On Civilian Casualties 60

During the initial phase of the war in Iraq, stray US missiles aimed at Iraq hit Kuwait, Turkey and Syria. Two missiles hit Syria which were specifically supposed to hit Baghdad. That is on top of the numerous instances of misidentification. You will also remember that we hit the Chinese Embassy when bombing Belgrade.

Two nights ago, 118 Tomahawk missiles were aimed at 20 targets. These things are extremely destructive. We know that some of the targets were radar installations and SAM missile sites. These are not extensive. Airfields would need more, but the fact that 118 extremely expensive missiles were fired at just 20 targets undoubtedly includes a large measure of redundancy, precisely because the military know very well that some of them will miss.

You cannot send hundreds of cruise missiles and numerous bombing raids into Libya without killing civilians. You do not have to accept anything the Gadaffi regime says to know that.

There are genuine questions arising now about proportionality and whether the allied action really is confined to carrying out the mandate of SCR1973. Taking out air defences can be justified as an essential precursor to setting up the no fly zone. But whether taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan armed forces is really necessary to the protection of civilians appears at best a dubious proposition.

The Guardian’s editor, disgraceful Blair catamite Alan Rusbridger is always up for military action to kill Muslims. The Guardian reports that

Critics claimed that the coalition of the willing may have been acting disproportionately and had come perilously close to making Gaddafi’s departure an explicit goal of UN policy

The last part of that quote is misleading nonsense. The “coalition of the willing” have failed miserably to make regime change explicit UN policy. That is extremely clear in SCR1973. What the coalition of the willing are extremely close to doing is acting illegally in making war beyond their UN mandate. That is a very different thing.

According to the Guardian report, the allies are now going on to attack Gadaffi’s artillery and armour. Whether there is still any threat to Benghazi remains unclear. But there seems to be a very real danger that the bombings will only serve to stoke patriotic support for Gadaffi among wide sectors of the population.

Plainly what compliance with SCR1973 would require now is a period of pause, during which the no fly zone is enforced, and whether any further ground attacks are in fact needed to enforce the very limited aims of SCR 1973 can be assessed. If instead we continue to see further intense attacks upon Libya, plainly the coalition is moving into illegality.

Actually, having seen the man in the flesh, I don’t object to the “Mad Dog” descriptions of Gadaffi. Britian has its own “Mad Dog” in Liam Fox, shooting his mouth off about assassinating Gadaffi and doing his best to alienate international support. I remenber Fox as a rumbustious bigot from the beer bar of Glasgow University Union. He was a leading light in the successful campaign to ban the Gay Society. He struck me then as a talentless zealot of deeply unpleasant views. It is deeply worrying that somebody like him can achieve high office.

Al Jazeera have excellent coverage today of the terror being visited upon the people of Bahrain now their democracy movement has been temporarily crushed. The US were complicit in this, and Qatar and the UAE – neither of them democracies, both of them involved in the brutality in Bahrain – are now providing the Arab military forces supposed to give political cover to the coalition.

The endgame may be the division of Libya into two parts – diesel and unleaded.

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60 thoughts on “On Civilian Casualties

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  • Donis

    The coalition forces so called "humanitarian aid and no flight zone" to protect Libya people from Gadhafi is nothing but a blatant fraud, attack and illegal war on Libya. I'm sick of the western media lies and propaganda and how easily it is for corporate media to mislead the public.

  • angrysoba

    "What the coalition of the willing are extremely close to doing is acting illegally in making war beyond their UN mandate."

    Don't worry the Con-Dem Coalition knows that:

    "And Mr Cameron told MPs that while he still wanted Col Gaddafi to go, the UN resolution was "limited in scope" and "explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi's removal from power by military means"."

  • Paul Johnston

    Send in loads of cruise missiles ( I nearly put overkill)?
    Of course they would and the MIC will get a big contract to replace them!
    Bleeding obvious I would have thought.
    No cuts in that department, there is always money to kill people.

  • Duncan_McFarlan

    The British government are now talking not only about assassinating Gaddafi by airstrike while bombing the entire country but but also about deploying ground-troops. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/mar/22/
    Not only are all three of these things going way beyond the legal authority granted by the UN resolution (which only allows "all necessary means" to be used "to protect civilians"), if they put in ground troops even the rebels say they'll fight them. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Article/2011021159421

    They'll bluster about Arab League support but the Arab League don't support the bombing of the whole country, only a no-fly zone; the Arab League are almost entirely dictatorships (Lebanon being the only functioning democracy); and half of them are currently shooting their own civilians and medical staff so their approval means bugger all in terms of legitimacy

    • CanSpeccy

      So you were gulled.

      However, much Craig Murray insists it is entirely legal, this is clearly a war of imperial aggression intended to divide Libya, by preventing the legitimate government of the country from suppressing the rebellion in Cerenaica. The rebels are backed by the CIA and MI6 with arms supplied by the British via Egypt. When the dust settles, the East, which has the oil and gas, will be under Western domination, which means the Chinese will be excluded, the West, without oil revenue, will be left to its own devices.

