The hypocrisy of the US condemning Assad’s bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo

by omouggos

A hospital in Aleppo that was destroyed by a Syrian airstrike. (image from

After a brief lull due to the ceasefire agreement, the battle of Aleppo has recommenced with renewed vigor as government and rebel forces unleash upon one another. Caught in the middle of the bombs, rockets and gunfire of the two warring sides is the civilian population of Aleppo, who consequently are suffering greatly.

One example of the plight of these civilians occurred on April 28 when a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) supported pediatric hospital in the neighborhood of Sukkari was bombed, presumably by government warplanes. Depending on the media source, it is reported that the deadly attack killed from 14 to 50 civilians and medical staff, including Aleppo’s last pediatrician Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz.[1]

The attack drew condemnation from many sources. UN officials characterized the bombing of the Sukkari hospital, and other medical facilities in Aleppo, as war crimes and that “those responsible for war crimes must be held to account.”[2] Saudi columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi wrote an article in the Okaz daily comparing the Assad regime to ISIL.[3] He argued, “What action can terrorists carry out that is worse than the destruction of a hospital. Look at all the terrifying ISIS videos and the barbaric Al-Qaeda statements, and you will see the same [acts], possibly even less severe ones.” He also called Assad the “number one terrorist butcher.

The US government was also highly critical of the Sukkari hospital bombing. John Kerry’s reaction was:[4]

“We are outraged by yesterday’s air strikes in Aleppo on the al-Quds hospital supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which killed dozens of people, including children, patients, and medical personnel. … While we are still trying to gather the facts surrounding the circumstances of this attack, it appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders.”

Kerry also described the attack as “unconscionable” and accused the Assad regime of targeting other hospitals during the past week.[5] Kerry demanded that such targeting “has to stop.”

At face value, if Assad is indeed targeting civilian hospitals, which he could very well be, then Kerry’s outrage is justifiable and well placed. However, it is still uncertain that the strike was a direct intentional action by Assad’s air force, although to reiterate I believe Assad is more than capable such an atrocity. Even Kerry admitted that “the facts surrounding the circumstances of this attack” are still unclear. Furthermore, the al-Dhabeet Hospital in the neighborhood of al-Mouhafaza was rocket attacked by a rebel group killing anywhere from 3 to 12 people.[6] Again Assad may be bad but so are those against him.

But beyond such considerations, Kerry’s comments are rather hollow, sanctimonious and hypocritical. It seems that Kerry and the US government has forgotten that their own airforce has destroyed a MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan. This incident occurred on October 3, 2015 when a trauma center was blasted for about an hour by a AC-130U gunship.[7] The attack left 42 people dead, including 13 MSF members.

According to US officials the attack was a mistake as they struck the ‘wrong’ building. Yet, the surrounding circumstances are rather suspicious. First of all once the attack began, the MSF staff quickly contacted US and Afghani officials to notify them that they were attacking a civilian hospital, yet the attack continued for 30 more minutes. Secondly two US servicemen have claimed that the hospital was intentionally targeted as US special forces believed the building was being used by the Taliban as a command center.[8] Finally, sources are claiming that the cockpit recording for the AC-130U “reveal that the crew actually questioned whether the airstrike was legal.”[9] It appears that the US did not make a mistake but were aware that they were striking a hospital with civilians.

But don’t worry, the US government is absolved of a potential war crime because the US commander in Afghanistan has apologized saying “I grieve with you for your loss and suffering, and humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness.”[10] Even the President, Barack Obama, made a personal apology to MSF over the incident.[11] I wonder if Bashar al-Assad made an apology to MSF and to the families of the victims of the Sukkari hospital bombing, would John Kerry accept it and grant forgiveness to the Syrian regime? For some reason I doubt it.

It should also be noted that Saudi Arabia, an ostensible ally of the US, has also bombed a MSF hospital in Saada Yemen.[12] I also wonder if Kerry will demand the nicety of an apologize from the Saudis, who ironically enough, head the UN Human Rights Council.

The issue is that the US will blather on about war crimes and human rights when the violator is a geopolitical adversary, but when the US itself or its allies are violating the same international laws, then they are silent, or at best issue an apology. In effect the US selectively enforces, or at the least advocates, international law when it is to its advantage and the detriment of its adversaries, while in other situations, when it is to its benefit, it ignores international law. Such behavior is non-partisan, it occurred under the rule of the neo-conservative Republican George W. Bush and that of the progressive Democrat Barack Obama.

It is interesting that during Donald Trump’s much talked about foreign policy speech–which the establishment Democrats and Republicans were highly critical of, yet which to me seemed perfectly sensible–he was critical of his nation’s recent foreign policy. Specifically he said:[13]

“Unfortunately, after the Cold War our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which led to one foreign policy disaster after another.”

This appraisal of US foreign policy strikes me as being very accurate, particularly the arrogance of that policy. Not only does Trump recognize the arrogance of US behavior on the world stage, but most people in the world recognize it as well. Kerry’s strong criticism towards the bombing of the Sakkuri hospital, regardless of whether or not it was a war crime, is just another example of the hypocrisy and arrogance of the US government. And Americans wonder in incredulity why their nation is unpopular throughout the world.

O Mouggos


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