Saturday, March 15, 2003

One of the major rallying cries of the anti-war movement
is that a war with Iraq could cause potentially
limitless civilian casualties. A Senior Defense
Department official
this press briefing earlier this month.
Among other things, the official said,

"It's certainly not science. To a degree, there is
some art form in it. But it gives you a pretty good
process by which you can determine an ability to
strike a target in a fairly confined area and keep the
collateral damage to a minimum. I might add, during
the OEF, during the operations in Afghanistan, as we
were striking targets, sometimes in downtown Kabul we
were able to use this process and strike targets where
an al Qaeda meeting was taking place. That meeting
location was destroyed, and the adjacent buildings on
all three sides were not damaged. As you know, many
structures in Afghanistan had walls surrounding them.
You can take advantage of those surrounding structures
to help mitigate by using a delay fuse, et cetera.

So it's -- I don't want to say there will be no
damage. I don't want to say there will be no
casualties. But there is a very good way to try to
keep the number of casualties and the damage to the

Aside from the fact that this unnamed official
unfortunately used the phrase "art form," to describe
combat, the information provided at the briefing made
perfect sense.I don't think there's any question that
the U.S. military will keep civilian casualties to a
minimum. The only wild card is whether or not we can
take out Saddam Hussein before he starts
killing Iraqi civilians.

I've just gone through two items of required reading on the Iraqi crisis. One is today's radio address by President Bush. The other is the 173-page, March 6 report by UNMOVIC [.pdf] outlining Iraq's weapons program. (Or, as they say over at U.N. Plaza, "programme.") I don't see how anyone can read through both of these documents and make a coherent argument against forcing Iraq to disarm, now. Right now. This minute.