by Kim Petersen
March 24, 2003
Military experts have been regaling us with stories about how this ongoing war has moved into the next stage of high technology. Of course it is well known now that the pinpoint accuracy claims of the initial attack in the Persian Gulf War were not always true. However, it is declared that the latest laser-guidance systems, GPS-guidance systems, and especially microchips have spurred “a quantum leap in technology and firepower since” 1991. (1) But already American-fired missiles have veered many kilometers off target; some landed in the Iranian town of Abadan about 50 kilometers east of Basra. (2) Either this represents a quirk in the high technology or US President Bush has decided to open up a third theatre in the War on Terrorism quicker than anyone suspected.
The claim is, nonetheless, that the high tech war will be cheaper with fewer killed, especially civilians. (3)
Writer Scott Peterson refutes this claim pointing out that although the percentage of high tech bombs has increased “the ratio of civilian casualties to bombs dropped has grown.” (4) Afghanistan featured 70% use of high tech bombs yet still al-Jazeera’s Kabul TV post was hit (maybe not so accidentally), Red Crescent food depots also, and a wedding party was massacred.
Already the much-vaunted smart weapons of the US have strayed far off target. This augurs poorly for the accuracy of the remaining arsenal. Yet according to Vladimir Slipchenko, a preeminent Russian military expert specializing in future warfare, the Persian Gulf War is not about oil but about “being the large-scale real-life testing by the United States of sophisticated models of precision weapons. That is the objective that they place first. All the other aims are either incidental, or outright disinformation.“ (5) That this is already a slipshod war based on mendacity, cover-ups, and unscrupulous objectives such as oil is acknowledged by many; but if Mr. Slipchenko’s assertion is correct that it is mainly a simulation with people as pawns, then this war is even more a moral outrage.
A lot of money is at stake according to Mr. Slipchenko, the war is costing $80 to $100 billion to wage but many of the new weapons are supplied free to demonstrate their effectiveness and later win a share of the lucrative defense industry contracts valued at $600 billion for rearming the US military. (6)
Mr. Slipchenko pointed out that despite the use of the sophisticated weaponry that there will be “great carnage;” he estimated a minimum of half-a-million people would be killed. He said the American forces would wipe out the Iraqi military. (7)
Professor Paul Rogers, as Mr. Slipchenko, also decried the notion of a “clean war.” Only a rapid demise of the regime according to Mr. Rogers could forestall great loss of life. Mr. Rogers’s four reasons why civilian casualties will be large can be summarized as:
1) bomb hits intended target; intelligence accurate; people are killed
2) bomb hit intended target; intelligence failure; people are killed
3) bomb misses target; people killed
4) area impact munitions; people are killed (8)
It is understood that there are no guarantees when a bomb strikes a target that no civilians are there. Casualties will occur matter-of-factly as a natural course of war. Bombs will strike facilities thought incorrectly not to have civilians and they will be killed; it will occur in spite of sophisticated precision bombs because as the destruction of the Amiriyah bomb shelter by a bunker buster shows, the intelligence behind the bombs is often flawed. There are also many instances of bombs falling far of the mark. The destruction of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by an errant bomb and the missiles falling into Iran are examples.
Most deadly, however, are the area impact munitions. These munitions are designed to wreak devastation over a wide area; and therefore, people near or within the impact zone will be killed or injured. They are undiscriminating weapons.
This is something to bear in mind when watching the sanitized coverage on the TV. ‘Collateral damage’ means ‘people killed.’ Bombs are not just about destroying buildings. They also destroy the people in the building and the people near the building. Bombs are only as smart as the intelligence behind them. Bombs don’t have brains and they don’t have morals. Bombs destroy. This is what the war is about: people get hurt and killed.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Dale Hurd, “The Future of Warfare: America’s High-Tech Arsenal,” CBN News, 23 March 2003: http://cbn.org/CBNNews/News/030127a.asp
(2) News From the Front, “U.S. missiles go astray in Iran; violate Iranian airspace,” Yellow Times.org, 22 March 2003: http://www.yt.org/article.php?sid=1194
(3) Hurd, Ibid
(4) Scott Peterson, “'Smarter' bombs still hit civilians: In every war since Iraq, the US used more 'smart' bombs. So why do civilian casualty rates keep rising?” Christian Science Monitor, 22 October 2002: http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1022/p01s01-wosc.html
(5) Aleksandr Khokhlov, “Russian Expert Predicts 500,000 Iraqi Dead in War Designed To Test Weapons Interview with military analyst Vladimir Slipchenko,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 22 Feb 2003. As seen on the Canadian Dimension website: http://www.canadiandimension.mb.ca/extra/d0314ak.htm
(8) Paul Rogers, “The myth of a clean war – and its real motive,” OpenDemocracy, 13 March 2003: http://opendemocracy.com/themes/article-2-1041.jsp