Tony Parkinson raises an important issue as to whether the principle of not bombing civilian targets can survive conflicts like that in Fallujah. But in rightly condemning the tactics of the insurgents, he makes absurd claims on behalf of the Americans, who are already violating this principle on a massive scale. Estimates of civilian fatalities, mostly arising from American bombing range from a minimum of 15 000 (these are deaths credibly reported in news media) to 100 000 (based on a recent population survey). In this context, something like this is just absurd
The Americans, in conjunction with Iraqi officials, have steadily built up networks of informers in the Sunni cities. They have trained small, mobile units to set up sophisticated aerial and ground surveillance, and have been studying extensively the counter-terrorism methods used by the British and Israelis in urban settings. Here is perhaps where comparisons with, say, Grozny, begin to falter.
Far from having sophisticated networks of informers, the Americans have consistently shown that they lack even basic knowledge about the insurgents, even in places like Baghdad which are more or less under their control. They don’t know who the insurgents are or what their objectives might be, let alone where to find them. They had no idea how many were in Fallujah, or whether the (unidentified except for Zarqawi) leaders had stayed or fled.
Yet in the leadup to the Fallujah assault, the Americans mounted nightly bombing raids, supposedly on targets precisely identified by intelligence in a city to which they had had no access for months. The targets included restaurants and many private homes. It’s obvious that the claims about intelligence were lies, used to justify a major breach of international law. The Americans were bombing to wear down the resistance of the locals, hitting any target that might possibly have an insurgent connection, regardless of civilian casualties. There is only one word for the practice of using bombs, aimed at civilian targets, to terrify your enemies into submission.
If Parkinson had really been concerned about the principle of excluding civilian targets, he would have opposed the war from the outset, or at least from the point, some months ago when the Americans started using air raids in an occupied country, a clear breach of all the relevant laws and conventions.