Friday, August 13, 2004

Sorties Of Shame

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Vice President. It is high time that we drop this silly pretension that we Americans have taken pains in Iraq to minimize civilian casualties and that our war in Iraq has been a uniquely humane war. The facts do not support this self-congratulatory lie.

We bombed Baghdad. We bombed non-strategic targets in Baghdad for no reason other than the "shock and awe" we hoped to engender. We bombed urban areas with population densities equivalent to those in Manhattan or northwest Washington, D.C. But we didn't want to know the truth. Just think how we comforted ourselves with the insane belief that our precision-guided bombs offered some assurance against civilian casualties. The targeting may have been precise, but the blast radius was deadly - where exactly does one drop a bomb in Manhattan or Washington, D.C. and not kill scores of innocent people?

The U.S.'s own bombing surveys and studies confirm that we fought a brutal war in Baghdad. Dick Cheney is absolutely right: you don't win wars by being sensitive. The startling thing is that so many people, and so many media outlets, believed we were being sensitive when we dropped bombs the size of economy cars on densely populated cities. These are the facts, courtesy of our own military's strategic bombing surveys:

1. Pentagon approval was required for any sortie with respect to which the military estimated a civilian death toll of 30 or more. The military submitted 50 such proposals. Each and every one was approved. Not once did the Pentagon find that the objective did not justify the extraordinary toll in innocent human life.

2. We conducted 50 Sorties of Shame - sorties directed at "high value targets" in the Hussein government, based upon intelligence received (generally be cell phone) only minutes before the sorties were launched. There was virtually no attempt to substantiate the intelligence. Not surprisingly, we were ZERO FOR FIFTY.

3. We were tracking the efficacy of the Sorties of Shame as they were conducted, and accordingly were aware early on that the intelligence upon which we based these sorties was not reliable. And yet we persisted for fifty sorties, actually stepping up the campaign as things threatened to bog down in Iraq in early April. Think of it: zero for twenty, zero for thirty, zero for forty, and still we kept bombing.

This is painful stuff, I know, but we have to face the facts. We're not talking about presidential palaces and baathist party structures. We bombed those purely for the "shock and awe." The HVTs had long cleared out of those places. The Fifty Sorties of Shame were directed primarily at areas like these, where seventeen civilians were killed:


We know for a fact that Chemical Ali was not there, and that 17 innocent people died for nothing.

We don't know how many civilians died in the bombing. We do know, however, that our military projected that at least 1500 people would die in the 50 bombing raids approved by our Pentagon. We will never know what price in innocent human life was too high a price to pay in the estimation of the Pentagon, because the Pentagon approved every such bombing raid. Would 2000 civilian casualties have been too many? Would 5000? Secretary Rumsfeld, how many civilians were you willing to kill?

Thank you, Mr. Vice President. However inadvertently, you spoke the truest words you've ever spoken. Wars aren't won with sensitivity. Let's stop pretending we've behaved with sensitivity in our war on Iraq.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith et al are mass murdering war criminals who in a just world would be answering for their crimes in the Hague.

Never happen though, sadly.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:38 PM  

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