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25 August, 2016

From drone killings to hospital bombings: 15 years of civilian deaths in the global war on terror

Doctors Without Borders asked ‘the U.S., U.K. and France to ensure an immediate application of measures to substantially increase the protection of civilians’ after the latest deadly hospital bombing in Yemen.

by Kit O'Connell

The recent bombing of a hospital in northwestern Yemen has drawn international outrage and new criticism of the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed forces fighting there, but it’s just the latest in a slew of war crimes committed over the past 15 years in the name of the U.S.-backed global war on terror.

Nineteen people were killed and 24 were injured in the Aug. 15 bombing, which struck Abs Hospital in northwestern Yemen. Among the dead was Abdul Kareem al Hakeemi, a staff member of Doctors Without Borders (frequently referred to by its French name, Médecins sans Frontières, or MSF).

It was the fourth and deadliest bombing of an MSF-supported hospital since the attacks on Yemen began in early 2015, leading the NGO to evacuate its six hospitals in the region three days later.

This latest incident shows that the current rules of engagement, military protocols and procedures are inadequate in avoiding attacks on hospitals and need revision and changes,” said Joan Tubau, MSF general director, in a press release. “MSF asks the Saudi-led coalition and the governments supporting the coalition, particularly the U.S., U.K. and France, to ensure an immediate application of measures to substantially increase the protection of civilians.”

The Saudi-led coalition began bombing in March 2015, after the Houthis took power in Yemen. That bombing campaign has deliberately targeted schools, health care facilities, homes and businesses, and other critical civilian infrastructure like bridges, killing about 10,000 people, creating almost 180,000 refugees, and putting 370,000 children at risk of starvation.

The State Department rebuked the Saudis over the latest hospital bombing, and the United States has withdrawn most of its military support staff from the war. Some are calling on Congress to put an end to U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia in light of these human rights violations. However, there’s little indication that there will be any change to the American foreign policy that supports conflict and instability in the Middle East.

U.S. forces infamously bombed an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October, killing 42 civilians, including multiple MSF doctors and staff. In April, NPR suggested the Kunduz attack was part of a trend of war crimes against hospitals that’s growing worse over time.

Regardless of what degree of responsibility the U.S. bears for the increasing lack of safety at hospitals and medical facilities in war zones, it’s hard to deny that American foreign policy has put civilians squarely in the crosshairs. U.S. wars in the Middle East have killed as many as 4 million civilians and directly contributed to the instability in the region, including the rise of terrorism and suicide bombing.

One example of Washington’s deadly foreign policy is the use of predator drones, a staple of the Obama administration, despite the fact that U.S. drone strikes have killed mostly civilians.

In June, Mnar Muhawesh, MintPress News’ founder and host of “Behind the Headline,” questioned how a Nobel Peace Prize winner came to create a global policy of assassination and endless war, almost from the very first day of his administration.

On his third day in office, Obama authorized two drone strikes in Pakistan, killing over a dozen civilians,” Muhawesh said, noting:

It set the tone for an administration that’s killed thousands by weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles, the vast majority of whom did nothing to deserve their fate except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; the vast majority of whom the U.S. fails to recognize as victims in the ever-expanding ‘war on terror.’”

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