The Corner

National Security & Defense

The Kunduz Hospital Bombing Is a War Crime — a Taliban War Crime

The international outrage over the American bombing of the Kunduz hospital is indicative of the despicable, upside-down legal standards so often applied to the U.S. military in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Critics are throwing around allegations of “war crimes” against U.S. forces, claiming that the U.S. failed in its affirmative obligation to safeguard the hospital as a protected site.

The critics are correct that a war crime has been committed, but the Taliban are the perpetrators. The Taliban choose to fight in built-up civilian areas, without wearing uniforms, and shelter in civilian sites. So the natural and inevitable collateral damage that occurs is the their moral and legal responsibility. While allied forces of course should not intentionally target a hospital absent evidence it’s being used as a military location, there is no evidence that American pilots chose to exterminate innocent civilians. Rather, they were reportedly responding to specific requests for air support from allied troops under fire.

Western militaries (including Israel) take pride in their “higher standard” and the obvious moral differences between terrorists who intentionally target civilians and our soldiers who try to protect the innocent, but our enemies ruthlessly exploit our standards — often putting American forces in the position of either killing civilians or allowing terrorists to prevail. Both choices are bad, but one outcome is intolerable. In either case — absent the rarest of circumstances — the true war criminals are on the other side of the battlefield.

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