A few days ago a commenter on my blog took issue with my post, "Fallujah, New Orleans and Marjah." Part of our disagreement focused on whether the Marines could precisely target their munitions. The commenter said in part:
What do you know about Marine Corps military operations? What do you know about the accuracy of any of the weapons in their arsenal? We are not talking about the CIA lobbing missiles at some Taliban bad guys from a UAV. We are talking about precision guided weapons.
I don't often call out commenters like this, but at least 10 people, including five children, were butchered today because someone bought this kind of thinking in Marjah, Afghanistan:
An errant American rocket strike on Sunday hit a compound crowded with Afghan civilians in the last Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, killing at least 10 people, including 5 children, military officials said.
...Officers said the barrage had been fired from Camp Bastion, a large British and American base to the northeast, by a weapons system known as Himars, an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Its munitions are GPS-guided and advertised as being accurate enough to strike within a yard of their intended targets.
The hype surrounding so-called "smart bombs" and "precision guided munitions" is one of the reasons Americans feel so free to go to war in civilian areas, and it's one of the most pernicious pieces of misinformation spread by the pro-war crowd. These devices may be more precise than, say, a World-War-II-era blockbuster, but, as February 14th's outrage shows, they are anything but foolproof. In fact, of the first 50 "precision" air strikes launched at the opening of the Iraq War, "All were unsuccessful."
The public's mistaken perception that the U.S. military can fire munitions into a civilian area without harming noncombatants makes many Americans much more willing to back the use of military force. For example, this war-industry hype helped convince the Society of Christian Ethics to declare the Afghanistan war a "just war" in 2002.
There is no such thing as a humane war, and our inability to admit this to ourselves just butchered more than 10 noncombatants, including 5 children.
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