Daños colaterales

The Forgotten Lessons of Black Hawk Down

Twenty-five years ago this week, a Somali warlord named Mohammed Farah Aidid offered the American military a glimpse of its future. But neither policymakers back in Washington nor commanders in the field were attuned to what he had on offer.

A mission that had begun 10 months earlier to provide relief supplies to starving Somalis had evolved into a vastly more ambitious nation-building project. On the night of Oct. 3-4, 1993, an American military operation to capture Mr. Aidid ended in catastrophic failure, including 18 Americans dead. Soon afterward the entire mission collapsed, and the United States withdrew. Yet any lessons that might have been learned from this debacle stayed in Mogadishu, alongside the smoldering wreckage of the Black Hawk helicopter that Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

The world is failing a generation of Iraqi kids

Iraqi children have been the victims of the country’s dire political situation even before the start of the war led by the United States. The negative effects on children started with the harsh United Nations sanctions against the regime of Saddam Hussein and were considerably aggravated by the war, whose consequences are still felt.

Even now, hardly a week passes in Iraq without violence leaving both children and adults with permanent physical and mental scars. Experts such as Dr. Haithi al-Sady from the Psychological Research Center at Baghdad University have warned of the high number of children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).…  Seguir leyendo »

Military planes have been flying low over our hospital. I have been working in Hamam al-Alil, about 15 miles from Mosul, at a Doctors Without Borders trauma hospital. The Islamic State’s last holdout is now a small area of Mosul’s Old City, and the battle to recapture it is reportedly in its final moments.

The roar of the military planes triggers painful flashbacks for one of our patients, Hamza, a 10-year-old boy from a Mosul neighborhood that had been controlled by the Islamic State from 2014 until very recently, when the coalition forces retook most of the city. In May, he watched his father burn alive in an airstrike over their neighborhood.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two weeks ago, the American military finally acknowledged what nongovernmental monitoring groups had claimed for months: The United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State since August 2014 has been killing Iraqi and Syrian civilians at astounding rates in the four months since President Trump assumed office. The result has been a “staggering loss of civilian life,” as the head of the United Nations’ independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian civil war said last week.

“At least 484 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes,” the United States Central Command, or Centcom, the military command responsible for the Middle East, said in a June 2 statement.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Mohammad Azam started his shift on May 21, it was just another sunny morning in Taftan, a small desert town in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. Like taxi drivers around the world, he planned to spend this day waiting for customers, and navigating through traffic when he could find a fare. He had no idea it would be his last day alive.

By that evening, Mr. Azam’s body had been found burned to death, barely identifiable. He had the bad luck of picking up the target of an American drone strike: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then leader of the Afghan Taliban.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the Vietnam War, U.S. military leaders infamously used the number of enemy killed — body counts — as the measure of U.S. battlefield accomplishment. Even if accurate, these numbers were a spectacular failure as a touchstone of success.

It was ironic that Vietnam War opponents used a similar but opposite body count to undermine the war effort — that of civilians killed. The iconic image of protesters chanting, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today?” foreshadowed a paradigm shift in how the U.S. military approaches the issue of civilian casualties, particularly in asymmetric conflicts. Now, “civilian protection” is, appropriately, central to both the international law of war and the legitimacy of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the span of four days earlier this month, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen bombed a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital, killing 19 people; a school, where 10 children, some as young as 8, died; and a vital bridge over which United Nations food supplies traveled, punishing millions.

In a war that has seen reports of human rights violations committed by every side, these three attacks stand out. But the Obama administration says these strikes, like previous ones that killed thousands of civilians since last March, will have no effect on the American support that is crucial for Saudi Arabia’s air war.…  Seguir leyendo »

The look in his eyes is hypnotic.

Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, his face covered in dust and blood, sits quietly in the orange chair of the ambulance, his tiny bare feet barely dangling over the edge. Photographers snapped the picture after rescue workers pulled Omran from of a collapsing building in the city of Aleppo, in Syria, after it was hit by a Syrian government or Russian airstrike.

