Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: 22 people killed by U.S. airstrike on Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Before the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, a group of activists living in Baghdad would regularly go to city sites that were crucial for maintaining health and well-being in Baghdad, such as hospitals, electrical facilities, water purification plants, and schools, and string large vinyl banners between the trees outside these buildings which read: “To Bomb This Site Would Be A War Crime.”  We encouraged people in U.S. cities to do the same, trying to build empathy for people trapped in Iraq, anticipating a terrible aerial bombing.

Tragically, sadly, the banners must again condemn war crimes, this time echoing international outcry because in an hour of airstrikes this past Saturday morning, the U.S. repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, a facility that served the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

U.S./NATO forces carried out the airstrike at about 2AM on October 3rd. Doctors Without Borders had already notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital.  When the first bombs hit, medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued, at 15 minute intervals, until 3:15 a.m., killing 22 people. 12 of the dead were medical staff; ten were patients, and three of the patients were children. At least 37 more people were injured.  One survivor said that the first section of the hospital to be hit was the Intensive Care Unit.

“Patients were burning in their beds,” said one nurse, an eyewitness to the ICU attack.”There are no words for how terrible it was.”  The U.S. airstrikes continued, even after the Doctors Without Borders officials had notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan military that the warplanes were attacking the hospital.


Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it was patently clear that the U.S. had committed a war crime.

The U.S. military has said that the matter is under investigation.  Yet another in an endless train of somber apologies; feeling families’ pain but excusing all involved decision makers seems inevitable. Doctors Without Borders has demanded a transparent, independent investigation, assembled by a legitimate international body and without direct involvement by the U.S. or by any other warring party in the Afghan conflict.  If such an investigation occurs, and is able to confirm that this was a deliberate, or else a murderously neglectful war crime, how many Americans will ever learn of the verdict?

War crimes can be acknowledged when carried out by official U.S. enemies, when they are useful in justifying invasions and efforts at regime change.

One investigation the U.S. has signally failed to carry out would tell it how much Kunduz needed this hospital. The U.S. could investigate SIGAR reports (“Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction”) numbering Afghanistan’s “U.S. funded health care facilities,” allegedly funded through USAID, which cannot even be located, 189 alleged locations at whose coordinates there are demonstrably no buildings within 400 feet. In their June 25th letter they astoundingly write, “My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information for 510—nearly 80 percent—of the 641 health care facilities funded by the PCH program.” It notes that six of the Afghan facilities are actually located in Pakistan, six in Tajikstan, and one in the Mediterranean Sea.

It seems we’ve created yet another ghost hospital, not out of thin air this time but from the walls of a desperately needed facility which are now charred rubble, from which the bodies of staff and patients have been exhumed. And with the hospital lost to a terrified community, the ghosts of this attack are, again, beyond anyone’s ability to number.  But in the week leading up to this attack, its staff had treated 345 wounded people, 59 of them children.

Now the region has no hospital at all.

The U.S. has long shown itself the most formidable warlord fighting in Afghanistan, setting an example of brute force that frightens rural people who wonder to whom they can turn for protection.  In July of 2015, U.S. bomber jets attacked an Afghan army facility in the Logar Province, killing ten soldiers. The Pentagon said this incident would likewise be under investigation.  No public conclusion of the investigation seems ever to have been issued.  There isn’t always even an apology.

This was a massacre, whether one of carelessness or of hate.   One way to join the outcry against it, demanding not just an inquiry but a final end to all U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, would be to assemble in front of health care facilities, hospitals or trauma units, carrying signage which says, “To Bomb This Place Would Be a War Crime.” Invite hospital personnel to join the assembly, notify local media, and hold an additional sign which says: “The Same Is True in Afghanistan.”

We should affirm the Afghans’ right to medical care and safety. The U.S. should offer investigators unimpeded access to the decision makers in this attack and pay to reconstruct the hospital with reparations for suffering caused throughout these fourteen years of war and cruelly manufactured chaos. Finally, and for the sake of future generations, we should take hold of our runaway empire and make it a nation we can restrain from committing the fathomlessly obscene atrocity that is war.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( She returned from Afghanistan in mid-September 2015 where she was a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers  (

AFGHANISTAN: In Kabul on Sept. 21st, the International Day of Peace, #Enough!

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

Kabul, Afghanistan–Sixteen years ago, a Talib (literally translated, a student) shot and killed Zarghuna’s father.

Zarghuna and her family were frantically fleeing a desperate situation. The same holds true for  more than 60 million refugees in today’s ‘progressive’ world.

If you’re like me, you may think, “Oh, how messy is Zarghuna’s part of the world.”

“How terrible are the Taliban!”, and perhaps even, “We should imprison or eliminate them.”

But, Zarghuna thinks differently.

Zarghuna with the word #Enough! in Dari/Pashto on her hand, with her friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids ( from left to right : Mursal, Barath, Inam, Muheb, Zarghuna, Kahar and Zahra)

Zarghuna with the word #Enough! in Dari/Pashto on her hand, with her friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids (from left: Mursal, Barath, Inam, Muheb, Zarghuna, Kahar and Zahra)

In the noisy violence raging around her, Zarghuna quietly but resolutely says, “#Enough!”

Okay, I confess I’m not confident that, in our hurried lives, we’ll appreciate the relevance of Zarghuna’s distant struggle.

But I trust we can care for her when she cries.

Just sitting there. Crying.

“I don’t think my mother will manage if Arif leaves,” she said.

Arif, Zarghuna’s youngest brother, has already left home twice in the past three months, with the intention of smuggling himself to Iran and onwards to Europe.

Unlike the steady girl that she usually is, Zarghuna looked up from her downcast posture, and said, “There’s nothing really ‘fulfilling’ in Afghanistan to stay around for, is there?”

Zarghuna’s mother lost her husband and father-in-law to war.

“She can’t live through another loss,” Zarghuna stated plainly.

I believe we need to hear voices like Zarghuna’s. Our ‘smart’ devices, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, We Chat etc etc can’t do the listening. We are the ones who need to listen. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

On Zarghuna’s palm is written the word ‘Enough’ in Dari and Pashto ( the official languages of Afghanistan ), pronounced ‘bas’!

We may not have experienced war as Zarghuna has, but we’ve each had enough of different severe frustrations; of being treated as less than others, discriminated against, insulted, looked down upon, disrespected, exploited, and violated in various ways.

Or we’ve had enough of feeling lonely in life’s materialistic rush.

These challenges appear separate, though that’s not what Zarghuna has been learning.

These are interconnected crises.

The outcome? We can face the ugly crises we have on our hands today by questioning why there’s such a huge socio-economic difference between the elite and most of us ( the so called 99% ), and an even greater difference between them and the most vulnerable people, like street kids, labourers, and people who live in war zones.

Our greed has its toll.

#Enough! is #Enough! is the feeling we all share.

So, today, Zarghuna, 100 Borderfree Street Kids, some of whom she teaches, and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, tried to set aside those unpleasant human ways by sharing a meal with 100 Afghan labourers.

Zarghuna stirring the frying pan of sliced carrots

Zarghuna stirring the frying pan of sliced carrots.

They divided the work of drawing up an invitation list of labourers, getting enough wood for the fire, sifting and washing the raisins and rice, cooking, and thinking about the meaning of it all.

They looked kindly at one another as they shared the food, each of them bearing a war story.

The Borderfree Street Kids sharing the food with the Afghan laborers, and saying to them, “Come again in happiness!”

The Borderfree Street Kids sharing the food with the Afghan laborers, and saying to them, “Come again in happiness!”

How can I reach within you who are so far away, to share with you how captivated I was by the transformation of war-generated pain, sorrow, fear, distrust and hate into the tiny but cumulative actions of determination and love?

Can you see it on Zarghuna’s palm, and on the faces of her peace volunteer and street kid friends?

For this story, I had asked Zarghuna to choose between the group picture and a solo picture of her alone.

How I wish you could see and hear her wish for the human family not to be alone, but to be together, to agree with one another, including with the Taliban who killed her father and the U.S./NATO forces whose strategy has increased ‘terrorism’, that we’ve had #Enough!

Perhaps, listening will be our revolution.

Dr. Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

PETITION: #Enough! The People´s Agreement to Abolish War

from the Afghan Peace Volunteers

HomeSeite_grafikWe, the people of the human family, agree to abolish war. Like you, we are tired of wars. 

War costs us everything and resolves nothing.

War has increased ‘terrorism’.

Wars risk spiraling into our destruction by nuclear weapons.

To abolish war, we form small, local peace circles or communities of two or more persons in which we agree to ban weapons and war and to build nonviolent systems for every aspect of life.

With autonomous alternatives, we no longer need to participate in today’s warring systems. We opt out, and we withhold support and money from any individual or group that uses war.

We begin to heal and live differently. Students learn better, laborers and farmers work better, mothers worry less, and basic human resources are better shared.

