When collateral damage—deaths of innocent civilians—becomes just another war metric. From Robert Koehler at antiwar.com:
“The wooden carts that residents use to carry vegetables and other wares in the once busy market area instead ferried out cadavers recovered from the rubble last week.”
And so . . . another “precision” bomb strike in America’s war against terror. This was the scene in Mosul earlier this month, as reported by the Washington Post. Possibly more than 200 civilians died, buried in the rubble of several buildings, which had been jammed with terrified residents of Iraq’s second largest city who were seeking shelter from the war. Many of them – including women, children – may have died slowly, buried beneath the rubble, as rescue operations took a week to mobilize.
Words fail me. So I borrow some from Air Force Brigadier Gen. Matthew Isler, who told U.S. News and World Report in the wake of the Mosul strike: “The density of the local fighting for those ground forces has changed. What has not changed is our support, our diligence in making sure we are taking the appropriate levels to make sure we are avoiding any harm to innocent civilians.”
The article, which addresses the controversy that President Trump has “relaxed” the rules of engagement in the war against ISIS, causing an increase in civilian casualties, goes on to note: “Isler specifically said the risk calculus – the number of civilian casualties acceptable to war planners, at times including the president, when considering missions – has not changed.”
The tremor I feel in these words goes deeper than another Trump controversy: “the number of civilian casualties acceptable to war planners . . .”
Even if these words were more than just PR blather and had a core of moral integrity, they stop me in my tracks. Of course, there’s nothing surprising here. This is how war works, especially today, when battlefields are coterminous with civilian living and working space. Innocent people are unavoidably taken out along with the “enemy.” This is the collateral damage that comes with every decision to wage war.
To continue reading: How Many Civilians Can We Kill?