Monday, April 12

Voting for life. Cluster bombing civilians.

[The brief introduction to this exchange is posted on April 19 as VOTING FOR LIFE: PREAMBLE. The following was written on April 8.]#6
Fanni: To follow up on the first of three points on which you tried to discredit certain statements in my previous messages, below I provide further substantiation of my claims concerning cluster bombs (in addition to the USA Today report already sent). Substantiation of the other two claims will follow.

Evidence that the U.S. used cluster bombs in civilian areas in Iraq.

I promised multiple sources to substantiate the claim that the U.S. used cluster bombs in civilian areas in Iraq. There are numerous such reports available online. I have chosen two, plus a curious article from Fox News, released this time last year. I tried to find a Fox News "take" on cluster bombs, but could locate only this one article in which the idea that the U.S. had used such bombs in a way that would harm civilians is indirectly – and craftily – discredited, and in which the author states that, "The U.S. military has denied targeting civilians and said it takes extraordinary measures to avoid hurting noncombatants [my underscoring]." One wonders how extraordinary a measure it would have been for the U.S. Army not to use outdated, proven-to-be-harmful cluster bombs in Iraqi neighborhoods. Apparently, that would have been too extraordinary a measure for Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush Jr.

The first part of the Fox News article (copied as #3 below) tries to gain points for the "coalition forces" by dismissing some patently outrageous claims by a source of the criminal regime of Saddam Hussein that is idiotically identified with the metonymic term "Iraq." The second part craftily dodges the credible (and, today, wholly substantiated) accusation concerning the use of cluster bombs by: i) placing it in the above, propagandized context; ii) making uncritical use of militaristic mumbo-jumbo ("precision-guided weapons"); iii) presuming that civilian casualties only ever occur as a direct consequence of Iraqi aggressions or tactics; and iv) quoting U.S. military commanders who hedge as to what weapons were used, and where, and by whom.

So, then, here the two more sources that substantiate the reckless use of cluster bombs by U.S. forces in particular, plus a typical piece of propagandistic blather from Fox News. This sort of comparison allows me to appreciate how it is that you come away from your television set believing that the good ol' boys who fought fascism in Europe and Asia in the 40s are still up to their good deeds today, and swallowing whole the propagandistic images of "Bush, the righteous defender of the American people from imminent threats abroad," and "Bush, the good-faith liberator and democracy-fostering fighter for human rights" (or perhaps you swallow these images only nearly whole, since, with hindsight concerning the false nature of the main war rationalizations and understanding that the war was deemed "pre-emptive" in nature, you have admitted to "ambivalence"). This ambivalence should grow, I think, once you see that not only is the war aggressive in nature (which is arguably unlike anything the U.S. undertook at any time in the First or Second World Wars, despite atrocities and other abuses of international law perpetuated then), and based on false claims – a fact that you have partly admitted to when you spoke of hindsight being 20/20 – and that it is also being waged inhumanely, in a way that cannot be justified by the contextual needs of military strategy. This is why I take a moment to help dispel your false impressions concerning the "smart" use of what are very dumb cluster bombs.

I have put links to all three sources so that you can see where I got these things from and read the full citations and related stories/reports. For the time being, here is a sampling of the articles:

1) Off Target
report from Human Rights Watch
The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq
Hundreds of civilian deaths in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq could have been prevented by abandoning two misguided military tactics. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the coalition's conduct of major military operations in March and April. U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions, containing nearly 2 million submunitions, that killed or wounded more than 1,000 civilians. International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, does not outlaw all civilian casualties in wartime. But armed forces are obliged to take all feasible precautions for avoiding civilian losses, and to refrain from attacks that are indiscriminate or where the expected civilian harm exceeds the military gain. The term "casualty" refers to both dead and wounded. This 147-page report also examines violations of international humanitarian law by Iraqi forces, including use of human shields, abuse of the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, use of antipersonnel landmines, and placement of military objects in mosques and hospitals. The Iraqi military's practice of wearing civilian clothes also eroded the distinction between combatants and civilians.
2) Published on Thursday, April 3, 2003 by The Asia Times (Hong Kong)
Cluster Bombs Liberate Iraqi Children
by Pepe Escobar
According to the Arab cameramen, two trucks full of bodies - mostly children, and women in flowered dresses - were parked outside the Hilla hospital. Dr Nazem el-Adali, trained in Scotland, said almost all the dead and wounded were victims of cluster bombs dropped in the Hilla region and in the neighboring village of Mazarak. Abbas initially said that there were 33 dead and 310 wounded. Then the ICRC went on site with a team of four, and they said that there were "dozens of dead and 450 wounded". Contacted by satphone on Thursday, Huguenin-Benjamin confirmed there were at least 460 wounded, being treated in an ill-equipped 280-bed hospital.
3) Fox News
Iraq Accuses U.S. of Targeting Civilians
BAGHDAD — Iraq's health minister Thursday said 36 Iraqi civilians were killed and 215 wounded in coalition air strikes on Baghdad a day earlier, and he accused the United States and Britain of deliberately targeting civilians to break the Iraqi people's will.

"They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their morale," Omeed Medhat Mubarak said. "They are not discriminating, differentiating." The U.S. military has denied targeting civilians and said it takes extraordinary measures to avoid hurting noncombatants. Fourteen people were reported killed in a northern Baghdad neighborhood on Wednesday in a blast that Iraqi officials blamed on cruise missiles. "So you see, the American and British mercenaries are targeting civilians regardless of their age," Mubarak said. "They targeted shops and small public-sector installations." Mubarak said the total number of civilian dead and injured since the U.S.-led war on Iraq began a week ago is more than 4,000, including 350 dead.
He accused U.S. and British forces of dropping cluster bombs on civilian targets.
"In Najaf, they destroyed a medical center," he said. "They bombed an ambulance and killed its driver." The U.S. military has acknowledged using precision-guided weapons to target Iraqi missiles and launchers "placed within a civilian residential area." But Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he could not say whether the missiles that hit the neighborhood were Iraqi weapons or misguided U.S. missiles.