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Friday, October 2, 2015

Has Russia already killed more civilians in Syria than NATO did in Libya?

Is it even conceivable that Russia has killed even more civilians with air strikes in Syria in just a few days than NATO killed in its 8 month "Operation Unified Protector" campaign over Libya?

The high probability that this question will be answered in the affirmative is owing to a number of causes:

In spite of baseless ravings by "anti-imperialists" about the "huge loss of life" and "massive infrastructure damage" they say was caused to Libya by the NATO assault, a factual history of what happened does not support those conclusions. The studies that have been done by the New York Times [40-70], Human Rights Watch [72] Amnesty International [55], and the United Nations [60] puts the number of innocent civilian deaths caused by NATO attacks at between 40 and 72. This very low figure is owed largely to a very different use of military air power in Libya as compared to Afghanistan, Iraq or in any previous NATO combat mission. Rules of engagement meant that only smart bombs were used. Targets were carefully marked, missions carefully planned and often aborted if conditions weren't right. There was very little infrastructure damage. NATO commanders prided themselves on accomplishing feats like taking out a tank parked below a bridge without harming the bridge, and they did it! Libya certainly has it problems today, but if oil production is now down to 30% of Qaddafi era levels, its because of internal political strife not infrastructure damage cause by NATO. It was up to 90% not 6 months after Qaddafi was overthrown.

I think it commendable that in the very exceptional case of Libya, NATO commanders showed what they could accomplish in sparing innocent life and national infrastructure while fighting a war if they wanted to. I think they set a new standard for aerial warfare that should be demanded so long as aerial warfare is still practiced. Beyond that, the NATO mission over Libya didn't make killing civilians that hard to avoid. In the first place, maybe a majority of the NATO air sorties over Libya were against air defense installations, essentially self-serving attacks. Most others were likely to be purely military targets like bases, air fields, military units and heavy weapons. It must also be recognized that NATO killed thousands of Libyan soldiers and some targeted civilians, but that was the mission, as long as those Libyan soldiers and officials were making war on civilians.

Russia, on the other hand, said it is bombing the Islamic State and it has become clear that they are also attacking the Free Syrian Army and other militias fighting the Assad regime. Now, while there are vast political differences between ISIS, al Nusra, FSA and others, they all have this in common: They don't make the greatest targets to attack from the air. They don't have big bases, air fields, or infrastructure. They don't have a lot heavy weapons to take out, and unlike most regular armies, they tend to live and operate among the people. That means it will be almost impossible to wage an air war against any of them without at the same time inflicting heavy civilian causalities. This applies to all the forces that say they are bombing ISIS in Syria. From the air, Syria looks a lot different than Libya. Also, unlike the NATO operation over Libya, there isn't even the pretense that they are there to protect civilians. They are there, and this goes not only for Russia, but all the countries bombing Syria, to kill "terrorists," however each country defines the term. They aren't there to protect anyone. Its not even in the mission statement!

Photo released by Russian Defense Ministry appears to show them using indiscriminate cluster bombs in Syria
Let me say, at this juncture, that another fruit of the "anti-imperialist" non-interventionist policy in Syria is a dangerous and chaotic air space with 10 countries bombing Syria. Now the name "Unified Protector" for the name of the NATO mission can be given its due, because, at least in name, the mission was to protect, which created pressure to be careful with civilians, and while 18 countries were involved, there was one unified command under a UN mandate that could avoid the world war dangers we now face in Syrian skies. For four years, the non-interventionists opposed the demands of the Syrian people for a "no-fly zone." They didn't want a "Libyan style" intervention. Now as a result, we have a "free-fire zone."

Thanks in part to Obama's enforcement of an embargo against heavy air defense weapons for the rebels. Russia doesn't even have to bother with those pesky air defense missions that so occupied NATO over Libya. The Russian warplanes can focus 100% on destroying people on the ground and the from the bomb sight camera footage proudly released by the Russians, they ain't using smart bombs. Those pictures remind me of the carpet bombing photos from the Vietnam War. That is what is known as an area bombardment, as opposed to a surgical attack, and when used in a civilian area, will kill large numbers of civilians.

