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No excuse for US bombing of Afghan hospital

The latest entry on a regrettably long list of victims of the fog of war is a hospital in Afghanistan run by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres — also known as Doctors Without Borders — which was destroyed by a U.S. airstrike.

The attack occurred days after several hundred Taliban fighters seized control of Kunduz, a city with a population of more than 300,000, marking the first time the Taliban had captured a major urban center since 2001.

The bombings, executed by an AC-130U gunship over the course of more than an hour, killed 22 people, including 12 doctors and 10 patients, three of them children, and wounded 37 others. One nurse described seeing six patients “burning in their beds” in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Some details of the airstrike are hazy. U.S. military officials initially said they were called in to protect U.S. ground forces under attack by Taliban insurgents, then changed their story the next day and said Afghan forces called for the strikes. Some Afghan leaders suggested that the Taliban were using the hospital as a base, which Doctors Without Borders has vehemently denied.

It is also unknown why the hospital was targeted, given that Doctors Without Borders provided military officials with their GPS coordinates both before and during the strikes.

“The facts and circumstances of this attack must be investigated independently and impartially, particularly given the inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts,” Doctors Without Borders International President Dr. Joanne Liu said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake.”

An independent investigation should be a minimal first step. Such incidents generate more ill will and enemies — “blowback,” in intelligence parlance — than our military actions can remove.

The Orange County Register, Oct. 15

Defusing Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood was right to stop taking reimbursement for donating fetal tissue to research programs, but not because anyone has proven that the organization did anything wrong.

A surfeit of undercover videos by an antiabortion group showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing how much they typically received for tissue donations, but they yielded no credible evidence that the organization was selling fetal tissue for a profit. Officials of the organization, one of the largest providers of reproductive health care in the United States, have insisted that they seek only to cover their costs in providing the tissue for medical research, which is legal.

But in light of the controversy stirred up by the videos, the decision to stop payments of any kind for fetal tissue takes away ammunition from critics who have been calling on the government to defund the organization. Those attempts have been unsuccessful so far, but anti-Planned Parenthood fervor continues, with five congressional committees investigating it — including a special House panel formed to look into the group.

Of Planned Parenthood’s 700 health centers, less than half a dozen are donating fetal tissue, and all are in just two states, Washington and California. And only in California were centers accepting reimbursement for the cost of tissue donations. That practice has now stopped. Any clinics that donate tissue in the future will do it for free. And there is every reason for Planned Parenthood clinics to continue donating fetal tissue, which is used by researchers studying such conditions as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors and spinal cord injuries.

So much of the congressional assault on Planned Parenthood is rooted in the fact that it provides abortions, even though none of the federal dollars it receives can be spent on such procedures except in cases of incest, rape or danger to the life of the woman from the pregnancy. Besides, abortion is just a small part of the range of valuable health services its centers provide to women across the country, particularly those with low incomes. Planned Parenthood’s decision to forgo recouping its costs from fetal tissue donation should defuse the ginned-up controversy over this organization’s work.

Los Angeles Times,Oct. 15

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