Two patients and a teenage caretaker

That’s all we know about three people killed February 18 by Afghan police in a Swedish clinic in Afghanistan. No names, pictures, no stories of where they came from, what they did, who they loved and who loved them. No indication of humanity at all except for the designations “patient” and “caretaker.” And a “patient” wouldn’t really have to be a human being, could be a dog or a parrot.

I mention these three unidentified victims of the continuing turmoil in Afghanistan because they illustrate one of the things that really bothers me about war: soldiers can snuff out human lives, people of all ages, with impugnity because they’re working for politicians or statesmen or religious leaders or whoever sends them out there, pursuing goals those “leaders” decide are important, and which often have little or no relevance to the people sent out to do the killing. In the process, the value of an individual human life dwindles down to zero.

The story of the Swedish clinic victims was embedded in a larger account following up on the utter death and destruction American gunships and other weapons wreaked on a hospital (run by Doctors Without Borders) in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October 3. We were told back then that it was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity that left dozens of men women and children, doctors, nurses and orderlies, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters dead. The writer of the latest article (in the Sunday New York Times Magazine) presents information pointing to the possibility that local people in Kunduz intentionally ordered up the American attack because the hospital treated everyone who needed help, regardless of political affiliations, and the locals thought the Taliban (once U.S. friends, now enemies) had sneaked their leaders into the hospital as patients and were now using the hospital as a headquarters.

This incident, the fact that dozens of people are dead and we’re not exactly sure why, points to another thing about war that bothers me: We shouldn’t be there. If we hadn’t been there, thousands of people now dead would still be alive. I simply can’t take seriously an investigation of wartime atrocities in an attempt to establish who’s most responsible. We destroyed a hospital and dozens of people inside it. Because they treated people we don’t like (at the moment)? I don’t care if Satan and all his minions were bunking there, no one there deserved to die. We’re fighting there because we decided to go there and have at them. It’s all so incredibly artificial and absurd. We trump up a reason to kill, start killing, then dissect and analyze the action and debate the rightness or wrongness of it all. And thousands of precious, human lives evaporate. It gives the government, the military, and the reporters something to talk about, but it gives the people there and the people here nothing but pain, grief, and guilt. Considering the cost of all this war we’re fighting, I’d say we’re not getting a very good return on our investment.

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