Destruction Of The First Two Days Of Russian Air Strikes In Syria | 2 Oct 2015

So what have been the results so far?

On the first day of the Russian air strikes, 30 September 2015,  the Syrian National Council said 36 civilians, including 5 children were killed north of Homs city. CNN reported 28 civilians being killed:
Syrian activist Khdaier Khushfa in Homs told CNN via Skype that 17 civilians had been killed in Talbiseh and 11 others in Zafaraniya by the Russian airstrikes Wednesday, and 46 people had been critically wounded.
Numbers for Thursday's attacks are harder to pin down, al Jazerra reported:
In the Hama suburb of Habeet, an airstrike at around 8:30 pm local time killed three civilians, including a 5-year-old girl, and injured 12 others, according to opposition activist Hadi al-Abdullah.

“The destruction caused by the strike was massive. A two-story house was completely flattened to the ground,” he told Al Jazeera.

Earlier, an attack on Jisr al-Shoghour in the northwestern province of Idlib destroyed a mosque and killed two civilians, other activists told Al Jazeera.

In Idlib’s Jabal al-Zawya region, two children were among at least seven civilians killed in suspected Russian airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UK-based monitoring group said Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed 30 civilians since they were launched on Wednesday.
Syrian opposition and civilians from air attack by Russian aircraft | 2 Oct 2015

IDLIB, SYRIA - OCTOBER 1: Syrian people receive treatment at a field hospital after being injured in the Russian strikes targeting a camp near Belyun town in Jabal al-Zawiya area of Idlib province, Syria on 1 October, 2015. At least 4 people were killed and 8 other wounded in Russian airstrikes on Syrian opposition forces and civilians at a camp near Idlib province. ...

So have the Russian's already killed more civilians in Syria than NATO killed in 8 months over Libya? As I put this post to bed tonight, that question is still very much in doubt, but another day's bombing by Russia should pretty much cinch it, and they have promised this will go on for three or four months. 4000 people were killed in Syria in September. Now comes Russia to add to be bodycount. Welcome to October!

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Is Syria also the 1st holocaust of the 21st Century?

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. patetic pro-salafist propaganda,the first to speak on civilian casualties It was the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights the same who conceal the murder of Christians and indoctrination of child soldiers by rats of Free Syrian Army,additon the FSA,Al nusra and Daesh used civilians as human shields and after they talk shit against the Syrian army and now against Russia,stop hiding behind civilians bastards of Muslim Brotherhood

  2. Russia is using a combination of smart bombs and dumb bombs to reduce pressure on the Syrian government where its military has failed hardest for the longest period of time. And it's true what you say; AQ and IS don't keep themselves compounded into military bases because they started off as insurgent groups, therefore, it's much harder to avoid civilian casualties while fighting them even with smart bombs.

  3. I believe that Putin is seeking to create a puppet state in Western Syria, after all why make a major military effort and risk political capital without the prospect of gaining something substantial. It may be noted that Russian companies have already have signed contracts to exploit oil and gas reserves off the Syria cost, so such a state could well be financially self-supporting. How convenient for Putin, a self-funding Arab puppet state on the Mediterranean with international recognition which could serve as a base for future Russian operations in the Middle East.

    To be viable this state would have to include many areas currently under opposition control. I believe Damascus, Homs and Aleppo would be critical elements of such a state, the latter because it would put Russia directly in contact with the Kurdish PYD which in conjunction with the PKK could be used as an instrument to destabilize NATO member Turkey.

    As things stand this puppet state would have an opposition majority population which, with so many weapons and fighters in Syria, would create a security nightmare which would completely overwhelm Assad's meagre demographic resources. What better then for Putin to use dumb bombs to terrorize opposition supporting civilians into fleeing the country and so help overcome Assad's demographic deficit, while at the same time further destabilizing the EU with another tidal wave of refugees which would also serve to boost the popularity of anti-immigration pro-Putin far right parties in Europe.

    Dumb bombs can make for a smart strategy, albeit one of cynical inhumanity, but I can't see Putin missing one moments sleep because of that.