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  November 5, 2015

MSF Says Fleeing Workers Targeted in Kunduz Attack

MSF General Director Christopher Stokes and Codepink's Medea Benjamin say the US military's explanation for the October attack that took 30 lives remains woefully inadequate
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Medea Benjamin is co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been organizing against U.S. military interventions, promoting the rights of Palestinians and calling for no war on Iran. Her latest work includes an effort to stop CIA drone attacks, and she is the author of a new book, "Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection"


JAISAL NOOR & REUTERS: On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders released findings from an initial internal review of the U.S. attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last month, and said it was hard to believe the U.S. attack was a mistake, as it had reports of fleeing people being shot from an aircraft. The medical aid group has revised the original casualty figure upwards, and now says 30 people, including 13 staff members and 3 children were killed during repeated attacks by a powerful U.S. gunship. MSF General Director Christopher Stokes told reporters in Kabul the organization was still awaiting an explanation from the U.S. military.

CHRISTOPHER STOKES: The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy. And this was certainly my impression when I was in Kunduz two weeks ago. But we still don't know why, and we don't have the view from the cockpit inside the plane. And we don't have the view from within the chain of command of the different forces, be they U.S. or Afghan, still. We're waiting for that. A mistake doesn't necessarily make us feel, or our staff feel, much safer in operating in the future, be it in Kunduz or in other parts of the country where we're working in [hostile] or in [inaud.], et cetera. So there are still many unanswered questions, including who took the final decision, who designated, who gave the target the instructions for the hospital. So for the moment we still have not received reassuring, clear explanations as to what happened. And that's why we are not in a position also to restart the hospital for the moment.

NOOR: The Department of Defense released the following statement. The said, "We continue to work closely with MSF in identifying the victims, both those killed and wounded, so that we conclude our investigations and proceed with follow-on actions to include condolence payments. We are also committed to working with MSF to determine the full extent of the damage to the hospital so it can be repaired in full." That's a statement from Captain Jeff Davis.

We're now joined by Medea Benjamin. She's the co-founder of Codepink. So Medea, I wanted to get your response first to the review that Doctors Without Borders has released on the attack on their hospital in Kunduz. They have said it's hard to believe it was a mistake, because their workers were deliberately targeted and shot as they were fleeing the hospital, and the response from the Department of Defense that you just heard.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, the Department of Defense and the U.S. government in general is not cooperating fully, because if they did they would allow for this independent investigation that Doctors Without Borders has called for, and they would be providing all of the information to this independent investigation. We can't believe anything that the U.S. Department of Defense is saying. Certainly this preliminary report from Doctors Without Borders gives the impression that this was a deliberate target and this was a war crime. You can't have the one implemented in the war crime doing its own investigation.

So I think we have to continue with the demand for an independent investigation that really gets at why this happened, who called the strikes, who is responsible, and how are they going to be held accountable.

NOOR: And Doctors Without Borders has said they have been unable to reopen the hospital. Their workers still are in fear, because this was deliberate, as they allege. What is going to be the broader implication of this attack on this hospital?

BENJAMIN: Well, the very important thing about this is that it's a European group. And so that's why there's international outcry against it. Unfortunately the United States has been targeting civilian places, from workplaces to markets, funerals, weddings, hospitals, schools, in Afghanistan as well as other places like Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, for years and getting away with it.

Because we have a European organization that has been the target of the attack, now we have a moment to demand accountability. And this will have far-reaching implications, because if we get the U.S. to work with this independent commission, if we find out exactly what happens, if we force there to be a real accounting for who was in charge of calling for these strikes, if these people are tried, if these people are punished, this will have reverberations for U.S. actions in other places throughout the Middle East, where it is getting more and more involved in military conflicts. And the fact that the U.S. is remaining now in Afghanistan despite Obama's promises to withdraw all troops and stop all U.S. combat there means that there is potential for continued targeting of civilian places if there is not, indeed, an accounting for what happened at this hospital.

NOOR: Medea Benjamin, thanks so much for joining us.

BENJAMIN: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.


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