Socialist Worker

The real victims of 'precision' bombing

Issue No. 1770

THERE IS no such thing as a 'clean war' or 'precision bombing'. The same US and British generals who now say they are using 'smart weapons' in Afghanistan were only two weeks ago telling the media they were 'resigned to civilian casualties'.

The US and British governments will lie through their teeth about the numbers of ordinary Afghans killed. Western officials were claiming on Monday morning that bombs had hit their targets in Afghanistan.

They could not possibly have known that-hours after the first raids and before any surveillance could have happened in daylight hours. The US military claimed their 'smart' bombs and missiles avoided killing civilians during the Gulf War ten years ago.

It took almost a year for them to admit that just 7 percent of the bombs used in Iraq were 'precision weapons'. Some 40 percent of those did not hit their targets.

A senior Pentagon official told the Washington Post that 70 percent of bombs dropped missed their targets. On 13 February 1991 in Baghdad, a US 'laser-guided bomb' deliberately destroyed the Amiriya air raid shelter (pictured above right), incinerating 288 people, including 91 children and 48 women. Over 17,500 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war.

Since then the US military has claimed its weapons are more accurate and its targets more carefully selected. It launched Cruise missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998. It destroyed the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, the main producer of cheap medicines in the country.

The US military acknowledged later, off the record, that the factory had nothing to do with chemical weapons, as it had claimed. The 1998 Cruise missile attack on Afghanistan targeted the Khost complex, which the CIA had helped Osama Bin Laden build in 1986. One of the missiles did not even hit Afghanistan. It exploded 50 kilometres away in Pakistan.

Two years ago the US and its allies pounded Serbia and Kosovo for 78 days. The US claimed on 2 June 1999 that '99.6 percent of our bombs and missiles hit their targets'.

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff claimed that NATO had destroyed 'around 120 tanks, about 220 armoured personnel carriers and up to 450 artillery pieces'.

But a US air force report at the end of 1999, suppressed by the Pentagon, revealed that NATO bombs fell mainly on civilian targets. The report found that NATO destroyed just '14 tanks, 18 personnel carriers and 20 artillery pieces'. NATO said its pilots had achieved 744 confirmed strikes. Its own investigators found evidence of only 58.

Newsweek magazine, which obtained a leaked copy of the report, said: 'Air power was effective in the Kosovo war not against military targets but against civilian ones.' The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that NATO probably killed more Serb civilians than soldiers. It puts the civilian death toll at 1,500. So called 'precision weapons' also hit civilians. These bombs and missiles hit Belgrade almost exclusively.

NATO finally confirmed five months after the war that it had used toxic uranium-tipped shells in Kosovo-31,000 of them-dumping ten tonnes of radioactive waste. These weapons were used in two NATO attacks which hit Kosovan Albanian refugees. NATO also used cluster bombs, which create hundreds of mines when they explode. These are the weapons the US and Britain have at their disposal now. The media will not be showing the destruction wrought on ordinary Afghans. Channel 4 journalist Alex Thompson reported on the Gulf War. He said a year later: 'The whole thing was sanitised. There was no footage of the B-52 payloads being dropped on Iraq. Instead we got the aircraft videos served up by the military. They were a brilliant public relations device. You show the cockpit recording of a laser-guided 'smart' bomb. A top general declares it is homing in on a 'high value target' and you watch it being destroyed. It appears they never miss and they never kill anybody. It is bullshit, and everybody knows it.'


Past lies used to justify wars

THE US and British governments lie and twist the truth to hide the destruction their actions cause, and to exaggerate the suffering inflicted by those they oppose.

  • The decisive event in whipping up war fever against Iraq in 1990 was the claim that Iraqi soldiers had ripped babies from incubators when they invaded Kuwait. A tearful 15 year old Kuwaiti told the US Congress she had seen it with her own eyes. The story was a lie. The girl later turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in the US, not a nurse in Kuwait as she claimed. She was coached by Hill and Knowlton, a giant PR company hired by the Kuwaiti royal family.

  • NATO spokesmen said in the first two weeks of the Balkans war that '100,000 young Albanian men were missing-slaughtered by the Serbs'. They, and pro-war journalists, predicted NATO troops would find 'mass graves of tens of thousands of bodies' in Kosovo. The numbers killed during the war were about 4,000 to 5,000 (Albanian and Serb) according to most estimates.


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    News
    Sat 13 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1770
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