We nurture egalitarian relationships with nature and all human beings and connect to form a critical mass that’s free of borders, going beyond our separate causes and working together for a green and equal world without war. A critical mass is crucial as we can’t abolish war without reversing global warming and inequality; these are global crises driven by the same elite who rule over us by force. We abolish war person by person. We won’t wait for the elite, because they’re the ones who keep waging wars.

We make no distinction as to who wages the war, the scale of the war or the individual justifications for the war. We renounce all violence and wars and agree never to resort to war in any circumstance.

We, the people of the human family, agree to abolish war.


Click here to sign the petition, plan a solidarity action, and more.

REFLECTION: Millions of refugees have no place to call home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heartbreaking photo of the little Syrian refugee boy washed up dead on the shore of Bodrum, Turkey (see picture: strikingly illustrates the tragic plight of desperate refugees – mostly Syrian – fleeing for their lives from the Islamic State and other violent groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The 3-year-old boy, named Aylan, along with his 5-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan, drowned after the raft carrying them capsized near the Turkish coast.

Millions of refugees are scrambling to escape from the life-threatening civil wars plaguing several countries from Nigeria to Pakistan.


According to the British newspaper The Independent, half of Syria’s population – approximately 11 million people – have been forced to flee; with four million living as refugees in foreign nations. And approximately 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced, both due to civil wars and the barbarism of the Islamic State.

Matt Wilch, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) refugee policy advisor for Migration and Refugee Service, told me that of the four million Syrian refugees, 1.8 million are being hosted by Turkey, Jordan has 1 million, Egypt has 200,000, tiny Lebanon is hosting over 1 million, and ironically even war-torn Iraq has opened its doors to 200,000 Syrians.

But according to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 – when the Syrian conflict started – only 1,554 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. This is shameful.

Wealthy Europe and the U.S. have a moral obligation to offer far more help.

Germany is providing an excellent example here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that any Syrian arriving in Germany would be granted asylum.

With 800,000 refugees expected to arrive in Germany before year’s end, Merkel has been urging Germans to rise to the challenge. She said, “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people.”

Wilch said if the U.S. and other wealthy nations would provide much more aid to Syria’s neighboring nations, not only would refugees be able to benefit from improved services, but most would not feel compelled to take the long dangerous journey to Europe.

Wilch said only 37 percent of the needs of refugees are being funded in these neighboring host countries.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2,500 people have perished en route to Europe since the beginning of this year alone.

The USCCB is urging Congress to increase the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 200,000 annually – 100,000 from Syria and 100,000 from other nations. Please contact your congressional delegation urging them to honor the bishops’ plea. And urge them to greatly increase aid to the Middle East nations hosting millions of refugees. The resources of these generous nations are stretched to the limit.

Also, to be of further help please go to this link,, at the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to easily submit (click submit twice) a letter to your senators and congressperson on behalf of our suffering refugee brothers and sisters.

And to go the extra mile, kindly consider making a donation to Catholic Relief Services by going to this link,, and clicking “European Migrant Crisis Grows.” Then click “Donate Now.”

Pope Francis has strong words for those who would turn away refugees: It is “violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan girl, Sakina, buries toy gun and says…

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

Ten year old Sakina, an Afghan street kid, had this to say: “I don’t like to be in a world of war. I like to be in a world of peace.”

On 27th August 2015, Sakina and Inam, with fellow Afghan street kids and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, held a mock funeral for weapons and celebrated the establishment of a green space in Kabul.

Dressed in long black coats, they broke and buried toy guns in a small spot where, over the past two years, they have been planting trees.

Sakina breaks a toy gun before burying it. Inam and other street kids await their turn.

Sakina breaks a toy gun before burying it. Inam and other street kids await their turn.

Inam, a bright-eyed ten year old, caught the group’s energetic desire to build a world without war. “I kept toy guns till about three years ago,” he acknowledged with a smile.

On the same day, Nobel Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez, ex-President of Costa Rica, was in Mexico for the Arms Trade Treaty’s First Conference of States Parties.

In his statement at the Conference, he told the story of an indigenous Guatemalan woman who thanked him for negotiating a peace accord 28 years ago. The mother had said, “Thank you, Mr. President, for my child who is in the mountains fighting, and for the child I carry in my womb.”

No mother, Guatemalan or Afghan, wants her children to be killed in war.

Oscar Arias Sanchez wrote: “I never met them, but those children of conflict are never far from my thoughts. They were its (the peace treaty’s) true authors, its reason for being.”

I’m confident that the children of Afghanistan were also in his thoughts, especially since he had a brief personal connection with the Afghan Peace Volunteers in 2014, having been part of a Peace Jam video message of solidarity to the Volunteers, wearing their Borderfree Blue Scarves which symbolize that ‘all human beings live under the same blue sky’.