      When Regime Change is Not Regime Change: http://theinexactscientist.wordpress.com/2011/03/

      • Duncan_McFarlan

        While i agree the motives of the western governments involved have nothing to do with protecting civilians (as Craig and me both said before-hand) e.g http://alienatedleft.blogspot.com/2011/02/libya-whttp://inplaceoffear.blogspot.com/2011/02/libya-w
        and that they're going for regime change and a government that will give them better deals on oil contracts, claiming Gaddafi's government is "the legitimate government" is wrong given that a) he's an unelected dictator like the king he overthrew in his coup ; and b) He ordered troops to shoot and kill unarmed protesters. He is no more "the legitimate government of the country" than the monarchy in Bahrain or President Saleh in Yemen, both of whom have done the same and are unelected dictators.

        Craig was completely against any military action from the start. I reluctantly backed it in the end to try to avoid a massacre in Benghazi. It doesn't mean i'll support a war of regime change which will kill at least as many civilians as the assault on Benghazi and the aftermath would have if it goes ahead.

        Craig hasn't said everything that's been done is legal either. He's said the UN resolution only gives authority to do what's necessary to protect civilians – that most definitely does not include assassinating Gaddafi by airstrike, airstrikes to aid rebel offensives or hitting civilian targets such as "administrative buildings".

        • CanSpeccy

          … claiming Gaddafi's government is "the legitimate government"

          legitimate government

          legitimate government definition

          "A government generally acknowledged as being in control of a nation and deserving formal recognition, which is symbolized by the exchange of diplomats between that government and the governments of other countries."

          So yes, Gaddafi's government is, at least until destroyed by US/UK military action, legitimate, however odious. And the idea that to be legitimate a government must be democratic is bizarre since virtually no government since the beginning of time was every truly democratic and certainly the bought governments of the states now killing Gaddafi's people so that he cannot kill them himself, are not in any meaningful sense democratic.

          • Duncan_McFarlan

            That's one definition of legitimate government. There is no universally agreed definition of what makes a government legitimate, but in the modern world being democratically elected in elections that international observers are allowed to attend and which they report to be free and fair is required at the least.

            Most Libyan ambassadors to the UN and other countries have already disowned Gaddafi's government and more than one of his ministers have also left it. That and the fact it's completely unelected and has fired on unarmed protesters makes it not legitimate in most peoples' eyes.

            No government was originally democratic – they all started out as petty robber barons or kings or pirates, but what is required for a government to be legitimate today is not the same as a thousand or even 150 years ago – today they need to be democratically elected to be seen as legitimate – and they can't massacre their own civilians and still be considered legitimate by most people (despite the hypocrisy by western governments who pretend the situation in Bahrain and Yemen is any different from the one in Iraq).

            I agree that real democracy should involve referenda on big issues – and especially ones that weren't in any party's election manifesto – like going to war. That doesn't mean an unelected government isn't less democratic and less legitimate than an elected one.

          • CanSpeccy

            "That's one definition of legitimate government"

            That is the generally understood definition and that is the sense in which I used the word.

            "I agree that real democracy should involve referenda on big issues"

            Agree with who. I didn't advocate referenda on big issues. What do most people understand about "most big issues."

            I'd start with a decent education system instead of the system of politically correct brainwashing that passes for education in the western democracies before I advocated referenda on anything.

          • Duncan_McFarlan

            I don't know about Canada, but in the UK we have a decent education system, though it's rapidly being eroded by the drive to cut the cost of it and make all education about providing companies with employees. Some lecturers try to force students to accept what they consider as views within the acceptable range (and a very narrow one) but many allow far more free thinking than that.

          • CanSpeccy

            "in the UK we have a decent education system"

            I don't think so. A good education system teaches how to think, not what to think. Teaching kids how to put on a condom, teaches how to think about pre-marital sex, fornication and sex in general; ditto education about STD's;environmental studies is all about pushing a political agenda (e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfnddMpzPsM); black history month and the entire white people are racists story is part of the program to destroy the nation state. And having Richard Dawkins on the public payroll as a professor of the popularization of science or whatever, is clearly atheist propaganda sponsored by the state via the higher education system.

            And if you want hard data, compare the proportion of A level passes in math today with the proportion in the 50's and 60's. Or if you want to go further back compare the proportion of 15 year olds qualified for university entry 100 years ago, four hundred years ago. At the kind of grammar school that Shakespeare attended in Stratford on Avon, 14-year olds had a better grasp of Greek and Latin than graduates of the Oxfraud or Scambridge Classics programs today.

            The fact is, British society is imploding, economically, intellectually and socially. According to the US Fed, US household net worth declined 23% in the last two years. The same collapse in wealth and income is underway in Britain.

            Amusing, in a rather sad way, is that the intellectual who seems to have the firmest grasp of what is happening to the West is and African, Dambiso Moyo. She gives an excellent talk here: http://fora.tv/2011/02/17/Dambisa_Moyo_How_the_We….

          • Duncan_McFarlan

            Ah right so you want an education system that teaches your personal ideology, that it's fine for British expats and migrant workers to work and settle down to retire in other countries, but non-white immigration into Europe is "genocide".

