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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.

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.

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