Sunday, November 22, 2015

From Kunduz to Paris, with Love

No one wants to be an innocent victim of human violence. The recent attacks in Paris, Mali, Lebanon and elsewhere show that if nothing else is prospering in the world, hate is. But, if you can gain the perspective, these all represent small scale violence by weak players in the world's political and religious arena.

I just received a reminder from Doctors Without Borders about the tragedy at Kunduz. You may recall that Kunduz is a city of about 300,000 people in Afghanistan to the northeast of Kabul, not very far from the Tajikistan border. The Taliban briefly occupied the city in September. The "central" government took it back fifteen days later in October, with help from American troops and warplanes.

The hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders was struck by a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship, an awesome weapon of war and successor to the AC-47 used to mass murder peasants during the Vietnam War.

Hospitals, as long as they function as hospitals, are never fair targets in war, the same as trucks and tents marked with Red Cross identification. For details on why the Kunduz massacre was a war crime, see Protection of Medical Services Under International Law.

This is not the sort of incident that happens by accident, nor do the circumstances around the massacre look accidental in any way. This is not a case of stray bullets from the AC-130 missing a legitimate target and then hitting some doctors, nurses, and patients. The Hospital Was the Target.

And that is the kind of thing that is controlled from the White House Situation Room. Whether President Barack Obama was actually in the situation room and made the call will probably become publicly available in about 60 years.

I have no sympathy for anyone who kills civilians, whether Presidents of the United States (or other nations) or freelance Islamists or any other political/social/religious group. So I have sympathy with the victims in Paris, and no sympathy for the perps, including the chain of command above them, right up to the Caliph.

The difference I have with most Americans [Trigger alert: prepare to be shocked by an opinion] is that I don't think the victims of American President Barack Obama (and the many war criminal President predecessors) are in any essential way different than the victims of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or Osama Bin Laden, or for that matter Pol Pot, Trotsky, General Franco or anyone else. The government of the United States was established by violence; almost all governments are. It does not matter to me whether violence is used to establish a republic or an Islamic State, it is wrong because it is violence, and particularly wrong when it is violence against civilians.

In particular, I am not a fan of the French government. To me the French monarchs starting with Charlemagne, Napoleon, the French imperialists who conquered Vietnam and other colonies, Philippe Petain, and the leaders who recently bombed Raqqa are just slight variations on the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi theme.

The American people have no learning curve. They are not told the facts, and if a few people learn a few facts, they are swiftly swept aside by a torrent of daily woes. We could have learned a lot from the Somalia disaster, but most Americans don't even know there was a Somalia disaster, much less how American foreign policy and military stupidity drove that nation to disaster, step by step. Somalians can now choose between a corrupt and inept U.S. puppet government and an al-Qaeda aligned opposition.

Which is not much different than choosing between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There was a time when I thought the people of Mendocino County, California, would find their way out of that trap, but with the Bernie Sanders phenomena, I see that too much marijuana and too-little fact checking, and thinking things through, makes escape impossible. Bernie has vowed to destroy the Islamic State. And how does that differ from every other power-hungry American politician?

It can be tempting to say that the victims in Paris were is some sense fair targets because they allowed their government to bomb Syria in the preceding weeks. This is the type of argument used by the British Empire and the American Empire during World War II to justify carpet bombing Japanese and German civilians during World War II. This argument leads to the excusing (by the perpetrators, anyway) of all killings of civilians.

Every nation should police its own government to prevent war crimes. George Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama and all their gang should be tried for war crimes and, instead of being hung by their necks like the Nuremburg criminals, spend the rest of their lives in prison. To some extent the American people are to blame for allowing the crimes. But our lack of power to change the system is really no different than the situation of those living under the Islamic State. Hopefully the governments of Syria and Iraq will be able to defeat the Islamic State, but will respect the lives of civilians. And spare the lives of any soldiers that surrender, as per international law of prisoners of war.

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