I thank Mr. Arias Sanchez for his important work on the Arms Trade Treaty, though I sense that an arms trade treaty isn’t going to be enough.

Afghan children are dying from the use of weapons.

To survive, they need a ban against weapons. Regulations about buying and selling weapons perpetuate a trade that is killing them.

I saw Inam and other child laborers who work in Kabul’s streets decisively swing hammers down on the plastic toy guns, breaking off triggers, scattering nozzles into useless pieces and symbolically breaking our adult addiction to weapons.

Children shouldn’t have to pay the price for our usual business, especially business from the U.S., the largest arms seller in the world. U.S. children suffer too, with more U.S. people having died as a result of gun violence since 1968 than have died in all U.S. wars combined. U.S. weapon sellers are killing their own people; by exporting their state-of-the-art weapons, they facilitate the killing of many others around the world.

After burying the toy guns, surrounded by the evergreen and poplar trees which they had planted, the youth shed their black coats and donned sky-blue scarves.

Another world was appearing as Sakina and Inam watched young friends plant one more evergreen sapling.

Inam was watching as another evergreen tree was planted

Inam was watching as another evergreen tree was planted.

Inam knew that it hasn’t been easy to create this green space in heavily fortified Kabul.

The City Municipality said they couldn’t water the trees (though it is just 200 metres away from their office). The Greenery Department weren’t helpful. Finally, the security guards of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission just across from the garden, offered to help, after the Volunteers had provided them with a 100-metre water hose.

Rohullah, who coordinates the environment team at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre, expressed his frustration. “Once, we had to hire a private water delivery service to water the tree saplings so they wouldn’t shrivel up. None of the government departments could assist.”

Sighing, he added ironically, “We can’t use the Kabul River tributary running just next to the Garden, as the trash-laden trickle of black, bracken water is smelly and filthy.”

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, according to figures from the National Priorities Project, a non-profit, non-partisan U.S. federal budget research group, the ongoing Afghan War is costing American taxpayers US $4 million an hour.

It is the youth and children who are making sense today, like when Nobel Laureate Malalai Yousafzai said recently that if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days, we could provide 12 years of free, quality education for every child on the planet.

“I don’t like to work in the streets, but my family needs bread. Usually, I feel sad,” Inam said, looking away, “because I feel a sort of helplessness.”

Oscar Arias Sanchez said at the Arms Trade Treaty’s First Conference, “And we must speak, today – in favour of this crucial treaty, and its swift and effective implementation. If we do, then when today’s children of conflict look to us for guidance and leadership, we will no longer look away in shame. We will be able to tell them, at long last, that we are standing watch for them. We are on guard. Someone is finally ready to take action.”

That morning, I heard the voices of Sakina, Inam and the Afghan youth ring through the street, “#Enough of war!”

Sakina speaks to a T.V. reporter. Rohullah is on her right, Inam on her left.

Sakina speaks to a T.V. reporter. Rohullah is on her right, Inam on her left.

It wasn’t a protest. It was the hands-on building of a green spot without weapons, and an encouraging call for others to do so everywhere.

Through their dramatic colours and clear action, they were inviting all of us, “Bury your weapons. Build your gardens.”

“We will stand watch for you!”

Dr. Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

REFLECTION: Two paths to peace – the secular and the sacred

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

In late July, while John Kerry sat across a table in Paris from Mohammed Zarif, chief Iranian negotiator for the Iranian-US nuclear treaty, I and six other Americans from the Global Peace Initiative of Women sat across tables from some of the major religious figures in Iran. We were in Qom, the Vatican of Shia Islam.

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320One thing struck me: We were all working on behalf of peace, Kerry on one level, we on the another. He and his team were trying to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Our team — two Hindus, an Evangelical, a mainline Protestant, a Zen master, a Sufi and a Catholic nun — were hoping to find the common ground that makes having weapons of mass destruction unnecessary.

And we both knew, I suspect, that the fires of enmity burn slowly and long. At least if Washington and international affairs of any ilk are any proof of it. The problem is that international enmity is most often stoked by the memory of what “they did to us.” Seldom, if ever, do we hear one of the parties talking about what “we did to them.”

Instead, we plead our innocence, all the while spewing distrust and dismay.

As television stations around the world played an unending series of photos showing John Kerry and the U.S. negotiating team locked in contest with Iranian negotiators over U.S. sanctions and Iranian nuclear plants, the world around them sat helpless. We all knew that if they failed it would be we who would become prey in this latest game of King of the Mountain...

Read the entire article by clicking here.