During the most recent Gaza war, the Obama administration made an utter fool of itself condemning the Israeli military for causing civilian casualties when Hamas fought from civilian buildings, wearing civilian clothes, and actively sought to kill as many Israeli civilians possible. In so doing, it articulated a legal theory unprecedented in the history of urban combat, especially urban combat against a foe who actively conceals himself amongst civilians: “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
This is sheer idiocy, and — as I pointed out at the time — we hadn’t applied that standard to our own forces either in our ongoing drone strikes or during the vast majority of combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. And we obviously did not apply that standard in recent urban fighting in Kunduz, where it appears American forces mistakenly hit a hospital when responding to an allied request for close air support. Watch as the Associated Press’s Matt Lee reminds Obama State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner of the administration’s anti-Israel sanctimony and then follows up with the crushing question about Kunduz:
What I’m most curious about, is that this statement said the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes, which — and the military has said that it was called in because the Afghans asked for it. But MSF says that they had been given the coordinates much in the same way the IDF had been given the coordinates of the school in Rafah. So the question is – and I realize this is under investigation. But the question is if – the question is: If the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes on a humanitarian facility for which the coordinates had been given, that it seems to have changed.
No matter what armchair warriors think, when armed terrorists infiltrate a city, wear civilian clothes, and fight from and near civilian buildings, there is no way to conduct armed resistance in a way that guarantees civilians won’t die or that we won’t make mistakes in targeting. Even with GPS coordinates, the best optics money can buy, and stable communications, mistakes will happen. I know first-hand that the fog of war exists even in the most high-tech of combat environments. You cannot imagine the frustration of trying to make life and death decisions when the other side is violating every single law of armed conflict with the goal of putting western militaries in the position of either ceding control of a city or killing innocents. Yet as I’ve said many times before, when civilians die through mistakes or merely by being in the line of fire, those civilian deaths are the moral and legal responsibility of the lawless terrorist aggressors.
No one has made any credible allegations that American pilots decided to destroy a hospital out of sheer malice — using combat in the city as pretext for mass murder. And unless that evidence is uncovered, the Taliban bear the blame for that tragic loss of life. Any argument to the contrary turns the law of war upside down. Out of sheer spite, the Obama administration has played that game with Israel. If it plays that game with American forces, then we can’t hope to effectively resist the Taliban, ISIS, or any other jihadist force.