Obama should be tried for war crimes

Sometimes the sequence and proximity of unrelated events can bring great clarity to a bigger issue. Such was the case earlier this month with the unfolding of two different massacres that took place 6,800 miles apart.

On Thursday, October 1, Christopher Harper Mercer walked into Oregon’s Umpqua Community College and proceeded to murder nine students while wounding nine others. The next day, President Obama spent his lame duck time blasting Jeb Bush and other Republicans for their insensitivity to gun violence, and their unwillingness to prevent mass murders. Then on Saturday, that same President who was so appalled by the Oregon killings indirectly authorized the use of air strikes on a Doctors Without Borders facility in Afghanistan. The bombings resulted in 22 innocent people being slaughtered and 20 others wounded. The irony and hypocrisy of this is inescapable and unforgivable.

At first, General John Campbell, Obama’s coalition commander, said that the air strikes, though launched by our gun ships, were requested by Afghan officials who said there were Taliban fighters and heavy weapons in the hospital (where have we heard a similar bullshit story before?). We now know that Campbell’s sources were not credible. In fact, Doctors Without Borders officials do not allow any weapons in their facilities, EVER. Campbell, Obama, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter know that, and should have seen a red flag when told of so-called heavy weapons. But it gets worse. As soon as the air strikes began, hospital personnel called Campbell’s staff and begged them to halt the attack. Despite those pleas, the bombings continued for another thirty minutes. Once that information came to light, Obama, Carter, and Campbell took responsibility for the murderous attack and apologized publicly. A few days later, the President announced that “condolence payments” would be made to families of the people his administration had murdered.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Doctors Without Borders officials declared that the air strikes were war crimes, and last week when the Associated Press released more details, DWB President Meinie Nicolai said that the attack amounted to a “premeditated massacre.” Meanwhile, Red Cross executive Jean-Nicolas Marti said, “This was an appalling tragedy.” Indeed. Just read the eyewitness accounts, including one by Nurse Lajos Zoltan Jees who said, “Six patients were burning in their beds. There are no words for how terrible it was.” DWB has called for an independent international investigation, but President Obama has said that a Defense Department investigation will suffice. He promises transparency. Of course this is also the same man who promised we wouldn’t even be in Afghanistan by now.

The hospital massacre was not the first so-called collateral damage we have inflicted on the people of Afghanistan. Our air strikes have killed civilians attending a wedding, motorists out for a relaxing drive, and people gathering firewood. In addition to the numerous fatalities, another 33,000 innocent men, women, and children have been wounded in Afghanistan since Obama took office. New York Times correspondent Alissa Rubin commented that such Afghan casualties at the hands of Americans, “has done much to alienate the Afghan population, which, in turn, has hurt the United States-led forces and their Afghan government allies.”

The Afghan people have no doubt been victimized by rebels, but Rubin points out that, “insurgents do not have aircraft and the devastating ability to kill from above.” It’s no wonder that the people whose countries and families we have bombed feel real contempt toward America. It’s the same kind of hatred that no doubt helped to incite the 9/11 attacks, after which, George Bush made things worse by invading the wrong country and killing a million innocent men, women, and children in Iraq. Those war crimes and the resulting destabilization of the region gave rise to Isis, and now, thanks to Mr. Obama’s hospital massacre, we can probably look forward to a new wave of potential attacks on Americans both overseas and here at home.

Years ago I called for Bush and Cheney to stand trial for war crimes in Iraq, and now I believe Obama, Campbell, and Carter should be tried for the recent atrocities in Afghanistan. Such a trial would demonstrate to the world that no one person or government is above the law, and that even those who are indirectly responsible for mass murder, must be held accountable.

It’s time for America to stop policing the world and stop interfering in foreign civil strife that has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. And it’s time for us to hold our political leaders accountable for the mass murder of civilians, whether it’s nine deaths in Oregon, twenty-two in Afghanistan, or a million in Iraq. We need gun control here and gun ship control abroad. We have it within our power to do all of these things. To do otherwise is criminal. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).