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.

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    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.

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