Monday, September 07, 2009

WWB: combatants storm hospitals

WHAT WAR BRINGS: combatants storming and bombing hospitals

One would think that hospitals would be seen as a “no-go” zone for combatants, but one would be wrong. There is no respect for hospitals in war zones from any of the combatants.

And this is certainly true for Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been repeated events where US troops or NATO troops have bombed or invaded hospitals – in the later case, to disrupt the running of the hospitals and to destroy. And the other side of the conflict – insurgents in Iraq, those spreading terror, and the Taliban – have also violated hospitals and turned them into combat zones. It is hard to say which side is worse, although the evidence seems to point to the US and NATO forces doing more damage.

Recently, NATO forces (US forces, really) entered a Swedish-run hospital in Afghanistan. NATO claims they had permission, the folks running the hospital claim they did not.

Anger over Afghan hospital raid

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan rejects Nato's version of events. It says hospital workers were tied up by troops who searched wards for hours.

….The Swedish charity said the search was a violation of international principles and the forces' local agreements. It says the troops forced their way into the hospital and tied up staff and patients' relatives and ejected patients from their beds during the search operation. The charity says that US forces then ordered hospital staff to report any wounded militants who turned up for treatment. "If they [coalition forces] continue to act like this then our hospitals will become targets in the conflict," Anders Fange, country director of the charity, told the BBC.

I would say that the US forces have already turned this hospital into a combat zone. This happened in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul. Another AP report said the US forces busted down doors. They also had this funny comment:

But civilian deaths and intrusive searches of homes have bred resentment.

Oh gee, who would’ve thunk? Those sensitive Afghans! Just like the Iraqis! I’m certain Americans, under the same circumstances, would be totally understanding.

And a CNN report says that the US troops entered women’s wards, thereby a violation of local customs.

I think they should try this in Dallas, Texas and see if it is a violation of local customs there. And if they search all the visitors, who knows, they might catch some bad guys!


It is just that we have moved on from the ‘destroy Iraq’ part of our recent history to the ‘destroy Afghanistan’ phase. In November 2004, the US forces not only bombed and invaded hospitals, they did their very best to destroy access to health care for all Iraqis who lived in Fallujah.

In Fallujah, US declares war on hospitals, ambulances

In a series of actions over the weekend, the United States military and Iraqi government destroyed a civilian hospital in a massive air raid, captured the main hospital and prohibited the use of ambulances in the besieged city of Fallujah. Saturday morning, witnesses in Fallujah reported that an overnight air strike by US fighter crews had completely razed a trauma clinic, which was recently constructed using Saudi donations. Also destroyed were two adjacent facilities used by health care providers.

Can you say WAR CRIMES? Yes, I knew you could. Here’s some more from that article:

On Sunday, Marines said they would use the curfew to their tactical advantage, effectively designating any and all moving civilian vehicles to be free-fire targets. Normally, US troops are expected to establish that a target is hostile before engaging. But Colonel Mike Ramos told National Public Radio that US Marines have been relieved of meeting that requirement. Saying invasion forces will order all vehicles off the streets of Fallujah for the duration of their offensive, Col. Ramos added, "If a Marine feels that it is necessary, to protect the lives of his fellow Marines, he is empowered to engage a moving vehicle; he’s empowered to destroy whatever needs to be destroyed."

Well, we can’t let anything get in the way of bringing them freedom and democracy. In April 2004 in Fallujah, they fired on ambulances on several occasions.

And in December 2006, they did it again! To the same hospital even.

US troops raid Fallujah Hospital Again

Eyewitnesses at the hospital said U.S. soldiers raided the hospital "as if it were a military target."

"We panicked at the way they entered, kicking open doors and blasting locked ones," a nurse told IPS. "A doctor tried to tell them he had keys for the locked doors, but they pointed their guns to his face. Then they told us to go out of the building and they kept us under guard in the garden until the early hours of next morning." The nurse said the soldiers "would not even allow us to get some blankets to keep us warm; the temperature was below five degrees centigrade." Doctors and medical staff were arrested and insulted, and some were called terrorists, witnesses said. The hospital was then closed, and could no longer offer even minimal treatment.

And, it is the civilians, not combatants, that pay the price. In this report from Knight Ridder, an assistant manager of a hospital in Baghdad states the obvious, at least for the Iraqi situation:

"People who participate in the conflict don't come to the hospital. Their families are afraid they will be punished," said Dr. Yasin Mustaf, the assistant manager of al Kimdi Hospital near Baghdad's poor Sadr City neighborhood. "Usually, the innocent people come to the hospital. That is what the numbers show."

In the early days of the war on Iraq, the US did a bombing of a maternity hospital in Baghdad. It is unknown how many died in this bombing, but it was not the only bombing of hospitals by US forces in Iraq. All hospitals in Iraq are well marked as hospitals, or so I have been told.

Witness say US bombs hit Iraqi hospital

Residents said U.S. planes raided the Mansour area, firing at least three missiles. They hit the hospital, the nearby Baghdad trade center complex and buildings housing the Pharmacist and Teachers' Unions. The blast caused extensive damage in the hospital. "There were air raids. Some 25 people who work and live in the area were wounded. Three of our Red Crescent staff were also wounded. We brought all the wounded in our ambulances to two hospitals," Red Crescent official Abdel-Hameed Salim told Reuters at Baghdad's al-Iskan hospital.

And they bombed a hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2001.

US jets today bombed and badly damaged a hospital near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, witnesses said. A doctor, speaking in the presence of Taliban officials, said 15 people were killed and 25 others severely injured in the attack on the hospital, about one mile from the city centre. Foreign journalists were taken by the Taliban to the hospital, operated by the Afghan Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross. They saw some of the injured but no bodies.

Two ambulances and two pickup trucks were destroyed in the attack, and damage to the building was extensive. The doctor, Obeidallah Hadid, suffered a slight head injury. The concrete building was a mass of protruding steel bars and chunks of masonry. Part of the structure had slipped into what appeared to be a bomb crater. Red Crescent flags were fluttering on a post outside, and stretchers lay against one wall.

The Geneva Convention states:

Art. 56. To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the public Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.

Art. 57. The Occupying Power may requisition civilian hospitals of hospitals only temporarily and only in cases of urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick, and then on condition that suitable arrangements are made in due time for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs of the civilian population for hospital accommodation. The material and stores of civilian hospitals cannot be requisitioned so long as they are necessary for the needs of the civilian population.

But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it is only US and NATO forces that are invading, bombing and destroying hospitals and health clinics and ambulances in Iraq and Afghanistan. THAT would be false! The insurgents, terrorists, criminals, freedom fighters, whatever you call them, also are doing these evil deeds.

Even before the invasion of NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban were raiding an ICRC hospital and arresting the staff. And it was their second raid in less than a month.

Soldiers from the Islamic militia's religious police raided the hospital in the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar late Sunday night or early Monday morning, they said. The ICRC's deputy head of delegation in neighbouring Pakistan, Anton Bieler, told AFP the reasons for the arrests were unclear and he did not know exactly how many staff had been detained or whether they were still in custody. He said hospital workers were "frightened" and went on strike the following day to protest against the arrests.

And I am certain that this is not the only time the Taliban entered a hospital, or used it for a base for attacking NATO troops. But I could not find any reliable links to confirm this.

And over in Iraq, suicide car bombers have attacked hospitals and other civilian locations on a regular basis. Here is one story, and this is probably a case of cross fire – where the insurgent was trying to get US troops, who happened to be at the hospital. This happened in November 2005.

Car bomb outside Iraq hospital kills 34

The explosives-packed car detonated as Iraqi security forces were gathered outside Mahmoudiya General Hospital and as US civil affairs soldiers were visiting the facility to look at ways to improve it, the US army and witnesses said. Four US troops were wounded in the blast, but most of those killed and injured were civilians, including Hoda Ali Mahmoud, a 30-year-old woman who had just visited the hospital with her young son, who needed treatment for a cold. "The glass flew at us. His nose was hit and he couldn't breathe," she said as she sat up in hospital. The body of her son, less than two years old, lay on the morgue floor at Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, where many of the wounded were brought.

There are many, many more stories of all the combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan violating hospitals and health care clinics, turning them into battle zones or just bombing them for whatever reason. It happens in EVERY war and occupation.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: combatants storming and bombing hospitals.

Report on anti-American feelings in Afghanistan

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