“Even War Has Rules”
Why Is the U.S. Refusing An Independent Investigation If Its
Hospital Airstrike Was An “Accident”?
By Glenn Greenwald
October 07, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "The
Intercept" - In Geneva this
morning, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded a
formal, independent investigation into the U.S. airstrike on
its hospital in Kunduz. The group’s international president,
Dr. Joanne Liu (pictured above, center), specified that the
inquiry should be convened pursuant to
war-crime-investigating procedures established by the Geneva
Conventions and conducted by
The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. “Even
war has rules,” Liu said. “This was just not an attack on
our hospital. It was an attack on the Geneva Conventions.
This cannot be tolerated.”
Liu emphasized that the need for an “independent,
impartial“investigation is now particularly
compelling given what she called “the inconsistency in the
U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened over the recent
days.” On Monday, we
documented the multiple conflicting accounts offered in
the first three days by the U.S. military and its media
allies, but the story continued to change even further after
that. As The Guardian’s headline
yesterday noted, the U.S. admission that its own
personnel called in the airstrike – not Afghan forces as it
claimed the day before – meant that “US alters story for
fourth time in four days.” All of this led Liu to state the
obvious today: “We cannot rely on internal military
investigations by the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces.”
An independent, impartial investigation
into what happened here should be something everyone can
immediately agree is necessary. But at
its daily press briefing on Monday, the U.S. State
Department, through its spokesman Mark Toner, insisted that
no such independent investigation was needed on the ground
that the U.S. Government is already investigating itself and
everyone knows how trustworthy and reliable this process is:
The – so MSF is calling for an independent investigation
of this incident by a neutral international body. Is
that something the Administration would support?
MR TONER:Well, we’ve got three
investigations underway. Certainly, we’ve got our own
DOD-led investigation. We obviously strongly believe
that can be a very transparent and accountable
investigation. Let’s let these three investigations run
their course and see what the results are.
I would say – and I know the White
House spoke about this earlier – we have reached out to
some of the leadership in Medecins Sans Frontieres to
express our condolences over this tragic incident. But
as to whether there needs to be an independent fourth
investigation, we’re satisfied, I think, at this point
that enough investigations are underway that we’ll get
to the truth.
You don’t think that with the U.S., which is – which has
an interest in how this investigation proceeds and what
the outcome is, and being involved in all three
investigations somehow affects the legitimacy of it?
I mean, frankly, I think we’ve proven over time that we
can investigate incidents like these – like this, and as
I said, hold anyone accountable who needs to be held
accountable, and do it in such a way that’s transparent
and, I think, credible.
Just along those lines —
— MSF has said that this is a clear presumption of a war
crime that’s been committed here. Some have suggested
that the ICC take it up. Is it a safe bet that the U.S.
would vote against/veto any attempt in the Security
Council to bring this incident for – up for an ICC
I don’t want to answer a hypothetical. On the war crime
question itself, we’re just not there yet, and I don’t
want to prejudge any outcome of any investigation.
What do you mean, “We’re just not there yet”?
I mean we’re conducting investigations, we’re looking at
this very closely, and we’re going to, as multiple folks
have said including the President over the weekend –
that we’re going to hold those accountable and it’s
going to be a credible investigation.
Does that mean —
So it’s conceivable to you that this could have been a
I said we’re not – we’re letting the investigations run
Well, regardless of whether or not you —
I’m not going to – I’m not even – yeah, please, Matt.
No, but I want to —
Sure, go ahead. Sorry.
Is it not – I mean, it’s always been assumed, I think –
and I just want to know if
this assumption is still safe – that the U.S. would
oppose an attempt to refer an incident involving U.S.
troops to the International Criminal Court.
I mean, as it’s – as it was being formed, you guys ran
around signing these Article 98 —
That’s a perfectly sound assumption.
Can anyone justify that? So predictably,
American journalists have
announced without even waiting for any investigation
that this was all a
terrible accident, nothing intentional about it. Those
U.S.-defending journalists should be the angriest about
their government’s refusal to allow an independent,
impartial investigation since that would be the most
effective path for exonerating them and proving their
innocent, noble intentions.
Many Americans, and especially a large
percentage of the nation’s journalists, need no
investigation to know that this was nothing more
than a terrible, tragic mistake. They believe that
Americans, and especially their military, are so inherently
good and noble and well-intentioned that none would ever
knowingly damage a hospital. John McCain expressed this
common American view and the primary excuse now accompanying
it – stuff happens –on
NPR this morning:
But they are not apparently so certain
that they desire an independent, impartial investigation
into what actually happened here. The facially ludicrous
announcement by the State Department that the Pentagon will
investigate itself produced almost no domestic outrage. A
religious-like belief in American exceptionalism and tribal
superiority is potent indeed, and easily overrides evidence
or facts. It blissfully renders the need for investigations
obsolete. In their minds, knowing that it was Americans
who did this suffices to know what happened, at least on the
level of motive: it could not possibly be the case that
there was any intentionality here at all. As McCain said,
it’s only the Bad People – not Americans – who do such
But those who already know that this was
all a terrible mistake, that no U.S. personnel would ever
purposely call for a strike on a hospital even if they
thought there were Taliban inside, should be the ones most
eager for the most credible investigation possible: namely,
the one under the Geneva Conventions which MSF this morning
demanded, by the tribunal created exactly for
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