In an editorial, the New York Times says: The torrent of mistakes that led an American military gunship to obliterate a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October, killing 42 innocent people and wounding dozens, resulted from gross negligence, judging from the findings of a report the Pentagon released on Friday.
And yet, military officials have refused to identify the individuals responsible for the disaster and to explain what type of punishment each will face. The Pentagon also appears to have ruled out the possibility of holding them accountable in a court of law for one of the most egregious war zone blunders in recent history.
Those decisions are deeply troubling. Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the military’s Central Command, or Centcom, told journalists on Friday that the service members who made the mistakes would not face criminal prosecution because investigators determined that their errors were unintentional.
According to the report, the gunship crew failed to locate the intended target and fired on the Doctors Without Borders hospital assuming that it was a building occupied by Taliban fighters. Senior officers approved the strike despite having the coordinates of the hospital. Equipment and communication failures that night contributed to the catastrophe, and the airstrike did not stop immediately after Doctors Without Borders alerted the United States government of the error.
Gen. John Campbell, the commander of American troops in Afghanistan at the time, concluded that some service members had flouted the rules of engagement and violated the law of armed conflict, Centcom said in a statement. However, Pentagon officials determined that they would not face criminal charges because of their lack of intent.
Human rights advocates and Doctors Without Borders rightly point out that under the American military code and international laws of war, fatal mistakes that result from recklessness and gross negligence can constitute crimes. [Continue reading…]