NEW YORK – It's one of the worst war disasters in memory, and now the call condemning a U.S. air strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan over the weekend is coming from groups across the globe. But with New York being a world capital, a lot of that international outcry is originating here in New York, even as the U.S. military has changed its official account of what went wrong.
The scene in Kunduz, two days after U.S. warplanes made repeated air-to-ground missile strikes Saturday, was bleak. The building's whitewashed exterior walls were black with smoke stains, and fire still smoldered there.
When they'd taken place, The attacks left dozens of staff members desperately seeking shelter, and they were the lucky ones. Twelve doctors and members of staff were killed, and so were ten patients, including three children.
The organization that runs the hospital, Doctors Without Borders, is based in Geneva, but has one of its main offices in Midtown Manhattan. Its operations, though, are global. It operates hospitals worldwide in some of the most war-torn, desperate places, including Afghanistan. It's what won the organization the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
The U.S. government had initially said the air strikes were the result of American military advisors to Afghan soldiers being fired upon by Taliban gunmen.
Doctors Without Borders rejected that account, saying that the hospital is a well-known facility that for four years has served openly to all incoming patients in the region.
Joining with Doctors Without Borders, which commonly uses the initials for its French name, Medicins Sans Frontieresinitials in the condemnation, a number of international groups, which happen to have headquarters here, in New York, including the Center for Constitutional Rights.
It joined a coalition of groups that calls for "...an independent investigation into the attack as a potential war crime, and... urges the International Criminal Court... to hold those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law accountable."
But the Pentagon on Monday changed its official account.
"We have now learned that on October 3rd Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," said Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. military activity in Afghanistan, during a briefing Monday morning with reporters. "An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several civilians were accidentally struck."
MSF is not necessarily buying it. It's calling for an independent, international investigation, as opposed to the Obama Administration's assurances that three separate investigations -- by the U.S. military, by a joint U.S. - Afghan investigation team and by NATO officers -- will get to the bottom of what caused the tragedy.