'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Targeting of Hospitals 

Here's Brian Dominick's must-read piece on the targeting of hospitals in Fallujah. He discusses the loose rules of engagement the US forces are operating under and draws a comparison between these attacks and the attacks on ambulances frequently reported during April's assault on the city. In an email I received, Dominick wrote

It appears this report is even more relevant than we at first thought. News is coming in from unverified sources that today an airstrike destroyed a second clinic in Fallujah. More on that as we are able to confirm...

This is probably the story that he's talking about: (via XINHUA online)

Dozens of Iraqi people,including at least 20 medics, were killed in a US air raid on a government clinic in the center of Iraq's western city of Fallujah overnight, witnesses said Tuesday.

"Over 20 medics were killed in the air raid and dozens others, including wounded people, were killed as a result of the US raid on the city early Tuesday," local residents told Xinhua.

The sources said the one-story Community Clinic, which had been receiving wounded insurgents and civilians, was totally destroyed.

The building was one of the three Community Clinics erected in the city to substitute the main hospital, which was seized by US and Iraqi forces Monday night, just hours before a full-scale offensive began.

Medics in the city told Xinhua that their clinics were runningout of medical supplies and the only ambulance they had was hit by US fire.

Look, if the above turns out to be accurate, that makes two hospitals and a clinic in three days; this is clearly a calculated and consciously chosen tactic. Aside from exacerbating the damage done by bombs and bullets, these targeted assaults on Fallujah's medical infrastructure are intended to conceal the extent of casualties resulting from Operation Phantom Fury. The USA's plan of attack is to finish off Fallujah quickly with little media coverage, as USA Today put it:

If it drags on for weeks, and TV images of urban carnage and civilian deaths are broadcast around the world, the U.S. could lose the support of the interim Iraqi government and of other friends and allies. "Speed is of the essence," White says. "If we get into a protracted fight, and the government loses its political will, the insurgents score another victory."

There can be no photographs of hospital wards with bloodstained floors packed with the wounded and dying if there are no hospitals. The Times recently wrote that according to senior American officers, the Falluja General Hospital was sacked "because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties". To admit that silencing Fallujan doctors was a motivating factor leading to the early targeting of hospitals and clinics is essentially to confess to a war crime, as Brian Dominick concluded his New Standard article:

The Fourth Geneva Convention offers no provision permitting the seizure of health care facilities in order to prevent hospital officials from releasing statements -- whether true or false -- to the public.

In fact, the only relevant article states, "The Occupying Power may requisition civilian hospitals only temporarily and only in cases of urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick, and then on condition that suitable arrangements are made in due time for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs of the civilian population for hospital accommodation."

Since the US military has established its own rear-area medical facilities, and since the seizure of Fallujah General marked the first objective of the ground invasion, it is unlikely that the criteria of "urgent necessity for the care of military wounded" has been met.

Additionally, The NewStandard has so far been unable to find reports that rebels or terrorists have inhibited the provision of health care to those in need at Fallujah General. The only reports of such obstruction cite constraints placed on the facility by US personnel.

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