Posts Tagged ‘Bombing Campaign’

On the ground and in the air, two laws of war

September 7, 2017

Ben Mauk wrote a good article for Granta on how bombing from the air has changed the law of war.

There is a law of ground warfare, which treats targeting of civilians as terrorism, and a law of air warfare, which treats killing of civilians at worst as a purpose and at best as unavoidable collateral damage.

The Nanking Massacre of 1937 is considered one of history’s greatest atrocities.  As many as 200,000 or 300,000 Chinese civilians were bayoneted or machine-gunned by Japanese troops.

An estimated 100,000 Japanese civilians died in a single fire-bombing raid on Tokyo in 1945, which was one of many.   But, aside from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. bombing of Japan is not widely considered to be a war crime.   One you decide on a bombing strategy, civilian deaths are inevitable.

General William T. Sherman’s 1864 march through Georgia during the Civil War was regarded at the time as an atrocity.   He ordered the indiscriminate destruction of civilian property in order to break the Confederacy’s means and will to resist.   But he only destroyed property.  He didn’t massacre civilians.

Now imagine a Sherman not on horseback, but in the cockpit of an aircraft.   How could he have carried out his policy without large-scale killing of civilians?

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North Korea, the forgotten bombing

August 6, 2015

The North Korean government, as the above video shows, is a oppressive dictatorship based on a racist, totalitarian ideology.  But that’s not the only reason for North Korean anti-Americanism.

The US did in fact do something terrible, even evil to North Korea, and while that act does not explain, much less forgive, North Korea’s many abuses since, it is not totally irrelevant either.

That act was this: In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II.

This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.

via Vox.

“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984.

Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

via The Washington Post.

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Robert Fisk: ISIS is a cult of nihilism, not Islam

October 6, 2014

Robert Fisk is a long-time Middle East correspondent for The Independent, a British newspaper.

British Muslim leaders have said, quite rightly, that Muslims show mercy, and that the “Islamic State” is a perversion of Islam.  I suspect and fear that they are wrong.  Not because Islam is not merciful, but because the “Islamic State” has nothing at all to do with Islam.  It is more a cult of nihilism.

Their fighters have been brutalized – remember that they have endured, many of them, Saddam’s cruelty, our sanctions, Western invasion and occupation and air strikes under Saddam and now air strikes again.   These people just don’t believe in justice any more.  They have erased it from their minds.

If we had not supported so many brutal men in the Middle East, would things have turned out differently?  Probably.  If we had supported justice – I hesitate to suggest putting a certain man on trial for war crimes – would there have been a different reaction in the Middle East?

In the Syrian war, they say that 200,000 have died; in Gaza more than 2,000. But in Iraq, we suspect half a million died.  And whose fault was that?

The “Islamic State” are the real or spiritual children of all this. Now we face an exclusive form of nihilism, a cult as merciless as it is morbid.  And we bomb and we bomb and we bomb.  And then?

via The Futility of Bombing ISIS by Robert Fisk for The Independent (via Counterpunch)

A bombing campaign in Iraq

August 8, 2014

I want to see the murderous Islamic State fanatics in Iraq stopped before they massacre more Christians and members of other minority groups in Iraq.

I guess I sort of more-or-less support President Obama’s decision to bomb the ISIS forces and drop supplies to the valiant people of Kurdistan.   [Update 8/10/14.  I’ve changed my mind.]

Given the experience of the past 10 years, I don’t want American ground troops being sent back to Iraq.

A bombing campaign, against an enemy without an air force or effective anti-aircraft weapons, is appealing as a virtually risk-less way to wage war.

But the experience of history shows that bombing campaigns don’t necessarily achieve their objective, and bombing campaigns conducted in isolation seldom do.   The ISIS forces aren’t going to gather in the open so as to be good targets.   They are going to mingle with the people we are supposedly trying to protect.

Now I understand that President Obama doesn’t think that bombs alone will do the trick.   The idea is to slow down and weaken the ISIS advance and put the Kurdish fighters and Iraqi government army in a better position to resist.

But what happens if ISIS keeps advancing?  Does Obama step up the bombing campaign?  Does he order ground troops back into Iraq?  Or does he at some point decide there is nothing more he can do?

I remember I supported the Vietnam intervention in its early stages because I thought the South Vietnamese could be saved from totalitarian Communism.   I supported the invasion of Iraq in its early stages because I thought the Iraqis could be liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

I wasn’t wrong about Communism, nor about Saddam Hussein, but I was wrong about what it is possible to accomplish by invading another country (and also wrong about my government’s intentions, but that’s another issue).

So now I hesitantly kind-of in-a-way support intervention against ISIS, because I hate to think of my country standing by and doing nothing, and at the same time I think of all the ways in which things could go wrong.

I imagine President Obama has the same thoughts.  I don’t think I will criticize him on this one.

LINK

Why ‘strategic’ bombing doesn’t seem to work by Ian Buruma for the Toronto Globe and Mail