Collateral Damage—Dumb Bombs versus Smart Bombs

If you lived in a war zone, would you rather have dumb bombs or smart bombs dropped on targets?

Dylan Stableford—writing for Yahoo News—reported on a documentary about the fear and stress of life under the threat of U.S. drones, and I left this comment: “If people in countries where al Qaeda and the Taliban operate don’t like the U.S. drone attacks, then all they have to do is stop supporting Islamic terrorists and fight back against them so the U.S. troops will go home and take their drones with them.”

An anonymous, faceless person criticized my comment. His or her name was Win—who, as far as I know, could be an al Qaeda or Taliban PR person—wrote, “Lloyd, you sound like the typical dumbshit in government, underestimating how difficult it really is to do that. You are implying these people deserve what happened to them. If either you or me lost all that we have one day for absolutely no reason because some dumbshit from a foreign country willed that it happened to either one of us, I can guarantee, guaran-damn-tee that our blood would boil and our rage fueled.”

From Win’s comment it is obvious that he or she has little or no knowledge about the battlefield in countries where wars are fought. And I want to remind Win that we did not start this war for “absolutely no reason”.  The war was started by Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists on 9/11 in New York City when they killed thousands of civilians by hijacking commercial jets full of passengers and ramming those jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Now back to the question: If you lived in a war zone through no fault of your own and you didn’t want anything to do with the war, would you rather have dumb bombs or smart bombs used to hit targets in your country?

In World War II, for example, the United States killed millions of German and Japanese civilians bombing the cities in those countries with dumb bombs.  Fleets of bombers flew over targets and dropped thousands—probably millions—of bombs without knowing exactly where those bombs would land and explode.

In fact, the United States dropped more dumb bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than it dropped in all of World War II.

In World War II, civilian deaths in Germany are estimated to be between 1.5 to 3.5 million.  In Japan, civilian deaths were 500-thousand to one million. In comparison, the United States—the country that dropped most of the dumb bombs that caused that collateral damage—only lost 1,700 of its own noncombatants.

To defeat Germany and Japan, the United States and its allies also dropped napalm on German and Japanese cities. In one bombing of Tokyo, for example, 2,000 tons of incendiary dumb-bombs were dropped over the course of 48 hours, and between 80,000 and 130,000 civilians were roasted to death in the firestorm that followed.

In Vietnam, the collateral damage was somewhere between 245,000 and two-million civilian deaths.  But the United States didn’t drop dumb bombs only in Vietnam. The U.S. also dropped dumb bombs In Cambodia and Laos. In Cambodia the collateral damage was 200,000 to 300,000 civilian deaths. In Laos, the collateral damage from dumb bombs was 20,000 to 200,000 dead civilians—and millions were wounded.

Now, let’s focus on civilian casualty counts in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to see if the use of smart bombs to target enemy combatants resulted in reduced civilian casualties—that dirty word is known as collateral damage.

Classified US military documents released by Wikileaks in October 2010 recorded that there had been 66,081 civilian deaths in Iraq over a period of six years. But the Iraq Body Count Project’s numbers are higher: 110,937 – 121,227.

When checking these numbers for Iraqi civilian deaths, there were no details on who did the killing and how these civilians died.  And we know that al Qaeda blows up civilians all the time in the streets; on buses; in Mosques and Churches; in restaurants, at weddings and funerals, etc.  Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that American smart bombs were not responsible for all of those deaths. In fact, reports from Afghanistan indicate that collateral damage from Western smart bombs is responsible for less than 10% of all civilian deaths.

One source I checked reported that “In the first six months of 2013, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan counted 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 civilian injuries with 9% attributable to pro-government forces—this means that collateral damage from the West’s smart bombs may have only killed 119 civilians. Compare that to six months of civilian deaths during World War II in Germany or Japan or in Vietnam when the West was only using dumb bombs and often sent fleets of B52s to carpet bomb urban and rural areas.

That same report said, that in all of 2012, total civilian casualties were 2,754 deaths and 4,805 injured with 8% of those loses attributed to pro-government forces meaning that 92% of the deaths were caused by al Qaeda and/or the Taliban.

In conclusion, the United States is at war in Afghanistan with insurgent forces who started this war on 9/11—the same Islamic fundamentalists who have sworn to destroy Western civilization, and I’m convinced that they would not hesitate to use dirty bombs or nuclear weapons on Western cities like London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. killing millions of civilians without any effort to minimize the damage.

On April 11, 1880, General William Tecumseh Sherman, who played an instrumental role in defeating the South during America’s Civil War by ruthlessly destroying everything in his army’s path, said this in Columbus Ohio: “There is many a body here today who looks on war as glory, but boys, it is all hell.”

I fought in Vietnam as a field-radio operator in the United States Marine Corps. We had rules forced on us by civilian “dumb-shits” who said we couldn’t shoot at the enemy unless we could see who was shooting at us first. And most of the time, we couldn’t see who was shooting at us.

We lost the Vietnam War. We didn’t lose World War II.

If the West is going to win the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, then the West must be as ruthless as it was in World War II, and if the West fails, then civilians will be dying in American and European cities by the millions.

General Sherman was right. War is hell, and if you are reading this and you do not live in a country that is a war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, then you should bless your fortunate stars and pray that the war doesn’t come to your neighborhood.

No one who is innocent deserves to be killed from a bomb—dumb or smart—but as cruel as it sounds, “Better them then us.” And if you believe in coexistence, then I think you should be the one to—face-to face—convince al-Qaeda to stop killing innocent people.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

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