United States President Barack Obama, apologised on 7 October, to the head of Doctors without Borders for the “mistaken bombing” of its field hospital in Kunduz, in Afghanistan.
He also promised a probe into the episode, which took the lives of nearly two dozen doctors and patients.
But the apology came five days after an US AC-130 gunship devastated the hospital, and Obama’s regret from the Oval Office appeared to do little to satisfy the doctors’ group. They gave a terse message that Obama’s apology has been received.
Dr Joanne Liu, international president, Doctors without Borders, reiterated her demand for an independent probe by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to “find out what exactly happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened.”
White House officials said the president was confident that the probe now underway, including an inquiry by the Department of Defense, would be “transparent, thorough and will be objective.”
Presidential apologies to victims of US actions abroad are rare, but not unheard-of.
In 2012, Obama wrote a letter of apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai after several copies of the Quran were burned by US military, leading to protests across that country. Similarly in 2004, President George W. Bush, apologized for the treatment meted out to Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib military prison, telling world leaders that he was “sorry for the humiliation.”
The Republicans have accused Obama since the beginning of his presidency for being a serial apologizer. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president in 2012, wrote a book titled “No Apology,” a dig at Obama. And Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, recently published a book renewing the apology criticism of the president.