The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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To paraphrase Eric's correspondent, "The U.S. does not target civilians. Period." To which the cynic responds, "Well, if our intentions are pure, then our aim has been terrible".
A partial accounting:
>> Vietnam - Over a million civilian deaths
>> Iraq, Laos, Cambodia - In each (conservatively), several hundred thousand civilian deaths
>> Yugoslavia - 500-1500 civilian deaths
>> Panama - Over 300 civilian deaths (and one arrest)
>> Millions more could be added by including vicitims of WWII's strategic bombing, Korea's horrors, and (more controversially) the victims of proxy wars in Latin America and South East Asia.
In fairness to Eric's correspondent, while "targeting explosive weaponry" seems oxymoronic, it's not (quite). From an abstract engineering standpoint, today's munitions are hi-tech marvels. With their increasing precision, however, comes the temptation to use these weapons in ever-closer quarters (e.g., within yards of Belgrad's largest maternity hospital), or under marginal conditions to lessen political risk (e.g., bombing from 15,000 feet to avoid casualties). Too often, tragedy ensues ... in which case, Hochhuth's question still stands (Walzer, p.324): "Is a pilot who bombs population centers under orders still to be called a SOLDIER?"
The morality of industrialized war, especially as extended to strategic bombing and WMD, remains controversial within the military. Bomber Harris is more reviled within the services than without.
Several resources follow on the topic of civilians in war and Just War theory.
Golden Valley, MN USA
"Just and Unjust Wars"
Basic Books, 2000 (3rd edition)
((In the US, recognized as 'the classic' on the subject.)
"A History of Strategic Bombing"
C. Scribner, 1982
((The military grapples with the morality of its weaponry.)
"Civilians in War"
Edited by Simon Chesterman.
Lynne Rienner Publishers; 292 pages; $19.95. Eurospan; £16.95
((This received a lukewarm review in The Economist, Aug-23-2001, a sentiment echoed by Colin Rowat in correspondence.))
On the web, see:
- esp. the historical, legal, and theological statements