• How Accidental are America’s Accidental Civilian Killings Across the Middle East?

    June 30, 2017

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    Posted in: Hooper's War, Iraq



    U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” referring to America’s war against Islamic State.


    How can America in clear conscience continue to kill civilians across the Middle East? It’s easy; ask Grandpa what he did in the Good War. Civilian deaths in WWII weren’t dressed up as collateral damage, they were policy.

    Following what some claim are looser rules of engagement in place under the Trump administration, U.S.-led coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed 1,484 civilians in March 2017 alone. Altogether some 3,100 civilians have been killed from the air since the U.S. launched its coalition war against Islamic State, according to the NGO Airwars. Drone strikes outside of the ISIS fight killed 3,674 other civilians. In 2015 the U.S. destroyed an entire hospital in Afghanistan, along with doctors and patients inside.

    That all adds up to a lot of accidents — accidents created in part by the use of Hellfire missiles designed to destroy tanks employed against individual people, and 500 pound bombs that can clear a football-field sized area dropped inside densely inhabited areas. The policy of swatting flies with sledgehammers, surgical strikes with blunt instruments, does indeed seem to lead to civilian deaths, deaths that stretch the definition of “accident.”

    Yet despite the numbers killed, the watchword in modern war is that civilians are never targeted on purpose, at least by our side. Americans would never intentionally kill innocents.


    Except we have.


    The good guys in World War II oversaw the rapid development of new weapons to meet the changing needs of killing entire cities’ worth of innocents. For example, in Europe, brick and stone construction lent itself to the use of conventional explosives to destroy cities. In Japan, however, given the prominence of wood construction, standard explosives tended to simply scatter structures over a limited area. The answer was incendiary devices.

    To fine-tune their use, the U.S. Army Air Force built a full-size Japanese village in Utah. They questioned American architects who had worked in Japan, consulted a furniture importer, and installed tatami straw floor mats taken from Japanese-Americans sent off to internment camps. Among the insights gained was the need for incendiary devices to be made much heavier than originally thought. Japanese homes typically had tile roofs. The early devices tended to bounce right off. A heavier device would break through the tile and ignite inside the structure, creating a much more effective fire.

    Far from accidental, firebombing Japan had been planned in War Plan Orange, written long before Pearl Harbor. As far back as the 1920s, U.S. General Billy Mitchell had said Japan’s paper and wood cities would be “the greatest aerial targets the world had ever seen.” Following the outline in War Plan Orange, the efforts were lead by Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay, who expressed his goal as “Japan will eventually be a nation without cities, a nomadic people.”

    LeMay also helped run the U.S. bombing campaign against North Korea during that war, claiming that American efforts killed some 20 percent of the civilian population. The man many call the architect of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, worked for LeMay during the WWII firebombing campaign. McNamara as Secretary of Defense went on to order the use of napalm in Vietnam, often against undefended civilian targets. The accidents of civilian deaths in war turn inside tight circles.

    The skill with which America tuned its WWII firebombing into a exquisite way to destroy civilians reached its peak on March 10, 1945, when three hundred American B-29 bombers flew virtually unopposed over Tokyo’s most densely populated residential area. They dropped enough incendiary bombs to create a firestorm, a conflagration that burned the oxygen out of the air itself.

    What was accomplished? One hundred thousand dead, a million people made homeless. The raid remains the single most destructive act of war ever committed, even after Hiroshima.


    The problem, however, for the U.S. with such raids was their inefficiency in killing civilians. The logistics of sending off 300 planes were daunting, especially when an hour or two of unexpected wind or rain could negate much of effort. There was no question firestorms were the very thing to systematically commit genocide in Japan. But what was needed was a tool to create those firestorms efficiently, and to make them weather-proof.

    It would only take science a few more months after the Tokyo firebombing to provide that tool. A single atomic bomb meant one plane could do the work of 300. And the bomb would create a fire so powerful and large and hot that weather would have no effect; it was foolproof. There could be no better weapon for destroying whole cities and all of the people in them, and it has only been used by one nation. Twice, because the 85,000 killed in Hiroshima were not enough.

    These were tactics of vengeance matched with weapons designed to carry them out as horribly as possible. They worked well: the firebombing campaign over Japan, including the atomic bombings, purposely killed more than one million civilians in just five months in 1945.

    It was only after WWII ended, when accurate descriptions from Hiroshima began finding their way back to America, that the idea of firebombing as a way to shorten the war, to spare lives in the long game, came into full flower. The myth, that the atomic bomb was in fact a reluctant instrument of mercy, not terror, was first published in Harper’s Magazine in February 1947 under the name of Secretary of War Henry Stimson. The actual writing was done by McGeorge Bundy, who later as National Security Adviser helped promote the American war in Vietnam that took several million civilian lives.

    The majority of Americans, recovering their consciences post-war, were thus nudged into seeing what was actually a continuation of long-standing policy of civilian genocide in Japan as an unfortunate but necessary step toward Japan’s surrender, and thus saved innumerable lives that would have been lost had the war dragged on. This thinking lives on today on politically correct ground under the banner of great powers having to reluctantly put aside what is moral in peace for what is expedient in war. A “fact of life,” according to the U.S. Secretary of Defense.


    So look deeper into history if you want to understand the morality-free rise in civilian deaths across America’s battlefields in the Middle East. We don’t like to think of ourselves as the kind of people who willfully kill innocents, but we were pleased by it only a skip back in history; your grandfather flew missions over Japan to burn children to death. Accidents of course happen in war, but there is a dark history of policy that demands skepticism each time such claims are made.



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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      So you’re saying America is exceptional in at least something.

      06/30/17 7:14 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      And you didnt mention the war on the Homefront. Trumpies intent on eliminating clean water standards.

      NEW ORLEANS — A potentially deadly amoeba has been detected in a Terrebonne Parish water system, and while officials say tap water is safe to drink, they are urging people to “avoid getting it in their noses.”

      The Louisiana Department of Health notified the Schriever Water System and town officials Thursday after confirmed the amoeba’s presence. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, causes a brain infection that leads to the destruction of tissue. In its early stages, symptoms may be similar to bacterial meningitis.

      “We would caution the public to refrain from allowing water to enter their nasal passages,” Sobert said in a statement posted on the parish government’s Facebook page. “The water is safe to drink.”

      Well, it could explain Trumpie’s brain dead behavior.

      06/30/17 7:23 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      3

      Television’s Playhouse 90’s 1956 FORBIDDEN AREA dealt with Russian sabotage of our long range bombers and a planned sneak attack on Christmas Eve. The attack failed and the generals wanted the POTUS to strike now that America had the upper hand. The POTUS decided against destroying Russia and held up a lotus bowl given to him by the Japanese Emperor. He reads the inscription to his generals: “In Appreciation to America In Its Forbearance in Victory”

      06/30/17 8:51 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      4

      Perhaps not having experienced civilian deaths on our own soil during recent major wars has made us callous, indifferent and actually perversely weak as a people. I’m all for fightin’ America’s enemies when they invade my own neighborhood. I don’t need to “Support the Troops” whose botched handiwork is always “over there”.

      06/30/17 10:50 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      5

      Not to point out anything unpopular….. But… The United States is not to only one doing this….

      Which begs to question…… Why… Exactly….. Is does the UN exist?????

      M

      06/30/17 4:59 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      6

      Rich.

      This….
      “NEW ORLEANS — A potentially deadly amoeba has been detected in a Terrebonne Parish water system, and while officials say tap water is safe to drink, they are urging people to “avoid getting it in their noses.”
      The Louisiana Department of Health notified the Schriever Water System and town officials Thursday after confirmed the amoeba’s presence. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, causes a brain infection that leads to the destruction of tissue. In its early stages, symptoms may be similar to bacterial meningitis.
      “We would caution the public to refrain from allowing water to enter their nasal passages,” Sobert said in a statement posted on the parish government’s Facebook page. “The water is safe to drink.””…

      Hey…. It could be lead…..so that is an improvement…….

