Thursday, July 29, 2004

Médecins sans Frontières blames America first 

Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Frontiers), the well known international humanitarian organisation, is pulling out of Afghanistan and - you guessed it - blaming the Americans. The lead paragraph in the London "Independent" will give you some idea of the left's glee:

"It survived Soviet occupation, civil war, the Taliban and US-led invasion. But after 24 years of aid work, Médecins sans Frontières has been forced by the American military to flee Afghanistan."
Forget for the moment the not-so-subliminal message that the American military is worse than the Red Army and the Taliban; simply ask yourself how did they Yanks manage to chase MSF out of the country?

"US military tactics have made it too dangerous to operate there... MSF claimed the American military had endangered the lives of humanitarian volunteers by blurring the distinction between soldiers and aid workers. Five MSF workers were killed last month."
No, they weren't killed by the American soldiers, but by the parties unknown; either Taliban remnants or opium growers. But the US is to blame because as Kenny Gluck, MSF's operations director, says:

"The US-backed coalition has consistently sought to co-opt humanitarian assistance to build support for its own military and political ambitions... MSF denounces attempts to use humanitarian aid to win hearts and minds. That jeopardises the aid to people in need and endangers the lives of humanitarian aid workers ... These soldiers are often out of uniform. It's hard to know what nationality they are."
In other words, no one knows who killed the MSF personnel or why they were killed - but they must have been obviously targeted because they were mistaken for American soldiers doing humanitarian work. But the article gets even worse:

"Aid groups' concerns centre on the actions of combat troops trying to win over villagers in areas afflicted by guerrilla warfare. Despite years of work by organisations such as MSF in the country, many villagers now confuse aid workers and soldiers, Mr Gluck claimed. 'We have seen military people with weapons and in white cars providing health care. How can you expect Afghans to distinguish?'

"Aid workers particularly criticise US special forces teams who sometimes operate clinics to win over local populations or distribute sweets and toys to village children."
Those damned American soldiers doing their humanitarian work! How dare they!

Of course, it's another no-win situation for the US; if they don't do anything but simply engage in military operations, the critics will accuse them of losing "hearts and minds"; if they do try to win "hearts and minds", the critics will accuse them of ulterior motives and undermining "genuine" humanitarian efforts.

And to answer Mr Gluck's question: the MSF people are the ones without guns. We could expect Afghans to distinguish that.

Funnily enough, that well known pro-American propaganda-sheet
"New York Times" chose to focus on another reason for the MSF withdrawal: the organisation is said to be pulling out "in protest of the [Afghani] government's failure to arrest the culprits in the killing of five of its staff members in June." And: "The killings and a string of threats from the Taliban directed specifically at the agency led to the decision to leave." [my emphasis]

Ordinary Afghanis, according to Mr Gluck, can't distinguish MSF from the US Army. The Taliban obviously don't have the same problem. But it's all America's fault anyway.

Update: Blackfive relates his own MSF experience back in 1991 in Kurdistan.


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