Following an interview with the New York Times, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is coming under fire for noting a moral equivalence between killing civilians in airstrikes, and killing civilians in airstrikes.
Pressed on the civilian death toll of Syrian airstrikes against populated areas, and whether he saw those as equivalent to US airstrikes against populated areas, Johnson mockingly declared “no of course not – we’re so much better than all that. We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.”
Johnson is referring to last year’s Kunduz airstrikes, in which a US warplane repeatedly and deliberately bombed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital near Kunduz, Afghanistan, in what officials later characterized as “a mistake.” The Syrian government has recently been heavily criticized for airstrikes around Aleppo which hit hospitals.
Johnson further went after Hillary Clinton for overly interventionist instincts, noting that a number of civilians have been killed in US airstrikes in Syria as well, and saying that Clinton shares some of the responsibility for those deaths.
While charges of “moral equivalence” against antiwar candidates are a recurring theme in US elections, they have tended in the past to center around at least moderately different methods of killing civilians, like arguing suicide bombings to be “worse” than airstrikes. In this case, however, it’s difficult to avoid equating the two incidents, since they both involve remarkably similar aircraft dropping remarkably similar ordinance on hospitals run by international aid groups.
Johnson also said it would be important to know what sort of “deals” the Obama Administration promised to other nations to join the coalition bombing Syria, though he conceded he was at a disadvantage on that point as, unlike his opponents, he was not given classified briefings on the matter.