this a war crime and the Pentagon is promising a full investigation.
But over at National Review, David French has a decidedly different take. Sure, it's a war crime, the one-time leader of The Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) asserts. But it's the Taliban's fault.
The international outrage over the American bombing of the Kunduz hospital is indicative of the despicable, upside-down legal standards so often applied to the U.S. military in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria…
The critics are correct that a war crime has been committed, but the Taliban are the perpetrators. The Taliban choose to fight in built-up civilian areas, without wearing uniforms, and shelter in civilian sites. So the natural and inevitable collateral damage that occurs is the their moral and legal responsibility…
Western militaries (including Israel) take pride in their "higher standard" and the obvious moral differences between terrorists who intentionally target civilians and our soldiers who try to protect the innocent, but our enemies ruthlessly exploit our standards — often putting American forces in the position of either killing civilians or allowing terrorists to prevail. Both choices are bad, but one outcome is intolerable.
Let us pause for a moment to say a prayer for the dead—including that fragged dozen of Doctors Without Borders personnel who gave their lives while volunteering to make the world a slightly less horrific place—before puzzling over exactly what's "despicable" and upside-down" when it comes to celebrating the "higher standard" of morality for which America is so forever goddamned proud.
The U.S. military totally fubars a bombing, which the Pentagon itself acknowledges, and its handmaidens in the press can only find yet one more reason to blame someone—anyone—other than the people responsible for, you know, actually dropping the bombs.
What was the catchphrase of that awful 1970 movie, Love Story? "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
These days, being a neocon hawk means never having to say you're sorry, no matter how many countries and whole regions and millions of people are laid waste. Shelley's Ozymandias ironically proclaimed over a barren desert, "Look on my works, ye might, and despair!" Uncritical masters of war look on the still-smoldering bodies of slain innocents—"I saw doctors and patients burning," survivors told the BBC—and invoke the unimpeachable higher standards for which we stand as proof that we are without sin.
If there are no lessons that the supporters of the past dozen-plus years of failed foreign policy can draw even from unequivocal mistakes and disasters, they've finally kicked free of any possible constraints that reality might impose on their fever dreams. They are like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, who "had kicked the very earth to pieces," and whose actions could no longer be bound by anything as trivial as basic morality.
And to the extent that such people remain at the helm of American actions throughout the world, we can only barely imagine the horrors that our "higher standard" will inflict over the coming months, years, and decades. Is it really so difficult to admit that just as America is not always wrong, it is not always right? America: Love it or STFU.
In 2014, Reason TV interviewed Errol Morris, whose documentaries include The Fog of War, a long interview with Vietnam architect Robert McNamara, and The Unknown Known, a similar conversation with Donald Rumsfeld, whose inability to question any of his war-time actions or judgements should chill anyone with a scintilla of conscience. One hoped that as Rumsfeld exited public life, his obtuseness would follow him out of the spotlight. Apparently not.
Watch Morris here or below: