State Dep’t Spox Flummoxed When Asked
The hypocrisy of this administration with respect to Israel can, at times, be stunning. One of those times was in August of 2014, in the middle of the Israeli military operation known as Operation Protective Edge, which was designed to stop rocket-fire emanating from Gaza.
A school run by UNRWA, the UN agency that is supposed to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian Arab refugees and their second, third, and fourth generation descendants, was hit by shelling. It was well-known at that time that Gaza’s Hamas rulers were firing on Israel from positions within civilian areas, and that the UNRWA schools were basically doubling as rocket warehouses.
Despite this knowledge, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said at the time that the US was “appalled” by the “disgraceful shelling,” that Israel “must do more to meet its own standards,” and that “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
It really didn’t take a genius to see that this statement would come back to haunt them. On Saturday Reuters reported that a US airstrike had hit an Afghanistan hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres. The Reuters article, edited since Saturday, now reads, in part,
Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Sunday demanded an independent international inquiry into a suspected U.S. air strike that killed 22 people in an Afghan hospital it runs, branding the attack a “war crime.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter promised a full investigation into whether the American military was connected to the destruction of the hospital, but cautioned it would take time to gather information.
“We do know that American air assets … were engaged in the Kunduz vicinity, and we do know that the structures that – you see in the news – were destroyed,” Carter told reporters traveling with him shortly before landing in Spain on Sunday. “I just can’t tell you what the connection is at this time.”
This has put the State Department in something of an awkward position.
As my Israellycool colleague Brian wrote yesterday,
[AP State Department correspondent] Matt Lee decided to ask the State Department’s Mark Toner exactly what kind of standards they hold themselves to because it would seem to be a different set than they applied to Israel last year.
I’ll spoil it. He’s got no answer. They can’t justify it. They hold Israel to an impossible standard, one to which they cannot themselves match.
Brian also clipped the video:
You can also see a longer version here.
Any civilian casualty, and any casualty of an armed service member that is legitimately fighting to protect his or her country, is of course a tragedy. As the US is learning the hard way, despite the best of intentions, such tragedies unfortunately can’t always be prevented. But the US must do more to hold its allies to same standards to which it holds itself.
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