Sunday, May 04, 2008

Collateral Damage

I tried to overlook this story yesterday because it's just so sad and frustrating, but it's on my mind, and I can't ignore it.

Yesterday, in a poor Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, a U.S. air strike damaged a hospital. The target of the strike was actually a small shack next door. From AFP:

Doctors and hospital staff were livid they had been hit.

"They (the Americans) will say it was a weapons cache (they hit)," said the head of Baghdad's health department, Dr Ali Bistan. "But, in fact they want to destroy the infrastructure of the country."

He charged that the attack was aimed at preventing doctors and medicines reaching the hospital which is located inside an area of increased clashes between American troops and militiamen.

The corridors of the hospital were littered with glass splinters, twisted metal and hanging electrical wiring. Partitions in wards had collapsed.

The huge concrete blocks forming a protective wall against explosions had collapsed on parked vehicles, including up to 17 ambulances, disabling the emergency response teams.

The New York Times quotes a hospital official as saying, "Twenty-eight people were wounded in the strikes on the building and surrounding area." The NYT article goes on to give a different description of the targeted building:

The sign at the iron gate at the entrance to the building demolished by the American strike reads “Imam Hussein’s Resthouse.”

The Americans described the building in a statement as “a criminal element command and control center.”

“Intelligence reports indicate the command and control center was used by criminal elements to plan and coordinate attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces and innocent Iraqi citizens,” the statement said.

So instead, we hit innocent Iraqi citizens? WTF? We're not winning hearts and minds here! And the official response was weak, cold, and dehumanizing:

When asked about the attack, Col. Gerald O’Hara, a spokesman for the multinational forces, said the Americans “take great care to prevent any collateral damage and will continue to do so.”

“We don’t target civilians and regret any casualties,” he added.

I hate the phrase "collateral damage." But whatever we call it, the daily violence continues.

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