Posts Tagged ‘Bombing Civilians’

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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In Syria, two wrongs don’t make a right

November 4, 2015

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”    ==Bertrand Russell, 1956

Hospital emergency room staff in Douma, Syria, in August

Hospital emergency room staff in Douma, Syria, in August

I’ve written a good many posts on why I think it is a mistake for the U.S. government to arm terrorist rebels in Syria.  That doesn’t mean I should forget or ignore the crimes of Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad.

Here is an account by Majed Aboali, a volunteer Syrian doctor, about the Syrian government’s systematic bombing of civilian populations, including hospitals.

Government airstrikes—barrel bombs, missiles, and vacuum explosives—are responsible for some 90 percent of the people killed over the summer.  On top of that comes the collective terror of the chemical attacks—chlorine barrels in 2015 and 2014, sarin in 2013.

What did the world do to stop the killing? It sent jets to bomb the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) but did nothing to stop the far greater killing of civilians by the Syrian government’s airstrikes. 

For my Syrian colleagues, IS pales as a problem next to Assad’s attacks on civilians. If the world would stop these attacks on civilians, we Syrians could stop the estimated 10 percent of the killings committed by IS.

The hospital in Douma has been targeted many times.  Somehow, they have avoided a direct hit.  But we do not know if they will survive the next attempt.  Which is why the world must act to stop the killing.

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The passing scene – October 8, 2015

October 8, 2015

5 Ways Donald Trump Perfectly Mirrors Hitler’s Rise to Power by Adam Tod Brown for Cracked.com.   Yes, I know, I wrote a post a few weeks ago ridiculing those who compare American presidential candidates to Hitler.

I don’t think Donald Trump is a murderous political fanatic.  I think he is a sleazy promoter.  Even so, I think this article brings out some worrisome, if highly speculative, implications of Trump’s ideas

A Short History of U.S. Bombing of Civilian Facilities by Jon Schwartz for The Intercept.  Speaking of Hitler analogies, I don’t think the U.S. government is equivalent to the Nazi regime, but I can remember a time when I and most other Americans believed that bombing hospitals was something that only Nazis and fascists would do.

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Is a Global Crisis.  Why Are We Doing So Little to Fight It? by Douglas Foster for The Nation.