Breaking Eggs

Miliband has invented a catchphrase – the “civilian surge“. He develops this theme: “There are 200 million Chinese learning English; there are more bloggers in Iran than any other country in the world per capita; Buddhist monks march for democracy in Burma. I got the idea of a civilian surge when I was talking to David Petraeus [the US military commander] in Iraq because, he says, ‘You can’t kill your way out of this problem – you need politics as well as security.'”

Miliband’s shouldn’t stop there in his bumlicking quest for inspiration. If one can have a ‘civilian surge’, then one can apply civilian to other military terms to produce expressions of splendidly democratic reverie. Like civilian aerial bombing, or civilian air strikes, or civilian terror, or civilian murder. His rhetorical skills would be more than sufficient to disambiguate between his own inspirational catchphrases and nasty events such as aerial bombing of civilians, air strikes on civilians, terror on civilians or murder of civilians.

His hero Petraeus would doubtless be among the first to acknowledge that whilst you can’t kill your way out of the problem, you can sure kill a good way in that direction:

The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs on Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.

The core reason why we see the increase in strikes is the offensive strategy taken by General [David H.] Petraeus,” said Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia. Because the United States has sent more troops into areas rife with insurgent activity, he said, “we integrated more airstrikes into those operations.”

The greater reliance on air power has raised concerns from human rights groups, which say that 500-pound and 2,000-pound munitions threaten civilians, especially when dropped in residential neighborhoods where insurgents mix with the population. The military assures that the precision attacks are designed to minimize civilian casualties — particularly as Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy emphasizes moving more troops into local communities and winning over the Iraqi population — but rights groups say bombings carry an especially high risk.

“The Iraqi population remains at risk of harm during these operations,” said Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. “The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area.”

Note how blithely the article accepts the dropping of a 2000lb bomb as a ‘precision attack’. Then there’s this:

Marc Garlasco, a military analyst at Human Rights Watch who tracks airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the strikes carry unique risks. “My major concern with what’s going on in Iraq is massive population density,” he said. “You have the potential for very high civilian casualties, so you need really granular intelligence on what you’re going to hit. But I don’t think they’re being careless.”

Well, if they’re not being careless, that’s ok then.

Someone on Slugger O’Toole the other day said that whilst the IRA were reckless in their actions when setting off the Shankill bomb, they did not deliberately intend to kill civilians. I replied as follows:

Suppose I blow up a bus with a load of civilians on it. I have no intention of blowing up the load of civilians. Rather, I want to blow up the bus, but an inevitable consequence is that I am going to blow up civilians. How, then, can I deliberately intend to blow up the bus without deliberately intending to blow up civilians? It seems to me like saying that whilst I deliberately intended to make an omelette, I did not deliberately intend to break the eggs: breaking the eggs were just an inevitable consequence of my intended actions.

I think it’s fair to observe that the US continues to deliberately kill civilians in Iraq (and Israel does the same in Gaza with US approval), whilst the public is regaled with sentimental claptrap about snow in Baghdad.

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January 2008

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