Iraq - Air war targeting: Sparing Civilians

Hundreds of western volunteers have entered Iraq intending to serve as human shields to prevent the targeting of power stations, water purification facilities, hospitals and other non-military facilities. One group camped in the conference room of the South Baghdad Power Plant, some fifty yards from the main generator hall – a prime target for air attack if ever there was one, some might think.

The World Today Published 1 April 2003 Updated 21 October 2020 5 minute READ

Michael Knights

Washington-based Editor, Gulf States Newsletter

This says a lot about this group of people. Firstly, it underlines their commitment to displaying the courage of their convictions. But it also shows how out of touch they are with the realities of modern western military thinking. The power station, like the vast majority of such Iraqi infrastructure, will not be bombed, because American military planners — following an evolving decade-long policy – struck it off the target list long ago.

The Baghdad human shields are not the only ones labouring under an outdated view of targeting policy. The Pentagon’s detailed February 5 briefing on collateral damage assessment – an intelligence matter not typically discussed in such detail – tried to bring the public up to speed on the issue, and being an ‘expert’ is clearly no guarantee of expertise in targeting.

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