Over the last month or so, there’s been a bit of a flurry of U.S. military members with conscience coming forward to tell the truth about incidents or practices they deem unethical.
For example, just last month, four former drone operators came forward to denounce the program publicly, coupled with a letter addressed to President Obama. As noted in the post, Drone Whistleblower Claim – Pilots Often High on Drugs; Refer to Children as “Fun Size Terrorists”:
The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired. Moving along to today’s piece, two U.S. servicemen have come forward to claim that, as opposed to the Pentagon’s official story, the military intentionally targeted the Afghan Doctors without Borders hospital, in an attack that killed 31 civilians.
Haas also described widespread alcohol and drug abuse among drone pilots. Drone operators, he said, would frequently get intoxicated using bath salts and synthetic marijuana to avoid possible drug testing and in an effort to “bend that reality and try to picture yourself not being there.” Haas said that he knew at least a half-dozen people in his unit who were using bath salts and that drug use had “impaired” them during missions.
The AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two servicemen have told Congress that American special forces called in an air strike on a hospital in Afghanistan because they believed the Taliban were using it as a command center, contradicting the military’s explanation that the attack was meant for a different building. Mistakes happen. In war and in pretty much everything in life. That’s simply unavoidable. What is avoidable is lying after the fact, which is clearly what the U.S. military has chosen to do in this case. It is also what it chooses to do in all sorts of cases in which the truth would be embarrassing or harmful to the agenda of empire and the military-industrial complex. Which is precisely why people are increasingly distrustful of all institutions. “We the people” suspect we’re constantly lied to in the pursuit of an elitist agenda which is counter to our best interests.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, quoted the servicemen without naming them in a letter he sent Tuesday to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The letter highlights gaps in the military’s explanation of an October air strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz that killed 31 civilians.
Hunter said the accounts provided to him raise the possibility that the U.S. was manipulated by its Afghan partners into attacking the hospital. If true, that would be a setback in the U.S. effort to work with and train a local force capable of securing that country.
The two servicemen told Hunter the U.S. special forces soldiers who called in the air strike were not aware the Doctors Without Borders building was still being used as a hospital. Afghan forces, they say, told them it had become a Taliban command and control center.
Doctors Without Borders leaders and independent witnesses insist there were no armed men in the hospital, and the military’s investigation supported that contention.
The military’s official account, a summary of which was disclosed on Nov. 25 by the commanding U.S. general in Afghanistan, says the soldiers and airmen intended the air strike to hit a different building a half mile away — an Afghan intelligence facility said to be occupied by the Taliban.
It was only because of technical failures and human error, Gen. John Campbell told reporters, that an AC-130 mistakenly struck and destroyed the trauma center in the Doctors Without Borders hospital.
Campbell’s account didn’t address the evidence that the U.S. had been focusing on the hospital.
The day before the attack, a senior special forces commander wrote in a report that the hospital was in Taliban hands and his objective was to clear it. A senior Pentagon official called Doctors Without Borders to ask whether their hospital had been overrun; he was told it had not.
Hunter wrote to Carter of his concern “that inaccurate information and poor intelligence was provided by Afghan forces — including information that was both incorrect and unverified by U.S. intelligence and personnel.”
Campbell said the AC-130 was sent to attack a different building, but when its sensors malfunctioned, the crew used visual cues to home in on what turned out to be the wrong building. One minute before the attack, he said, the crew passed on the coordinates of the building it was about to strike to its headquarters, which knew Doctors Without Borders was in that compound but was unable to detect the mistake in time.
Hunter’s letter questioned how the military could misidentify an internationally run hospital that had been operating for years, given the billions of dollars that have been spent on technology designed to help commanders understand their battlespace.
We are right.