That’s a “War Crime”

David Axe reports [db] a rather odd thing: the US and Iraqi government bombed the living crap out of an island in the middle of a river. Their stated reasoning was that ISIS was there. And: explosions!

Seriously, “we just dropped 40 tons of bombs on this area” is called “area bombing” or “carpet bombing.” In fact, the coalition (or whatever they are calling themselves) was careful to note how good their coverage of the target was. It’s reminiscent of the “arc light strikes” the US did in Vietnam, where B-52 bombers would fly through wing-to-wing and unload massive destruction on huge swaths of country-side in the hope of maybe killing a vietcong or two. Nobody ever knew how many people were killed in the arc light strikes because the bodies, villages, and everything in the zone of destruction, was reduced to splinters.

After the 2nd World War, the US and its allies (who invented and perfected area bombing) did some pro forma hand-wringing about how maybe it was immoral to just unload high explosive onto civilians. Then, they forgot about it when the Korean War ended, and Curtis LeMay’s bomber command blasted every target in North Korea for years after the cease-fire. (What about “cease-fire” encompasses delivery of planeloads of bombs?) It did not result in any positive political result – North Korea is still here. Then, they tried the same thing in Vietnam and Vietnam is still here. They’ve tried it in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, too, and they’ve made a mess, indeed, but apparently you still cannot bomb people into political progress.

Meanwhile, of course, the US freaks the fuck out when someone gets a successful punch in on the US population, as happened on 9/11. If US area bombing is not a war crime or an act of war, then what happened to the World Trade Centers wasn’t, either. We ought not approve of any of these things.

The spectacle of the massive air strike on Monday morning required careful planning. F-15E fighter-bombers and F-35A stealth fighters, apparently operating from Air Force Central’s Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, together dropped 40 one-ton precision-guided bombs, each costing around $20,000.

Using pricey smart bombs helped ensure that the munitions would strike at regular intervals across the island. Adding in the cost of fuel and maintenance for aircraft, the air raid’s total price could exceed $1 million.

It’s unclear exactly how many planes took part in the raid. An Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. But it’s worth noting that a single F-35 can carry just two one-ton bombs in its internal bay. The island air raid could have involved most of the several dozen fighters the Air Force has deployed for operations over Iraq and Syria.

Perhaps it was a demonstration that the F-35 is “combat ready” i.e.: it can fly and drop bombs on targets that have no defenses whatsoever. Stealth is great for that.

The red cross defines “indiscriminate attacks”: [icrc]

Rule 12. Indiscriminate attacks are those:(a) which are not directed at a specific military objective;(b) which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or(c) which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law;and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

“Go hit that island” is not targeting military objectives.

Of course, the US has exempted itself from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. It simply does not apply to us. Because we’re the biggest war criminals out there; it would be awkward to ban the US’ preferred instrument of foreign policy. USA! #1 again.


  1. says

    together dropped 40 one-ton precision-guided bombs

    Look, they put the word “precision” in the description. This means these bombs couldn’t possibly be used for “indiscriminate attacks.” /sarcasm tag

    I can’t help but wonder how many people actually fall for this crap and fail to notice the obvious dissonance between “40 bombs” and “precision”—if the bombs were so precise, then why the hell so many of them were used?

  2. komarov says

    Perhaps it was a demonstration that the F-35 is “combat ready” i.e.: it can fly and drop bombs on targets that have no defenses whatsoever. Stealth is great for that.

    Not the most outlandish theory involving stealth planes I’ve read today. After the attack on that oil refinery there are plenty of people (and news articles) speculating about what might have happened. A gem of a comment on one of the news articles might be paraphrased (in translation) thus: 1) It was probably false flag since the people claiming the attack couldn’t carry out such a precision strike. 2) Maybe it was a stealth fighter since it could get in close to do the damage and leave undectected. 3) For whatever reason, it could “for example” have been Chinese

    I couldn’t begin to speculate how the Chinese got dragged into this conspiracy theory but there we are. Although maybe it was just because everyone else in the general area, from Iran to Israel and Russia, was already taken and they wanted to come up with a new protagonist is this (alleged) n-dimensional chess game.

    “Go hit that island” is not targeting military objectives.

    I’m sure the original, warcrime-proof set of orders is 400 pages long, detailing how every impact point is a separate military target of the highest military threat and value, from which US civilians must be protected post haste. It’s probably generated by computer as soon as someone gives a firing order.

  3. lorn says

    To start with you overlook at least one thing, 9/11 was not committed by a nation-state and it is the nation and/or state that has a sliding-scale monopoly on the use of violence. The sliding scale being that as organizational scale goes up so does the customarily accepted level/ scale of violence.

