Even to those concerned about civilian casualties in the ‘War on Terror,’ innocent lives lost due to War on Terror policies can often become faceless numbers. Number which are often murky and unknown, often intentionally covered up, often justified as opposed to grieved.
Fallen soldiers on our side, on the other hand, will be counted, will be written obituaries to celebrate their lives, will be grieved and not justified as a part of war.
So I found it interesting, as well as heartbreaking, when I stumbled upon online memorials for some of the victims of the MSF hospital bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It is precisely because MSF have worked to document the incident and the lives lost that we have this information about the victims, which generally is not available about civilian casualties. It is commendable that we do as for a moment we can see the innocent victims of this particular drone strike incident as human beings who did not deserve to die, who should be grieved, whose lives should be celebrated and their deaths should not be justified. Grieving life which is regarded as disposable works to disrupt this division of lives which matter in universalizing our claim to the grievability of life.
First off, I want to write a little bit about the incident. If you’re not interested then reading a few of the obituaries alone may be more wothwhile.
It was known the target being bombed was a hospital, but it was decided to carry forth the attacks as it was believed Taliban members were being treated there (which turned out not to be the case). It is frightening that a hospital was treated as an appropriate site to bomb without adequate investigation. Yet even if there was Taliban operatives there, I don’t believe it justifies bombing a hospital and killing doctors and injured patients.
You know how in hostage movies when the perpetrator comes out using a hostage as a shield, The police don’t shoot do they. They try save the civilians caught up in this at any cost.
Yet Middle Easterner’s aren’t afforded the same worth, for bombing campaigns to take a bit of extra time and work a little harder to ensure they don’t kill civilians. They won’t even take the time and effort to figure out if there is a bank robbery going on or not just believing that there is was enough begin dropping bombs, with complete disregard for the lives in the hospital.
The incident is very much reflective of the recent leak by an anonymous ex-drone operative showing that the Pentagons own intelligence knows that over 90% of drone strikes don’t hit their intended target. Again, over 90% of drone strikes don’t hit their intended target…
Who’s the vicious, murderous, criminal here? Is the radical fundamentalism and divisive identity rhetoric that comes from our own governments and military not as problematic as the fundementalism by fringe radical jihadist groups that don’t represent the Middle East? (Groups who in many ways are the result of capitalist exploration of the Middle East, and Western foreign policy and interference in the region since the rise of colonial Europe.)
Let us take a moment to grieve the lives lost due to this particular instance. Why? Because Middle Eastern’s deserve to be seen and treated as human beings when we contentiously deny them this status by our representations and discussions about the Middle East and foreign policy actions towards the region. And furthermore I’m an NZ citizen, a citizen of a country who is allies with the US and has joined their war in the Middle East without questioning and critiquing its policies and motivations, as if there is nothing to critique, as if a good job is being done and we are supporting something purely good. If you are a US citizen then these assassinations are happening with your tax dollars and in your name, you paid for these deaths and are responsible against your will. Let us see the faces and hear the stories of those lost in our name, see them as more than numbers, see how comfortable we feel with their deaths when they are more than just numbers, but real and innocent human beings we kill.
Due to the large number of casualties I will only provide a few of the obituaries here, which i have drawn from the MSF website where you should go to see the full list.
Abdul Satar Zaheer, 47 years-old, was the Deputy Medical Director at MSF’s Kunduz Trauma Centre. He managed a large group of staff and was described by all who worked with him as conscientious, empathetic and respectful. He was often working until the middle of the night. If his son would ask him to work less, he would say that he was not working, but serving the Afghan people. He was always listening to suggestions made by others. He thought out of the box, and would not hesitate to change working methods where necessary, making the job of the medical teams smoother and more effective. He was known for his incredible patience and sense of humor. The night of the attack Dr. Satar decided to stay close to his patients instead of taking a rest, and was sharing jokes with the other staff on duty to try to lift their spirits. He was the proud father of eight children, often sharing stories about how smart they are.
Dr Aminullah Bajawri was a 32 year-old father and emergency room doctor. Like so many others, when the fighting broke out in Kunduz he decided not to leave the city in search of safety, but stayed to help his people, friends and colleagues. He worked the whole week before the attack, and felt personally responsible for any patients that might not recover as a result of him not being on duty. Admired for his clear, rational perception of medical problems and pragmatic approach to treating patients, Dr. Amin was someone that could always be relied on in the ER, with extensive medical knowledge, a willingness to learn new things and a kind approach to his patients. It was his dream to become a neurosurgeon, at a time when the lack of neurosurgeons in Afghanistan means children are dying for lack of proper treatment. He was also a teacher at the Kunduz University and was highly respected by his students.
22 years-old, Abdul Nasir was a hospital cleaner. He was born in Kunduz province where he had been working for MSF since July 2013 and was described by those who knew him as a good person and incredibly hard working. He was always ready to contribute and went above and beyond what his job demanded of him. He was very polite, and known to assist both patients and their caretakers. He was often sitting or standing close to the door of the intensive care unit; whenever someone entered he was faster than anyone else to help. He offered invaluable support to many people.
Zabiullah was 29 years-old and married. He had been working as a guard in the hospital since February 2015. He was a poet and was working on Pashto language translations of several books. He was also writing a book about the famous Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan. While he started working with MSF less than a year ago, he had already made lots of friends due to his friendly and kind manner. Here is one of his poems:
Foreign Policy have also wrote an article detailing the life of Baynazar Mohammad Nazar whos remains was the only one which somewhat recognizable after the attacks. He was a bodyguard who risked his life and remained in Kunduz when the Taliban invaded the region. Yet it wasn’t the Taliban who killed him, but the US. The picture of him below may be gruesome, but it is among the least gruesome of the remains of victims. This is what’s happening in our name, are you okay with that?