Emaciated patients left to die in their hospital beds with open sores and maggots in their wounds. These were the conditions in Afghanistan's Dawood Khan military hospital that were finally uncovered by a few members of the US military in 2010.
The hospital is run by the Afghan government, but it is mainly funded by the US. Its doctors and nurses are also being trained and overseen by the US and NATO.
"I saw nothing amiss with patient care initially, as had no senior medical adviser because we get the dog and pony show, the wet mop tour if you will."
- Schuyler Geller, a former NATO command surgeon
One US colonel involved in the investigation into the conditions at the hospital described what he saw there as "Auschwitz-like".
Officials began documenting the widespread corruption at the hospital - including stolen pharmaceuticals and counterfeit medicine being used on Afghan soldiers - as far back as 2006.
By 2010, military staff began documenting maggots on open wounds, patients starved for weeks, surgery performed with no sedatives and bedsores so deep that bones showed through.
However, several military officers told a congressional hearing last week that attempts to launch an investigation were prevented by Lieutenant General William Caldwell.
Caldwell was one of the highest-ranking commanders in Afghanistan, and the officers testifying at the hearing allege that he was concerned about the political repercussions of an investigation ahead of the 2010 congressional elections, as well as the effect on his own career.
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis published an 86-page report in January, claiming that US generals in Afghanistan were giving rosy estimates of the situation in the country when, in fact, the opposite was true.
"This is a fundamental problem of the US military in Afghanistan. Most troops are deployed for one year, so by the time they can actually grasp that there's a problem its time to get out and go back home ... and also to take on the hospital is really to take on the way that the US military strategy is conducted here."
- Maria Abi-Habib, the journalist who broke the story
"Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognisable," Davis said. "This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan."
In this episode, we ask: What went so wrong at the Dawood Khan military hospital? And what does the alleged cover-up tell us about transparency in the US military?
Joining the discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi are guests: Schuyler Geller, a former command surgeon in the NATO training mission in Afghanistan; Maria Abi-Habib, the Wall Street Journal reporter who first broke the story; and Gareth Porter, a veteran investigative journalist on national security.
ABUSES AT DAWOOD KHAN HOSPITAL:
- US officials found problems at Dawood as early as 2006
- Patient neglect continued for months after it was discovered
- Afghan patients regularly died of starvation
- Other patients died of simple infections due to unchanged bandages
- Multiple patients had bedsores and maggots in their wounds
- Staff reportedly refused to help amputees to the bathroom
- Nurses and doctors at Dawood reportedly repeatedly demanded bribes
- US officials complained to the Afghan government about the problems at Dawood hospital
- Doctors at Dawood complained about defective morphine in 2008