FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Mythology, Barrel Bombs, and Human Rights Watch

To read Human Rights Watch and the western mainstream media, the Syrian government army is inflicting massive casualties upon the Syrian civilian population, most especially through the use of “barrel bombs”.  Thousands of bombs have been dropped, inflicting thousands of casualties.

But wait a minute.  Doesn’t that imply one casualty per bomb?

Credible and reliable facts and figures are notoriously hard to come by, but Human Rights Watch intrepidly goes where angels fear to tread.  They are the only ones that provide both casualty and bomb counts for a given period of time, from February, 2014 through January, 2015.  According to them, more than 1,450 bombs – mostly “barrel” bombs – were dropped on the areas of Daraa and Aleppo covered by the report.  HRW also reports 3,185 civilian casualties from aerial attacks for the same time period and in the same places.  So roughly two casualties per bomb, even if you accept that a lot of “civilians” are actually fighters and that HRW and its sources are hardly unbiased.

That’s a lot of bombs and a lot of casualties, but no indication that “barrel” bombs are more deadly or indiscriminate than the usual gravity bombs in most air force arsenals around the world.  Fighter-bomber aircraft may have sophisticated sighting equipment, but they move at hundreds of miles per hour.  Helicopters that drop “barrel” bombs have the advantage of delivering them from a stationary position. “Barrel” bombs may be crude devices, but there is no evidence that they cause more casualties than conventional gravity bombs.

So what about the huge number of deaths in Syria?  Doesn’t that show reckless disregard for human life by the Syrian army?

The UN estimates 220,000 deaths thus far in the Syrian war.  But almost half are Syrian army soldiers or allied local militia fighters, and two thirds are combatants if we count opposition fighters.  Either way, the ratio of civilian to military casualties is roughly 1:2, given that the opposition is also inflicting civilian casualties.  Compare that to the roughly 3:1 ratio in the US war in Iraq and 4:1 in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-9.  (The rate of Palestinian to Israeli casualties was an astronomical 100:1.)

The Israelis also used Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions that strip the flesh off the bone and cause microscopic metal particles to penetrate the victim’s body.  In addition, they used white phosphorous, which burns hot enough to eat through metal or flesh and is almost impossible to extinguish, even inside the body.  And let’s not forget the four million cluster bombs that Israel spread throughout south Lebanon during the last 72 hours of the 2006 war, knowing that the fighting was ending.  These parting gifts assured that Lebanese farmers and children would be killed or maimed for years to come.

Syria has used none of these disgusting weapons, while being condemned for using locally-made weapons that are in fact no worse than conventional munitions in the arsenals of every air force. Of course, even gravity bombs can create appalling casualties when used on a dense population center.  The point is that such incidents are rare enough to be tabulated and recognized (on Wikipedia, for example).  To the contrary, the Syrian army has been accused of the opposite: laying siege to an area and starving out the residents, and then using “barrel bombs” to clear the remaining armed elements.

In order to vilify the Syrian armed forces it was necessary to frame Syria for the use of sarin gas, a transparent fraud given that the army gained no strategic advantage and that their use had never been recorded or reported prior to U.S. President Obama’s threat to intervene, only afterward.  Really, who would take such a risk for no apparent gain?

The Syrian army relies on loyal soldiers defending their country and their homes from a heavily subsidized, markedly foreign incursion, including many mercenaries paid by the Gulf monarchies and trained by the US.  And the army is loyal because they know that although great sacrifices will be asked of them, they will be defending, not sacrificing, their families and loved ones.  The rest of the world that supposedly cares about Syria can start by making it unnecessary for them to make such sacrifices.

More articles by:

Paul Larudee is on the steering committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail