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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora