Many of the unsung heroes of our time are those who volunteer for an international organization called “Doctors Without Borders.” They risk their lives day-in day-out by working in extremely dangerous parts of the world.
On Oct. 3, 12 of them were blown to bits and/or burned to death when American air power devastated a hospital in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. In the series of attacks (they were struck multiple times every 15 minutes), 10 patients, including three children, were also killed. Six of the victims burned to death in their beds.
It is still not established how it happened. We were first told, via the U.S. Pentagon, that Americans were in jeopardy at the hospital site. Later, the Pentagon changed its story and said, instead, that Afghan security forces said they were in imminent danger of Taliban attackers. Another version claimed Taliban insurgents were firing from the hospital. That assertion was a blatant lie, according to Doctors Without Borders officials, who called the attack a war crime and demanded an investigation.
The Pentagon has pledged to do a full, open and transparent investigation of why the hospital in Kunduz was attacked. Let’s hope for honest answers.
Earlier, before the attack, hospital officials had informed the American military of its GPS coordinates to avoid any sort of aerial attack. But somehow it happened. “Collateral damage” is an antiseptic euphemism for the “accidental slaughter” of innocent people in a war or conflict. That’s the trouble with all wars. Stupid, vicious jerks start them and then innocent men, women and children pay the hideous price in the bloody rampages.
In this case, the Taliban had captured Kunduz, an important strategic city in north Afghanistan. That take-over is considered a serious setback to Afghan and American efforts to degrade those Islamic radicals’ attempts to take over the entire country. Lest we forget, it is the Taliban, throw-back feudal extremists to the max, who invited Osama bin Laden and his thugs to use parts of Afghanistan as terrorist training grounds. And let’s not forget the Soviet Union, in its mindless aggression against Afghanistan, de-stabilized that country long before Americans arrived on the messy scene.
These unstable countries and their monstrosities can be argued about forever. But, in the meantime, where catastrophes happen, Doctors Without Borders is soon to follow. In 1999, the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize for good reason. Founded in Paris in 1971 (also known in French as Medecins Sans Frontieres), Doctors Without Borders has put doctors, nurses and medical experts on the front lines in the humanitarian “war” against natural disasters, disease, famine and every possible imaginable brutality, including horrible eruptions of genocide. It’s amazing that more of its volunteers have not been killed when one considers where they have served, amid bombs and bullets: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Chechnya, Nigeria and in refugee camps throughout the world. Doctors Without Borders has saved millions of lives, mostly via vaccinations, medicines, nutrition and through establishing clean-water systems. Dirty water is a massive killer, especially among children.
In Afghanistan alone, Doctors Without Borders has treated more than 22,000 patients, 5,999 of them having required surgery for terrible war wounds.
Eighty percent of the group’s funding comes from private donations, individual, corporate, organizational. Twenty percent of the money is provided from governments.
In accepting the 1999 Nobel Prize on behalf of Doctors Without Borders, Dr. James Orbinski shared this horrific but moving anecdote from the butchery in Rwanda:
“There were hundreds of women, children and men brought to the hospital that day, so many we had to lay them out on the street and even operate on some of them there. The gutters around the hospital ran red with blood. A woman had not just been attacked with a machete, but her entire body had been systematically mutilated. Her ears had been cut off. And her face had been so carefully disfigured that a pattern was obvious in the slashes. She was among many living an inhuman and simply indescribable suffering. We could do little more for her than stop the bleeding with a few necessary sutures. We were completely overwhelmed, and she knew that there were so many others. She said to me in the clearest voice I have ever heard, “Allez allez ummera ummersaha.” (“Go, my friend, find and let live your courage.”)
Donating to Doctors Without Borders is one of the best ways to contribute to world peace and the betterment of humanity. To find out more about it and to donate, go to www.doctorswithoutborders.org.