Curtain Raiser

Beyond Borders & Wars, Colltalers

In a week that has had its fare share of breaking news, to pick the U.S. tragic bombing of a hospital run by the volunteer organization Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan as the one with the most resonance and implications may be at least highly arguable.
But neither the Russian strikes in Syria, whether against ISIL or, as the U.S. charges, forces fighting president Bashar al-Assad, nor yet another massacre by a gun-lover maniac at an American school, have as many layers to unpack than what happened in Kunduz.
For it’s frightening but predictable the fact that President Vladimir Putin apparently thinks that taking a more active role in an already messy civil war will, somehow, change its course. Most likely, it’ll reposition his country as another formidable foe to peace.
And there’s been expected dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s course of action till now. Which doesn’t mean that a switch from preaching non involvement while arming a network of rogue activists behind the scenes will necessarily bring home the bacon.
The world is in fact astonished to realize that once again the stage is set for another dangerous Russia-U.S. confrontation, with no role, or foreseeable benefits, left to anyone else. And that both are clearly focused on accomplishing their own goals rather than Syria’s.
Even if one sees the former as having more at stake in that particular quagmire, and that the latter could apply a more humanitarian and less militaristic view of the situation, their involvement does look like as if driven out of self-interest and old imperialistic ideas.
Similar dismal reaction came from the brutal killing of eight students plus a teacher and the shooter at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. Once again, the most obvious answers are quickly discarded in favor of a strange rhetoric that mixes hypocritical claims of rationality (it’s people, not guns, etc), phony sentimentality

(our prayers to the victims), and rushed dismissal (time for ‘closure’).
Such terrible events, now happening almost on a daily basis in America, have bred a cruel automatic response, that goes fast from shock, search for answers, rejection of all sensible explanations, to detailed descriptions of both the carnage and the shooter’s previously life, along a few stock hero narratives to easy the blunt, blatant self-promotion by local officials, and not much else.
How unbearable it must be to those related to the dead, in addition to their natural, unresolvable pain, to put up with betrayal by a society clearly in love with the figure of the violent avenger, but indifferent and unaccountable when it strikes one of their own.
Highlighting air raids and the likely upcoming ground troops, in Syria, however, or the recurrent nightmare of a deranged gunman on the loose, doesn’t mean to dismiss all else, good or bad, that went on around the world last week, including in your own household.
But as far as implications to the Obama administration and its management of multiple conflicts, and the sheer horror of watching a peaceful organization succumb to bombs, there’s nothing as the death rained over that medical facility in northern Afghanistan.
Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian group known by its French acronym, MSF, was founded after the Biafran War in Nigeria, 43 years ago, and has been one of the sole organizations providing aid to Afghans living in one the world’s most inhospitable regions.
The hospital, a far cry from the multibillion dollar complexes we’re used to in Western cities, had been a haven for years to those without the option of being rescued and taken to a first-class facility, even if on a shoe-string budget and with no safety guarantees.
That’s because, despite the Geneva Convention, hospitals and schools have indeed become targets lately, in places such as Gaza Strip, Yemen, and China. As far as we know, the MSF-run clinic was not intentionally hit, but it’s still disturbing that it was, and possibly even worse if it was all a mistake. For we may expect that from a terrorist group, but never from a powerful army such as the U.S.
The bombing followed, or is consequence of, the bloody struggle that has been to retake Kunduz from the Taliban, by American and Afghan forces. Reports are conflicting, but the destruction of the MSF hospital may have been a result of rushed decisions and poorly-thought strategies to ward off the increased escalation of hostilities. That being said, it’s hard to even conceive such an escalation.
After all, the Afghanistan war is the U.S.’s longest, declared in response to the 9/11 attacks but one that the Bush administration half-aborted in 2003 to pursue its already pre-conceived Iraq invasion. The rest is history, including the tens of thousands of lives lost.
That we’re now still talking about a ‘Taliban offensive’ speaks volumes of that initial catastrophic disruption, and its architects, who to this day, refuse to take responsibility for the damage they caused to the so-called American values and stand in the world.
Nevertheless, we’re still in Afghanistan, still producing corpses, and still without a goal to be accomplished, except the inevitable killing of innocent people, with or without intention. Specially now, four full years after Osama bin Laden was found and killed.
The Obama administration is now scrambling to find a scapegoat for the massacre of 12 staff workers and 10 patients in Kunduz, but the fact that the air force was engaged with nearby militants will likely serve as the foundation for an excuse now being articulated.
The MSF has been a known presence in the area, and it said that the U.S. and Afghan military had been alerted of their operations. That apparently was not enough to prevent the repeated attack, as it’s been reported that the plane came back after the initial fusillade.
The first consequence of the bombing was announced yesterday, as the MSF said it’s leaving the area. With no other medical facility nearby, except for the U.S.-provided mobile infirmaries, chances are that we won’t even hear from casualties there from now on.
Also, with a flesh and blood pilot on the plane controls – unlike in mistaken attacks by drones -, it’s fair to expect not just those hardy volunteers to be unwilling to stay any longer, but also all other humanitarian groups operating in the front lines of war.
At closer scrutiny, though, none of these events add anything to what we already know. Be it about war, the willingness of some leaders to sacrifice bone and skin of others in pursuit of their own agendas, or the twisted rationale of a nation enthralled by the delusional allure of conflict-resolving by the way of the barrel, the world of headline news often cuts and lets it bleed but rarely heals.
We want more than that. Even lacking the eloquence of visionaries such as the MSF and others like it, we still need to ask: is that really it? That’s why we built nations and cities and hospital facilities in the wild, so someone can send in death by fire and bury it all?
In a week that has had its fair share of breaking heart news, we must pick another set of reasons to move ahead. They may focus on the power, the fire, the number of victims, the apparently lack of sense in the human endeavor. We’d rather zero in on the dignity of those who serve, who run to rescue, who move their bodies forward and take the bullets, so others, strangers to them, won’t be hurt.
There’s no other way or reason to get up everyday believing that what we’ve built is lost or wasted or means nothing. War is what means nothing, not our aim to do good and better and a tad more and then some. That definitely means something. Have a great one. WC


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