‘US should do better job with precision bombing: Even one civilian casualty too many’

File photo: A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing. © USAF / Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush/ Handout via Reuters
There’s no justification for ‘collateral damage’ and to minimize civilian casualties the US should do a much better job when bombing ISIS’ facilities in the midst of civilian areas, said former Pentagon official Michael Maloof.

The US Central Command admitted that a US airstrike on an ISIS facility near Raqqa, Syria on Tuesday may have caused civilian casualties.

“Reports indicate that what appeared to be a non-military vehicle drove into the target area after the weapon was released from the aircraft. The vehicle's occupants may have perished as a result of the strike,” CENTCOM said in a statement released on Wednesday.

RT: What do you make of the Pentagon's version of the story? Is it possible that an aircraft with a bird's eye view wouldn't have seen the non-military vehicle approaching?

Michael Maloof: It is quite conceivable that could have happened. You don’t know if that was aircraft, or whether it was a drone. Generally with drones you might be able to see vehicles approaching, but if it is a high flying aircraft - probably not. This is a very unfortunate development. There are very strict rules the Pentagon has issued on engagement like this and this kind of thing that invariably can happen very easily. That is the problem when you target an area, a facility that is in the midst of a civilian location – this is a very unfortunate development.

It is under investigation from the Pentagon. They issued a statement this afternoon and they said it is under investigation, and more than likely there were civilian casualties. If it was dropped by an aircraft, there is no way you’re going to stop that bomb from falling. If it was a drone there is the way to at least monitor what is approaching the target and be able to ward it off. So it was probably high flying aircraft.

RT: It would not be the first time US air strikes killed civilians. In your view, can killing innocent people ever be justified even if a high profile target is destroyed?

MM: No, there is no justification for it. This is an estimate that has been put out. They just assume that there will be – what they call, ‘collateral damage,’ which is an awful term which means civilians being killed. But there are ways to deal with this kind of targeting. They need to be doing a better job, considering that that factory probably was located in the midst of a high civilian populated area.

…There might be bad intelligence that is being fed in. They’ve got to be much more precise if they are going to go after those kinds of facilities. It is also clear that ISIS has purposely put these facilities in the midst of where the civilians are located. They count on civilian casualties. The US should be taking all of that into account, when they hit these targets. Unfortunately they are not doing a good job. We’ve just had another incident recently, in which may be almost a 100 civilians might have been killed from a Western airstrike – probably coalition airstrike. Faulty intelligence, bad intelligence – again it was a facility located right in the midst of high concentration of civilians, and those kinds of targets have to be minimized.

RT: What reaction do you expect from Human rights groups to this case?

MM: They will probably confirm it, they will probably condemn it; probably call it a war crime. But this is the price of war unfortunately. I do know the Pentagon does take measures to try and minimize this kind of development. Even though they claim on a high value target, they can accept, whatever that means, up to 50 civilian casualties. One is too many and they’ve got to do a much better job with precision bombing, if they are going to go that route. And ultimately they need to be using ground troops to take these kinds of facilities located in high concentration civilian populated areas. This is an unacceptable development, but I feel that this is going to go on…

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.