    The level and scale of violence allowed varies by nation, circumstance, even individual wealth, and power. In the US it is clear that aggrieved individuals are allowed, as in not stopped when they desire, to shoot crowds of people. Given that you can legally walk into a crowded public space with a weapon of war, dressed for mayhem, and carry everything needed to murder scores, and that, for the most part, nobody is allowed to obstruct you as long as you don’t expend the final effort and time ( all of five seconds) necessary to load-lock-fire the difference between legal and illegal is down to desire. Yes, if you start shooting people it is a violation of law. But, as long as you are willing to get shot, commit suicide, face prosecution every American has an apparent (clearly functional) God-given right (limited only by desire) to murder and maim until stopped, or the feeling passes. Comforting to know that all any of us need is a bad mood and a desire to kill to vent out spleen in such a profound way. Used to be if you got mad you would use harsh language, write a nasty letter, bloody a nose. Glory in how much more powerful we are here and now.

    I suspect the international norm about monopolies of violence and how nation-states get insulted when non-state actors infringe upon those monopolies isn’t explicitly stated in any internationally enforceable legal document but, to my way of thinking, it is clearly so obvious that it doesn’t need to be written down. It’s like Trump telling us he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. It is likely correct if he takes a few steps to cloud the waters. It isn’t good, and it says something is very broken in America, but this is functionally correct.

    As for plastering an island? I suspect that the majority of the island was considered fortified. I don’t know. On one side I agree that each individual should be tried and convicted on the merits before being punished but then again there is some sense to the medical model where we commonly draw a circle around the bad spot and destroy everything. Surgical excision and radiation therapy destroys a lot of non-cancerous tissue. Chemotherapy poisons the entire body. We tent and poison entire buildings. Clear-cut fire lines to save the forest.

    Of course, people are not termites, or cancer, or a forest fire. Individual justice is tough. As I get older I increasingly have doubts about free will. Perhaps it is my guilt over, paraphrasing Saint Augustine ( I think): ‘Those things I should not do that I do; those things that I should do that I do not’. Everything that I do or think seems probable if not inevitable. Even the radical departure from norms seem prescribed. Even before, and after mentally ret-conning the hell out of everything.

    Humans are very inconvenient and bothersome. Clean slates are always nice. It is very tempting to take a shortcut from the first to the last.

    This discussion goes back thousands of years. The philosophical form is: How much evil is allowed to bring about how much good. Are we allowed to smother Hitler in his crib to … I don’t know. Would it prevent WW2 or prevent the deaths of millions? To the extent Hitler was a cause, and not just an effect or symptom of a larger force, or if he was the sole or main locus for those powers, perhaps it might do some good. Then again Hitler wasn’t just his violence. He was clearly bounded by his confidence that his gut was always right. He delayed invading Russia to maintain the optic of fascist inevitability and power when Mussolini was failing. He frittered away precious resources on huge, impractical tanks and super weapons. He poured resources into extermination Jews even as he was retreating on all fronts. He lost the war in part because he was a ‘tragic anti-hero’ with both an attic full of big ideas (good and horrible) which might have gone farther and a basement full of folly, overreach, and neuroses. Would less neurotic Hitler be better or worse. IDK.

    I must say that the picture shows what I take to be a very nice grid. Figure 2000 lbs bombs the array is perhaps 20 blast diameters long so about a mile and a third long and a couple wide at the top. As pointed out we are really good at landing bombs at select points on a map. This is entirely independent of there being anything that my benefit us by being ‘serviced’ by a 2000 pound bomb. It’s pretty hard to break dirt, or an idea. As far as I can tell no idea that has been held high by any significant number of persons has ever been completely eradicated. I once talked to a lady who was a follower of Jim Jones, she sometimes misses not being there, who told me ‘A lot of his ideas were great … he just went too far’. There also remains a diversity of opinion on the shape of the earth.

    Like a flawed OS, more often that not we don’t root out the bad ideas so much as patch and work around them.

    The core of ISIS belief, and Islam, is submission to God. If God is interpreted as reality and submission is more active, we can bend reality, and they can limit themselves to this core assertion, then I don’t see a problem. And nobody needs to have bombs dropped on them.

    War crimes: You might be right if we lived in a clear-eyed, just, and rational world. But under present circumstances it seems a largely useless category. Even the claim seems more likely to promote more such actions than prevent them. Trump can’t stop himself from self-dealing because doing so might seem to prove it was wrong in the first place. Area bombing, torture, emolument violations proliferate in part because stopping would lend credence to the accusation.

    So many questions; so few real answers.

  4. dangerousbeans says

    Look, they put the word “precision” in the description. This means these bombs couldn’t possibly be used for “indiscriminate attacks.” /sarcasm tag

    Yes we bombed that kindergarten, but we got the DEAD CENTRE of the sandpit!

    of course those with power are redefining “crime” to suit their needs. again.

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