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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: We shouldn’t be fighting ISIS with kid gloves

When we shamelessly flouted the U.N. and myriad international laws concerning state sovereignty and human rights by invading Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003 under a pretext that proved to be disingenuous at best and more likely profoundly criminal and immoral, we were not shy about causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.

Our infinitely more justified invasion of Afghanistan attacked a Taliban government that supported al-Qaeda, but didn’t even send its own fighters for the 9/11 attacks.

In contrast, the Islamic State committed an act of war against NATO member France.

If France invokes Article 5 of the NATO charter, a full-fledged war with the Islamic State would be our statutory mandate. According to Article 5, an attack against one member state is an attack on all member states.

I deeply admire the president for his stand against the Iraq War and his understanding of the ruinous financial and moral effects another major ground war and occupation would cause our nation.

That said, the difference between our aggression against Hussein’s secular dictatorship and the apocalyptic cult of the Islamic State—the most evil state since Nazi Germany—has been bizarre.

Former President George W. Bush may as well have been a war criminal, and this highlights that the difference between his and President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is actually much greater than critics concede. Yes, Obama has stepped up drone strikes and failed so far to shut down Guantanamo Bay, but he is clearly more concerned about civilian deaths.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve already passed the point of no return in terms of alienating the Iraqi people, with over 460,000 dead in the war by 2011, according to a study reported by BBC News. The vast majority were not armed.

I can’t imagine the short-term increase in civilian casualties as a result of more aggressive bombing, which would create more Islamic State recruits and resources than it would actually kill and destroy.

Why is it that civilians living in areas controlled by (nominal) secular pan-Arab socialists under Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad regimes are necessary collateral damage but unprecedented caution is granted in areas with much support for the Islamic State?

The Guardian reported a study estimating over 400 civilian deaths in the year-long bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The U.S. Department of Defense, as of August, had admitted only two civilian deaths, a remarkable figure that would mean the caliphate’s citizens—and their slaves and the Christians they allow to pay a tax to live if they’re still around—are less likely to be killed by our government than, say, Tamir Rice. Other sources put it somewhere in between.

The Pentagon recently claimed 20,000 Islamic State fighters dead in a year of bombing. If those civilian death figures are anywhere near accurate, even at the higher figure, then that really must be the most precise bombing campaign ever, as Pentagon sources assert.

Again, the war against the Islamic State has had perhaps the lowest proportion of civilian deaths of any bombing campaign ever, with the Pentagon claiming a 10,000:1 ratio. The civilian population of the Islamic State hasn’t done anything to deserve what is likely the best wartime treatment of a civilian population ever.

Despite the trillions in debt and war weariness that our illegal invasion of Iraq caused, we must not handle the Islamic State with kid gloves. They are infinitely more evil than Hussein’s regime and pose a much greater risk to the U.S. and our allies.

If France, especially following the recent Paris attacks, and our depressingly reluctant allies in the Arab world won’t attack the Islamic State with nearly the seriousness with which we and other countries attacked secular Iraq, we must.

Tragically, that will require more civilian casualties in a profoundly expanded air campaign and many more boots on the ground, of course heeding the lessons of our first failed occupation by relying more on local allies and having an exit plan.

Follow Martin Forstrom on Twitter.

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