The destruction by US bombs of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz – killing doctors, nurses and patients – comes as a stinging corrective to the media pretence that Russian bombs are somehow uniquely evil and destructive. The West has inflicted far more damage in recent years. But the Russians also showed just how ruthless they can be in their brutal suppression of the legitimate desire for national independence of the Chechen people. It is the Americans who today expose most starkly the evils of attempting to solve complex political questions by bombs.
Kunduz is ethnically Uzbek. I have written of it as the place where Alexander Burnes met the fierce Uzbek chief Murad Beg. Burnes was disguised as an Armenian, and would very probably had been killed if his disguise had been penetrated. Today it is very much the territory of an equally fierce Uzbek warlord, General Dostum, the narcotics kingpin, murderer and serial war criminal who has for decades been a key CIA asset and is now Vice President of Afghanistan. That Dostum can lose Kunduz to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, even temporarily, shows how weak the central authority still is. The decade long official western occupation has brought no significant progress, at a cost of billions in money and the waste of many young lives: except progress in achieving a 1200% increase in heroin production.