            Greek and Latin are hardly requirements for most jobs – biologists and lawyers might benefit from them, but they hardly require to know the languages – only a few words of each. French or Spanish are the next most spoken languages worldwide after English.

            You seem to want to go back to the 19th century with an education syllabus composed of "no blacks please, we're British/European" along with long dead languages that almost no-one speaks any more.

  • alan campbell

    Who are the opposition/rebels? I bet there's a fair few members of the jihadist LFG amongst them. I fear we may end up with a Failed State on the Med scenario. But difficult to have stood back and allowed ol' Mad Dog to add Butcher of Benghazi to his many titles.

  • david leigh

    I don't know why you attack Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian in this vile, personalised way. He is not, never was, a "Blair catamite" and a would-be bomber of Muslims. The opposite in fact. I suspect you know this, but are venting some personal spleen.

    • Craig_Murray


      Honoured to have you commenting here (genuinely – that is not sarcastic).

      There are a number of answers to your implied question about whi I attack Rusbridger. Partly it is because it is almost always a good to prick the pomposity of the powerful, including important newspaper editors. It is also partly because the style of this blog is often deliberately polemic, and the use of a quaint and outdated invective (catamite) satisfies my desire to feel I am conducting political debate like a Shelley. It is also true that the sheer over the top, rather surrealistic nature of it when I spit personal attack, ie "catamite", Rusbridger's bad wig, calling Aaronovitch the ugliest man in the world – is meant to indicate that the personal attacks are not the bit you are meant to take seriously, being evidently untrue. So if Rusbridger were actually gay or bald, or Aaronovitch were actually deformed in some way, such attacks would be cruel.

      But the srious bit of the answer is that i, and I have no doubt many thousands like me, will never ever forgive Rusbridger and the Guardian for continuing to support the Blair "Project" even when that project became the very antithesis of liberalism, in its populist and devastating attacks on civil liberties at home and its warmongering neo-con aggression abroad.

      If I were a very wealthy man I would bring a legal action against the Guardian for violating the terms of the CP Scott Trust, acting ultra vires, through its support for Blair. As I am a poor man, I shall pour out my hurt and frustration like this.

      Rather than indignation, you should be wondering how the Guardian managed to get it so wrong as to alienate someone like me, who unfailingly read the paper every day and is steeped in the liberal philosophy the Guardian used to stand bravely for. I can quote Hazlitt, Cobbett, Cobden and Bright by the acre. I read John Stuart Mill in bed. It is not me that has gone wrong.

  • evgueni

    Apparently about half of the Libyan army personnel are conscripts (source: Wikipedia). The rest are 'volunteers' whatever that means in practice. The distinction between civilians, often qualified as innocent civilians for stronger contrast, and army personnel is almost entirely artificial. Just because someone is a soldier it does not follow that he is a morally justifiable target though he may be a legitimate target in the eyes if international law and that tells us something about the limitations of this 'law'.

    These people have parents and children. Even the volunteer soldiers are probably in the army because they cannot find a better way to earn a living. I escaped conscription in the USSR but some of my friends did not and they went on to follow orders in the Caucasus. They considered themselves lucky that USSR had already pulled out of Afghanistan by then.

    It is naive in the extreme to think that a foreign military intervention will solve more problems than it creates. It will do the opposite – polarise any existing divisions more, anger and provoke people, unite them against perceived external aggression. There will always be those who prefer to defend their existing regime than yield to a foreign power – does that make them more deserving of the bombs?

    In Yugoslavia the ethnic violence was substantially aggravated following the NATO intervention that was ostensibly aimed at preventing such ethnic violence (source: Chomsky). This was a predictable outcome and it would have been known to the NATO planners but the true objective was not humanitarian.

    It's inefficient to concentrate attention on who the war criminals are and why they do what they do. Under the current system they are almost invariably beyond the reach of the law. The discussion worth having is one about effective ways to restructure society so as to stop the war criminals in future. The answer must be in building a democracy at home. How do we do that – well that's the thing worth talking about in my view.

    • Duncan_McFarlan

      On the basis of UN Resolution 1973 the air forces in Libya only have the right to target armed forces who are attacking or moving into range to attack civilians – and i'd think that since bombing in built up areas in the middle of fighting would likely kill a lot of civilians that won't be allowed by the resolution either, nor bombing Gaddafi's forces in cities or towns to support rebel offensives.

      They've gone far beyond the powers granted to them by the resolution.

      For going to war i'd think bringing in a constitution or law that requires governments to hold a referendum before going to war could work, plus allowing citizens to call another referendum on ending the war if they get enough signatories to a petition (say 25,000 for a country the size of Britain), with the referendum results being binding.

  • CanSpeccy

    "so you want an education system that teaches your personal ideology"

    Duncan, don't you understand anything? I said education is about teaching people how to think, not what to think. So obviously I don't expect a proper school system to teach any ideology. Whether I approve or disapprove of the ideology in which you have been born and bred is entirely beside the point.

    And now you're again accusing me of being a nigger-hating racist just as I am pointing out to you that the brightest person talking about the problems of the west is an African. Why don't you go and listen to what Dambisa Moyo has to say. Then you might actually know something useful about what's wrong with Britain's totally politically corrupted education system.

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