News / Middle East

    US Commander Rejects Carpet Bombing in IS Fight

    FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter greets Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland after arriving in Baghdad, Dec. 16, 2015.
    FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter greets Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland after arriving in Baghdad, Dec. 16, 2015.

    The commander of the U.S.-led effort to destroy Islamic State rejected the notion that American forces should carpet bomb the terror group in Iraq and Syria.

    "We're the United States of America and we have a set of guiding principles," Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said while briefing reporters Monday from Baghdad.

    "At the end of the day, it doesn't only matter whether or not you win. It matters how you win," he said.

    "Indiscriminate bombing where we don't care if we're killing innocents or combatants is just inconsistent with our values,” he added. “It's what the Russians have been accused of doing in parts of northwest Syria."

    The Syrian government is also accused of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, has said that when it comes to Islamic State, the U.S. should "carpet bomb them into oblivion."

    "I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out," Cruz said in December.

    U.S. military officials have repeatedly said the U.S. air campaign has been the most precise in the history of warfare.

    ‘Moral high ground’

    Former military officials have criticized President Barack Obama and the U.S. air campaign for going too far to reduce the risk of any civilian casualties and opting not to bomb legitimate targets if civilians might be killed or wounded.

    And in recent weeks, Pentagon officials have said they have loosened restrictions and have been willing to risk higher numbers of civilian casualties in the case of key targets, like Islamic State cash depots.

    But MacFarland said carpet bombing — also known as saturation bombing — was simply not an option.

    "Right now we have the moral high ground, and I think that's where we need to stay," he said.

    Critics have accused the U.S. of conducting carpet bombing against civilian areas during World War II and the Vietnam War, but the U.S. military defended the actions as aimed at military and industrial targets.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: JBM from: Arkansas
    February 03, 2016 2:10 AM
    Islamic terrorism/Isis are nothing but thugs, they do not care on who they kill, if you do not pass on what religion/ faith you are, you die it's that simple. Isis may not be a direct threat to the USA, but I will say with all the 1,000's of refuges that fled the country , I'm sure Isis has blended with the refuges to get closer to the USA, in time they will be here.

    by: ditdahdit from: USA
    February 02, 2016 12:57 PM
    When women, children and innocents are regarded as no impediment to killing your target you have lost any claim to being civilized.

    by: Eric L from: New Jersey
    February 02, 2016 1:10 AM
    History is pain. The furies have been unleashed - who will tame them? Who will put things back together?

    Atoms for Peace - Arms Controls and sharing peaceful technology is more important than ever for nations who want to be credible.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 01, 2016 9:46 PM
    If IS was a genuine threat to the US there would be nothing held back. No one in WWII questioned the systematic destruction of German and Japanese cities. It was a matter of survival. Here that is not the case at least for the US, not now anyway. The negative impact of the US killing a large number of non combatants is judged to be greater than the benefit of doing whatever it takes to destroy IS. If that changes, so will America's policy. There are a lot of people who should be worried that IS is a dire threat to them. Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even Europe. You'd think Europe would take a more active role in defeating IS. IS has already infiltrated much of it and can do a lot of damage as we saw in Paris.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 02, 2016 5:49 PM
    Only a fool would not be fearful of Islamic terrorism. Obviously you were never at the WTC before it was destroyed. It was only a matter of luck that I wasn't there when it happened.
    In Response

    by: Michael A. Puffer from: Turlock, CA
    February 02, 2016 12:44 AM
    The fearmonger is strong in this one.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 01, 2016 5:23 PM
    Did Cater actually say the US holds "the moral high ground" when it comes to bombing suspected terrorist sub-leaders that end up killing many innocent civilian victims that the US calls collateral damage and casualties of war, and did he also deliberately chose to forget the carpet bombing in the Korean war and the Vietnam war that killed and injured hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocent Korean and Vietnamese victims? .. (was that also the US moral high ground?) .. Is Cater using propaganda to try and rewrite history? .. or doesn't he know? .. what the US military did then and does now?

    by: Tom Wilson from: Northern Maryland
    February 01, 2016 5:16 PM
    In a symmetrical conflict with BLUFOR vs. REDFOR, carpet bombing may be the best course of action in some instances. However, in an era of asymmetrical conflict where there are no lines in the sand and no way to discern where the enemy line begins, precision attacks are the best way to engage a non-state player.
    The quickest way to make a new enemy is to accidentally kill his family or friends with indiscriminant bombing. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. What would you do if Country X was dominant to us, was attacking insurgents to help us and accidentally killed half of your family?
    We don't need to make more haters. There are plenty out there already.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora