Nameless civilians are known as Collateral Damage

Soon western countries will coin a new noun for their horrific defeat in Afghanistan


Shazia Anwer Cheema September 05, 2021
PHOTO: EXPRESS

When I was standing at the main gate of the Hospital in the Rock Museum Budapest, the official guide was explaining the history of how did hospital in the rock save humanity inside the cave system during the Second World War and how did staff work under Nazi subjugation and then Russian attacks.

The guide was lauding the role of medical heroes citing their names and I was thinking documentation and presentation keep people alive who contributed to their nations or to humanity. I was in Budapest just a week after Kabul was fallen and US Air Force was in panic creating a chaotic situation at Kabul Airport for evacuation of American citizens and properties.

So flashback from US airstrikes over Kunduz Trauma Centre was an immediate response to my perception because my mind was comparing two hospitals working for the same cause but had different fates – one is remembered even after half a century and the second is forgotten under the dust of Afghanistan war.

Here medical heroes are still being remembered in Budapest but the world has already forgotten 42 people who lost their lives in Kunduz. Christopher Stokes, General Director Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), wanted to know why did his hospital was bombed by the US Air Force? Did he get an answer to his question?

Six years have gone to this attack and many of us have already forgotten this horrific event. It was Saturday, October 3, when United States AC-130 gunship fired 211 shells on the main hospital building where patients were sleeping in their beds or being operated on in the operation theatre.

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At least 42 people were killed, including 24 patients, 14 staff, and 4 caretakers. Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated or lost limbs, and others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building. The attack from the air lasted for around one hour. The main hospital building came under precise and repeated airstrikes, while the surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.

While walking inside Hospital on the Rock, graphics of Kunduz hospital were running like a horror film inside my mind when I was observing the unique chapter of history for those who believe that humanity never stops to help others under extremely adverse circumstances. This secretive hospital is the symbol of the dedication of the medical corp. It reminds us of the dedication who worked in the hospital when entire Europe was under attack although this hospital being inside caves survived without any military attacks.

Established in the caverns under the Buda, it contributed to secretive health services during the Siege of Budapest. Wounded were transferred to hospital at night. The hospital was designed to treat 60–70 patients, but the record told us that at one point was being used to treat 600 wounded soldiers.

Another phase of the Afghan war is over, the Taliban are back in Kabul and people would soon forget who lost what?

The Costs of War Project, runs by the Watson Institute, indicates that 47,245 civilians were Collateral Damage of the US-led war in Afghanistan. Only figures are documented but not the faces and not the dreams of dead persons for better lives they could live. Drone attacks killed people on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border in marriage ceremonies, schools, football grounds and even in graveyards. They are all nameless people but they have a title – they are Collateral Damage.

Will anybody construct a monument at Kunduz Trauma Centre or any other place to remembering this Collateral Damage so anybody like me can come after decades and can feel sacrifices given by humanity for a senseless war. Soon western countries will coin a new noun for their horrific defeat in Afghanistan as they coined Collateral Damage to hide war crimes, embedded journalists to censor media, and Enduring Freedom for ruining an already ruined Afghanistan.

Harold Pinter was a British playwright and a Nobel Prize winner who rightfully said: “All that happens is that the destruction of human beings – unless they're Americans – is called Collateral Damage.”

The writer is a Prague-based analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She can be reached at: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh and Email: [email protected]

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