The bombing of Libya should expand to include the country’s infrastructure, the head of the British armed forces has argued.
“At present Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya,” said General Sir David Richards last Sunday.
“But if we want to increase the pressure on Colonel Gaddafi’s regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets.”
British defence secretary Liam Fox supported the call.
Nato initially claimed it would only enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
Western warplanes now make twice as many attacks on Libya as they did on Afghanistan at the height of the air war.
This has raised concerns that civilian casualties are likely to be far higher than Nato claims.
Western aircraft have conducted over 2,400 “strike sorties” in Libya—flights where bombs are dropped—since bombing began. This is more than 1,800 per month.
When Western forces sharply stepped up the air war in Afghanistan in 2007, sorties ran at just over 900 per month.
The huge bombs dropped from high altitudes may be laser-guided, but experience of their use in Afghanistan and Iraq shows that civilian casualties are integral to such attacks.
The sight of victims of bombing raids in Afghanistan has fuelled opposition to the occupation. Military communications revealed by Wikileaks, for example, detail how the US dropped six 2,000 pound bombs on a compound in Helmand in August 2007. Up to 300 civilians were killed.
Since the bombing of Libya began, Nato and the mainstream media have played down possible civilian casualties in Gaddafi-controlled areas and dismissed official media reports of non-military deaths.
When the pro-Gaddafi media reported that an air strike in Tripoli in early May killed Gaddafi’s son and three of his grandchildren, Pentagon officials accused Gaddafi of making propaganda. They claimed there was no evidence of civilian deaths.
Nato stepped up its bombing two weeks ago after alliance members called for a more aggressive targeting of Gaddafi, eager to avoid a stalemate.
Privately, Nato’s leaders have repeatedly expressed concern that bombing carries a high risk of civilian casualties. They fear the effect this will have on public support for the bombing.
Civilian casualties are not accidents in wars. They are an intentional part of conflict—signalling to people that their enemy is bigger, that resistance is futile and they have no power.
The bombing of civilians in built-up areas has seen Nato members call for ground troops. But, this will cause more civilian deaths.
The introduction of US pilotless “drone” aircraft, which carry missiles and
high-definition video cameras, was hailed as an aid to precision bombing. But repeated civilian casualties in drone attacks in Pakistan expose the lie that they are safer for civilians.
Nato commanders say they want US Apache helicopters, Warthog A10 aircraft and AC130 Spectre gunships, which can all fly low and slow while delivering massive firepower. These will kill more civilians.
Two decades of “humanitarian intervention” have proven beyond doubt that modern warfare brings with it inevitable civilian casualties.
We are not being told the truth about the damage inflicted by Nato warplanes in Libya.