U.S. air strikes in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed 20 people in a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) hospital on Oct. 3.
Patients reportedly “burned to death” and the bombardment went on for more than 30 minutes despite the charity organization frantically informing both U.S. and Afghan military officials.
The United Nations has denounced the incident as "tragic, inexcusable and possibly even criminal.” However, the MSF bombing is reviving questions about whether the UN will do more to hold the U.S. accountable or if the attack will be dismissed as yet another case of collateral damage.
If history is any indication, it will be. It shouldn’t, but it will be.
The MSF airstrike is but one example of how the White House has failed to do enough to protect civilians in Afghanistan ever since the invasion began in October 2001.
Since 2004, the U.S. government has carried out hundreds of “surgical strikes” in Pakistan through their predator drones, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. These unmanned aircrafts target people who are not identified but merely “fit in” with the signature style of a terrorist.
Loss of life occurs at the click of a button and so these technology-driven airstrikes have minimized the trauma as well as the sense of guilt that comes with killing a person. That’s why even a record number of civilian deaths have been disregarded as collateral damage by the U.S. government and forces over the past decade.
As of August, nearly 1,592 civilians were killed and 3,329 injured in the first half of 2015, according to the UN. The figures were a little higher than for the period in 2014, which was labeled the most violent year since 2001.
Although the UN has frequently issued condemnations, nothing concrete has been done so far to actually hold the U.S. government accountable for the mounting civilian death toll in Afghanistan and other countries including Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.
While addressing a recent mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, President Barack Obama lamented how such incidents have “become routine” in the U.S. and that “thoughts and prayers are no longer enough” to console the affected families of victims.
The same goes for mass murder of innocent civilians at the hands of U.S. military.
The U.S. president’s “deepest condolences” over collateral damage are not enough for the grieving families in Afghanistan.
To borrow Obama’s own words – spoken in the aftermath of the Oregon massacre – collateral damage “is this is something we should politicize.”