Rules of engagement and civilian deaths

The ‘rules of engagement’ in modern warfare in relation to civilian deaths are a prominent factor in the ‘Hit & Run’ book and subsequent calls for an inquiry in New Zealand forces involved in attacks on two Afghan villages in 2010.

The US military played a prominent role, providing the faulty ‘intelligence’ that prompted the attacks, and also most of the fire power that caused the deaths and injuries of civilians and the destruction of their property.

Coincidentally this report from the Guardian: Mosul’s children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

Coalition bombs buried more than a hundred people in the ruins of three houses and raised fresh questions about US rules of engagement

By the time rescuers finally arrived no one was left alive. For almost a week desperate neighbours had scraped through the rubble, searching for as many as 150 people who lay buried after three homes in a west Mosul suburb were destroyed by coalition airstrikes.

Neighbours said at least 80 bodies had been recovered from one house alone, where people had been encouraged by local elders to take shelter. Rescuers were continuing to dig through the ruins, and the remains of two other houses nearby, which had also been pulverised in attacks that were described as “relentless and horrifying”.

This illustrates risks of modern asymmetric warfare, but civilian casualties have long been prevalent in conflict zones.

The US military said it was launching an investigation. Cololnel Joseph Scrocca, from the US-led command in Baghdad, said “the coalition has opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation” from Mosul.

That sounds appropriate, but it is often difficult to get comprehensive evidence from a war zone still under fire.

Residents in Mosul Jadida say no Isis members were hiding among the civilians, although dozens of militants had been attempting to defend the area from an attack by Iraqi special forces.

Isis has been widely accused of using civilians as human shields by positioning guns and fighters on top of houses. Most residents at the scene said that while the group’s members were indeed on the roof of at least one of the homes, those who took shelter below did so willingly.

A very difficult situation.

‘Terms of engagement’ should indeed be rechecked.

And another thing – the US military has long had a reputation for it’s lack of subtlety in attack, it’s rip shit and bust blast to smithereens approach.

Might is not always the right way to do things.

Previous Post
Leave a comment

23 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  26th March 2017

    The rules of engagement need to be rewritten. They come from a past era when armies wore uniforms, just like the Geneva Convention.
    When there are things like guns on rooftops, then unfortunately all the civilians underneath are at risk. Remember how the Palestinians were moving rockets in UN ambulances? The opposing forces can’t give them a free pass just because of the risk of civilian deaths. There has to be a on the spot decision made as to action and consequences. And with hindsight, they are often seen to be wrong. However, those armchair warriors don’t have to explain to the families of dead servicemen why their mad died.
    And yes, the US does seem to shoot first and ask questions afterwards, trigger happy isn’t half of it. Not a good way to win friends.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  26th March 2017

      The Russians largely get away with doing the same thing because they don’t concern themselves with official Russian enquiries & dismiss independent ones.

      Reply
      • David

         /  26th March 2017

        The Russians were badly defeated in Chechnya first time around. They learned their lesson and returned with a revised set of rules of engagement and won. That change tells you everything you need to know about their view of civilian casualties.

        Liddell Hart had this right decades ago; ‘the purpose of war is not to destroy an enemies tanks and armies, the purpose is to destroy his will’

        A limited war is a lost war.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  26th March 2017

        Russian precision munitions.

        Reply
  2. chrism56

     /  26th March 2017

    Yes
    There don’t seem to have been many repercussions from Assad rolling 44 gallon drum full of high explosive out of helicopters. Maybe Hagar and Stevenson should investigate that?

    Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th March 2017

    A report I read said several buildings were destroyed when an ISIS truck full of H.E. was hit. That kind of accident is inevitable.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  26th March 2017

      Yes, a former senior US Administration Defence official (can’t recall his name) stated on Al Ajazeera tv last night that Iraqis call in the air strikes. Their forces identify the locations of concentrations of ISIS fighters, & while the US can & does use precision weapons to try & minimise collateral damage, on a number of occasions the houses or buildings ISIS fighters are in have been stockpiled with unseen munitions & the resulting explosions cause major destruction in the area.

      Aljaz reported that the Iraqi commanders were themselves concerned about the high levels of civilian casualtues being reported, by civilians escaping the area, and were now reassessing their tactics, considering opening several other simultaneous attack fronts & making more use of their ground forces.

      Reply
  4. Blazer

     /  26th March 2017

    the Geneva convention might need reworking.As an aside(Remember this….’The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi attacked Deir Yassin, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem. ‘)

    Reply
  5. Nelly Smickers

     /  26th March 2017

    When we were heading home from Mass this morning, Wayne’s mum was telling us that *civilian casualties* in Afghanistan last year, were the highest ever recorded, with nearly *11,500 non-combatants* (one third of them children), killed or wounded. As she said, Deborah could have a job for life.

    Reply
  6. Corky

     /  26th March 2017

    Media sometimes give a false impression to viewers that only smart bombs are dropped with minimal damage occurring outside of the targeted zone. The reality is carpet bombing, conventional bombing and it derivatives, are still the norm.

    Reply
    • David

       /  26th March 2017

      “The reality is carpet bombing, conventional bombing and it derivatives, are still the norm.”

      No it’s not. Outside of the occasional B-52, and a few rusting Russian equivalents, no airforce has the ability to carpet bomb. Most munitions used by western airforce’s are guided to some degree, JDAM being the most common.

      The Russians are very much in the cheaper the better school of thought however.

      Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  26th March 2017

    ‘no airforce has the ability to carpet bomb’…..wonder what the U.S means when it says…’we will bomb you back to the …Stone Age’…nukes?

    Reply
  8. Ray

     /  26th March 2017

    Blazer, it’s a long time since the US issued that threat!
    2009 against Parkistan, a lot has changed since then

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  26th March 2017

      the more things change…the more…they stay the same…Bush,Obama and now the Trump card.

      Reply
  9. The reality is that the minute you place the main combat power in use in the airforce, you separate the person pulling the trigger from the personal involvement that troops on the ground have with their targets. Non Precision-Guided Munitions or “dumb bombs” are notoriously inaccurate and cause most of the collateral damage. You can not fight a guerrilla war from the air so ground troops are essential to identify targets and use minimum force necessary. The US has become war weary, too many sons and daughters returning home in a casket of body bag. If they, and we, are not prepared to put the troops on the ground to fight the battle, then you may as well withdraw and let the locals sort themselves out. Without troops on the ground, excessive civilian casualties are inevitable, as would leaving the country to the locals to sort out. Have a look at the numbers massacred by ISIS to date. The allied civilian casualty count is paltry in comparison.

    Reply
    • David

       /  26th March 2017

      “The US has become war weary, too many sons and daughters returning home in a casket of body bag. ”

      US causalities, by historical standards are incredibility light. The weariness is caused by more than a decade of fighting with very little to show for it.

      “Have a look at the numbers massacred by ISIS to date.”

      No one cares about the people ISIS kill. It’s only when western forces are involved they get interested.

      Reply
  10. Blazer

     /  26th March 2017

    this…’you may as well withdraw and let the locals sort themselves out. ‘….fighting to enforce Freedom and Democracy seems so redundant.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: