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4 Oct, 2015 15:26

A tale of two strategies: Russia destroys ISIS command, US hits Afghan hospital

A tale of two strategies: Russia destroys ISIS command, US hits Afghan hospital

As if to vindicate Russia’s decision to initiate airstrikes against Islamic State on the territory of Syria as Western forces don’t appear up to the task, NATO jets unleashed a deadly barrage on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan.

No sooner had Vladimir Putin wrapped up his speech at the United Nations, where he roundly criticized the manner in which US-led forces have been trampling on the sovereignty of nation states in its global pursuit of terrorists, Russia opened a stunning aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters on the ground in Syria.

Yet across the Western world, which has had its share of deadly collisions with ISIS, not to mention a number of decapitated journalists, there was no applause for Moscow’s actions, not even a polite golf clap. Indeed, Russia’s intervention against the most sadistic band of brutes since the Nazis was greeted with scorn, skepticism and outright belligerence.

Reports of civilian casualties caused by the Russian airstrikes surfaced almost immediately. Much of the photo evidence was easily disproven. One dramatic photo showed a Syrian rescue worker carrying an injured girl, allegedly injured during the Russian strike in Homs. There was just one snag: the photo first appeared on September 25, almost a week before the airstrikes started.

Even the Russian leader could not resist commenting on the alleged civilian casualties caused by Russian warplanes in Syria.

“As for media reports claiming that the civilian population is suffering, we are prepared for such information attacks. The first reports about civilian casualties emerged even before our planes got in the air,” he said.

Forced to fight on two dangerous fronts - one against the Western media and the other against bloodthirsty terrorists - Moscow believes there is an orchestrated campaign to undermine its operations in Syria.

“Biased and false reports have flooded Western and regional media claiming the Russian military operation is causing civilian deaths or even is aimed against pro-democratic forces and the peaceful population,” Mariya Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said. “That is an information attack, the information warfare that we all have heard so much about. Apparently someone came well-prepared for it.”

Western criticism of Russia’s efforts to destroy Islamic State in Syria is strange to say the least. After all, if the Western powers genuinely fear that Russia is engaged in Syria to provide air support to forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in his protracted war against anti-government rebels – a charge that Moscow vehemently denies - then the simple solution would be to coordinate strategies with Russia. That way there can be no rumors as to what ulterior motives either side may have.

The fact that Washington rejects the idea of coordinating efforts with Russia, while accusing Moscow at the same time of “pouring fuel on the Syrian crisis,” is not a convincing argument. Nor is it logical, especially considering that Russia has a strategic presence in Syria at the Khmeimim airfield in Latakia.

After all, what does it matter who eliminates ISIS so long as the mission is accomplished?

As one RT commentator asked rhetorically: "Do we want to remove ISIS/ISIL? Yes. Does it matter who removes them? I don’t think so. Do you care how a cancer is removed – I don’t care how you do it." 

However, instead of understanding the primary objective in Syria, which is - or should be - the removal of Islamic State, the US remains focused on Assad and its obsessiveness to have him removed. And since Washington is headed for presidential elections next year, the Republicans are now branding President Obama as “weak” – but weak not against Islamic State, mind you, but weak against the most sinister politician on the planet as far as Washington is concerned: Vladimir Putin.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, gave a speech Friday attacking Obama’s approach to Russia and his strategy on Syria.

“The more our current president fails the test of leadership against Putin, the more important it becomes for our next president to pass it,” Rubio told an audience at a national security forum in Iowa.

Meanwhile, the American Empire appears to be suffering the symptomatic effects of overstretch, Roman-style, as its military judgment and prowess seems to be on the wane. The brainy logistics of any operation just do not seem to be keeping stride with the US military’s on-steroids physical expansion. How else to explain its aerial bombing raid on Saturday morning that hit the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan?

MSF said the hospital was struck by a series of aerial raids at approximately 15 minute intervals. The bombs “very precisely” and “repeatedly” hit the central hospital building that housed the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, it added.

“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF’s head of programs in northern Afghanistan. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames.”

And yes, civilians were killed.

The charity has confirmed 19 deaths, 12 of whom were staff. Four were adult patients, including three children. A further 37 people were left wounded. The tragedy happened despite the fact that MSF had provided the US-led command with the GPS coordinates of the facility to make sure that the hospital would not come under attack.

Human rights group Amnesty International characterized the Kunduz bombing as “a deplorable loss of life” and called for an immediate and impartial investigation.

“This bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz marks a dark day for humanitarianism. It is sickening to think that doctors and other staff have had to pay with their lives while trying to save others. Hospitals are places of sanctity under international law governing conflict,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.

Following the news of this incredible error, yet another bit of “collateral damage” from the endless war on terror, I could not help remembering part of Putin’s speech at the UN General Assembly:

“I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you've done,” the Russian leader asked. “But I am afraid no one is going to answer that. Indeed, policies based on self-conceit and belief in one's exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”

It’s time for the West to put aside its self-important Russian-bashing and agree to work alongside Moscow in eliminating one of the great scourges of our times, and it's certainly not Syrian President Bashar Assad, one of the few actors in the region who takes Islamic State very seriously.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.