      But it does explain a lot of the thinking down there….

      M

      06/30/17 5:04 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      7

      “And The Rockets Red Glare…” The Body Parts Bursting in Air, Gave Proof … “War Is A Racket”.

      07/1/17 4:17 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      8

      Red (the color of blood, associated with death, see u.s.) White (the mother fucking refugees that killed natives) Blue (do you support the bombs bursting in air by the Blue and Red Mic Corporate Parties? Wave multiple Corporate Flags. Obey!

      07/1/17 4:57 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      9

      Due to National Security, Homeland Security, etc. the U.S. can not reveal what it pays NPR, the MSM, History Channel, and others it gives $ to promote so called truth. Will a D or R promote banning drug Co. adds? Does Bernie support the F-35?!!! BDS?

      07/1/17 5:37 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      10

      “Liberals no longer Liberal”. Hillary and D’s Progressive? And Now they try to steal “Resist”. FU Get out of the way. Have a nice day and 4th!?

      07/1/17 5:59 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      11

      “We can be heroes”…Truth is good.

      07/1/17 6:09 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      12

      Has anyone been charged from the “Collateral Damage” release? We are #1

      07/1/17 6:21 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      13

      Expect us.

      07/1/17 6:22 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      14

      When was the last time PVB was on Common Dreams? Do Dems (so called Progressives and Resisters) and MSM types that Co opted stuff for the Master sleep at night? Where a pink Vagina hat for freeedom, and Re$$ist for you Corporate Party Paycheck.Is bombing Rssisting? Progressive? Will it get U(s) a Peace Prize? Join the ICC u.s. pigs and others.

      07/1/17 6:46 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      15

      How many “United for Peace and JUstice” protests were done against Obama? Are you a D or R fool? Need help? Tweet me . I’m on the suicide hotline (they put me on hold!). United for Peanutbutter and Jelly for the Parties. Get out of the way for the real ppp’s movement. We don’t fuck with you. Have a nice day! Move on is paid for.

      07/1/17 6:56 PM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      16

      Bozo/2020

      07/1/17 6:57 PM | Comment Link

    • MAA said...

      17

      Not to mention “intentional civilian killings” aka the Phoenix Program and “kill anything that moves” during the American War in Viet Nam.

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/26/the-fat-lady-finally-sings-bob-kerrey-quietly-resigns-from-fulbright-university-vietnam-leadership-position/

      https://www.amazon.com/Kill-Anything-That-Moves-American/dp/1250045061

      07/1/17 10:45 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      18

      A plea! I’ve wandered off topic plenty of times but out of respect to PVB let’s cut back on the personal lamentations and attacks. It is on his dime we get to post our pithy observations so I think we owe it to him to stay on topic. I don’t know where Pitchfork is aiming his angry scuds today but I don’t miss his sour demeanor. I’m going to try and find good stuff to report on and comment upon.

      07/2/17 6:39 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      19

      John.

      You ok?

      I don’t miss the internet janitor either, but… Other than the harmless needling Rich and I do to each other, there haven’t been any attacks in a while….strangely enough… Ever since the internet janitor ran off………so…. You ok?

      MAA…

      Question…your Phoenix Program comment….
      ..are you implying that the US Government is doing a repeat of history in the desert???…

      And…. If so…. By extension…. Around the world???

      Geeeee…. That would be like totally un-American….. But…. It would explain Gitmo… Czech Republic…and the destablazation of Venezuela… Syria.. Afghan.. Iraq.. Iran….Britain…….. Etc…and the drone hits…. The missing persons all over the US, and the world….

      Damn…… Guess my meds are not working…. I almost drew lines between all those behaviors…

      M

      07/3/17 3:05 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      20

      Mitch,

      We cool.

      07/3/17 10:29 PM | Comment Link

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