The picture has spread at lightning speed across social media, making him a symbol of the relentless suffering being experienced at this very moment by millions of Syrian civilians, including countless women and children.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rebels in Aleppo say they have broken the siege of the city, but have yet to establish a secure route for civilians. Government forces under President Bashar al-Assad deny they have been pushed out of the city. The battle for Aleppo may mark a military turning point, but for Aleppo’s remaining residents, it marks only an intensification of a misery that seems to go unheeded by the international community.

No one is coming to save the Syrians. If President Obama did not act in 2013 after the chemical attacks in Ghouta, where children died of asphyxiation, testing his “red line”, then he surely will not act now after footage of chemical attacks two weeks ago in Idlib showed fighters, allegedly poisoned by Assad’s chlorine, gasping for breath.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’emploi d’armes explosives, dont certaines sont interdites par des traités internationaux, a significativement augmenté ces quatre dernières années. Ces armes explosives sont utilisées en zones peuplées dans la majorité des conflits actuels, par les forces du gouvernement ou des acteurs non gouvernementaux, avec des exemples récents en Syrie, à Gaza, au Yémen ou en Ukraine. Le recours massif à ces armes, y compris les mines antipersonnel et les bombes à sous-munitions, dans les zones urbaines montre une absence totale de considération pour la vie des civils.

La zone d’impact de ces armes peut aller de quelques mètres à plusieurs centaines de mètres autour de l’explosion.…  Seguir leyendo »

El secretario general de Naciones Unidas, Ban Ki-moon, nos ha convocado a la I Cumbre Humanitaria mundial. Estamos llamados a dar respuesta a las crisis humanitarias que asolan buena parte del planeta. Más de 125 millones de personas están necesitadas de asistencia y protección urgente y más de 60 millones han sido desplazadas de sus hogares como consecuencia de guerras como las de Siria o Yemen o de catástrofes como el terremoto de Ecuador.

No se trata de situaciones esporádicas sino de crisis estructurales. Somos conscientes de que la comunidad humanitaria está al límite de su capacidad de respuesta. Tan solo en Siria, desde 2011, han muerto más de 280.000 personas, son 6,5 millones los desplazados internos y hay más de cuatro millones de refugiados.…  Seguir leyendo »

The grainy, stuttering CCTV images are haunting. Dr Mohammed Maaz, the last pediatrician working in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, diligently going about his work, in the face of unimaginable pressure. The footage is then engulfed by a cloud of dust and debris, as the Al Quds hospital is hit by an airstrike. At least 50 died, 60 more were injured. Dr Maaz perished along with his colleagues and patients.

Dr. Maaz was the last known pediatrician left in rebel-held Aleppo. The children of that city are now left more vulnerable than ever before. It is lamentable that in Syria, the World Health Organisation reports that 57% of public hospitals and 51% of public health clinics have been closed.…  Seguir leyendo »

A finales de abril, aviones sirios o rusos bombardearon el hospital Al Quds, en la parte este de la ciudad dividida de Alepo. Al menos 50 personas murieron y otras 80 resultaron heridas.

Entre los muertos por el ataque estuvo mi querido amigo y colega, el Dr. Muhammad Wassim Mo’az, un ser humano cálido que se preocupaba mucho por sus pacientes y su comunidad. Dormía en el hospital por si hubiera una emergencia y tuviera que correr a atender a los bebés y los niños. Era el último pediatra en Alepo.

Otro amigo, el Dr. Mohammed Ahmad, también murió por los ataques aéreos.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Pentagon on Friday released the findings of its inquiry into the October 3, 2015, air attack on a Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. If the report was meant to demonstrate that appropriate action had been taken against those responsible, it was a failure. Instead, it highlights both the unlawfulness of the attack and the inadequacy of U.S. military justice. Those responsible received administrative punishment — and not a single criminal charge was pursued.

The airstrike killed 42 patients, caregivers and medical staff, and injured dozens more. Some patients burned alive in their beds as the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, Syrian or Russian jets bombed Al Quds hospital, in the eastern part of the divided city of Aleppo. At least 50 people lost their lives, and some 80 more were injured.

Among those killed in the attack was my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Muhammad Wassim Mo’az, a kind man who cared deeply for his patients and his community. He slept in the hospital in case there was an emergency and he had to rush to treat babies and children. He was the last pediatrician in Aleppo.

Another friend, Dr. Mohammed Ahmad, was also killed in the airstrikes. Dr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crímenes de guerra y daños colaterales

La matanza de 22 médicos y pacientes en un hospital de Afganistán a principios del pasado mes de octubre por los bombardeos de Estados Unidos ha despertado, con razón, indignación y protestas en todo el mundo civilizado. El hecho de que el comando militar responsable emitiera cuatro historias diferentes en un intento de exculparse dio lugar a más indignación aún. La ONG Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF), que dirigía el hospital, denunció el acto como un delito y exigió una investigación. Uno de los fundadores de MSF, Bernard Kouchner, declaró: “Lo que ocurrió es una violación de los derechos humanos básicos. Fue un acto contra el derecho humanitario e internacional, en completa contradicción con las convenciones de Ginebra.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Tuesday, the Dutch Safety Board released a report suggesting that a missile warhead was responsible for the crash of Malaysia Flight 17 over Donetsk, Ukraine, in July 2014. Everyone on board was killed.

Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine deny allegations that they are to blame; instead, they accuse the Ukrainians. Both sides keep pointing fingers at one another.

It’s very possible that this tragedy is the result of highly capable weapons landing in the hands of those who are not adequately trained to use them, or worse, when systems that should have available safety mechanisms were sold without them.…  Seguir leyendo »

L'hôpital de Médecins sans frontières de Kunduz en flamme suite au bombardement de l'armée américaine, le 3 octobre 2015. AFP

Le 3 octobre, l’hôpital de Médecins sans frontières de Kunduz a été bombardé par l’armée américaine pendant les opérations pour reprendre la ville aux Taliban. Les derniers décomptes indiquent une vingtaine de morts – humanitaires et malades, y compris des enfants – et des dizaines de blessés graves. L’hôpital est désormais fermé, MSF ne pouvant plus garantir la sécurité de ses installations, ce qui prive les blessés de la seule antenne chirurgicale efficace dans la région. Il s’agit par ailleurs d’un des incidents les plus meurtriers pour l’ONG, tous terrains confondus, depuis des décennies. Les bombardements américains résultent-ils d’une erreur due au fog of war, incident tragique mais excusable étant donné la confusion inhérente aux combats urbains ?…  Seguir leyendo »

A child in Aleppo, Syria, is asked to draw a picture at school.

He paints a world on fire: helicopters dropping bombs, a house collapsing into rubble. He draws himself, crying on his knees, surrounded by his friends — dead, dismembered, decapitated, and bleeding.

This is the type of sad reality that we have seen far too often as physicians working inside Syrian field hospitals — children across the country living in hell. It is time to act if we are to prevent such heartrending scenes being played endlessly into the future.

Every day we were in Syria we saw innocent people suffering and dying in abysmal conditions.…  Seguir leyendo »

It seems apt that the Blackwater security contractors convicted of killing 14 unarmed civilians on an Iraqi street in 2007 were condemned to lengthy sentences this week. I couldn’t help but think of Marla Ruzicka, once the world’s loudest voice calling attention to the plight of innocent victims of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was ten years ago this week, on April 16, 2005, that she was silenced when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle next to hers on Baghdad’s Airport Road, turning her into another civilian casualty of war while on her way to seek help for others caught in the crossfire.…  Seguir leyendo »