Posts Tagged ‘aerial bombardments’

Originally published on 6/4/2015 by Tjebbe van tijen on his Flickr News-tableau pages; republished om 5/12/2017 on the Limping Messenger. [picture is Creative Commons: name the author and make a link to this original post]

Yemen Ground Zero in Okash near Sanaa on 442015 =_16856412329_o

GROUND ZERO YEMEN: my news-tableau based on a Reuter Press release and two pictures of a series of 10 taken on April 3 or 4 2015 by the photographer Mohamed Al-Sayaghi + overlay of Eu-fighter of Saudi Royal Airforce & text and statistical graphics:

People dig graves for the victims of an air strike in Okash village near Sanaa April 4, 2015. REUTERS/MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI (photographer)

Link to original message and photo series: in.reuters.com/article/2015/04/05/yemen-security-idINKBN0…

The belligerents and those that bomb – be it from the air, using missiles, artillery, car bombs or bomb-belts – are many, not just the Saudis. It is the Saudi’s, though, that have the greatest military power, thus making the actual confrontation into what is called ‘asymmetrical warfare’. (1)

What will be the result of this ‘overkill capacity’ of the state of Saudi Arabia in the Yemen context, as one of the best equiped nations in military sense in the region, are described in a recent study of the International Red Cross in these terms:

Recent and current con!icts have been distinguished by mismatches of opposing capabilities among belligerents.31 This asymmetry can increase the appeal of populated areas as environments in which to launch attacks and then hide among civilians, or environments to dominate because control of the population is a strategic objective. Yet if explosive weapons are used, the higher the population density or concentration of civilians or civilian objects in a place, the more people and civilian infrastructure are likely to be within the blast and fragmentation radius of an explosion. Despite this, con!icts in Vietnam, Chechnya, Gaza, theWest Bank, Afghanistan, and Iraq have all shown that belligerents do operate out of populated areas, including locating military bases and other facilities there, thereby exacerbating the risks to civilians of being affected by hostilities. Demographic shifts from the countryside to urban environments this century are likely to continue or even exacerbate such phenomena. ‘Because resources, power, and people are concentrated in and around them, cities are by de”nition vulnerable entities’, in which the use of explosive weapons not only runs the risk of killing and injuring civilians but also damages physical infrastructure and disrupts essential civilian services.

[John Borrie and Maya Brehm; Enhancing civilian protection from use of explosive weapons in populated areas: building a policy and research agenda; International Review of the Red Cross; vol.93 no.883; September 2011; p.809-836: online PDF version: www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/review/2011/irrc-883-borrie… ; p. 814. ]

The historical complexities of the power struggle in and around yemen are recognised by many from different camps. Each simplification lays the basis for simple solutions in a complex situation and of subsequent violence with this example -out of many – proving the point.

In our times where the old notion of military battle fields does not exists any more, it is civilians that bare the brunt.

The sad thing is that such a powerful and super rich nation like Saudi Arabia can come up with no other measures than copy-cat of the failure of USA strategy: enforcing peace by aerial bombardment.

This is GROUND ZERO in some small village for some unknown reason… is this ‘collateral damage’, or is so that all those who die in such an unplanned way, are by definition put in the category of ‘enemies ‘ or ‘terrorists’ by the army press-officers briefing the international press?

Early sources (starting fromApril 4th, the alleged date of the air attack was April 3) state this:

Residents near Okash village, which is near an air force camp on Jebel al-Nabi Shouieb mountain, said the air strike was on Friday night and killed nine people. Saba said the family consisted of two men, a woman and six children. It posted a picture on its website showing three children lying next to each other with pieces of papers with the date April 3, 2015 written on them. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of photo. (2)


This news-tableau is only depicting one case, whereas there are many. One of the important non-partisan sources on human suffering is the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which has an emergency section for Yemen. There we can read that the 9 death depicted here are just a pin point on a map that totals up to an estimate of 500 fatalities since the beginning of the intensification of the actual conlfict (Yemen Military Intervention 2015):

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence has killed 550 people and injured 1,746 – including many civilians – since 19 March. Casualty reports are often underestimates of true number of casualties, as people may not have the means to seek treatment in hospitals, and families may bury their dead before reports are collected. Displacement is also rising. Overall displacement estimates could not be verified

[Yemen: Escalating conflict Situation Report No. 2 (as of 3 April 2015) This report is produced by OCHA Yemen in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It was issued by OCHA Yemen. It covers the period from 31 March to 3 April. / Full report available on-line: reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20… ; p. 1. ]

To keep updated on the humanitarian side of the conflict reliefweb.int is a reliable source and they have a country page on Yemen, with links to news-flahes also like this one taken on monday April the 6th 19 hrs Amsterdam time:

In the last 24 hours, air strikes hit Aden, Al Dhale’e, Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al Hudaydah and Hajjah Governorates. According to local sources, one strike in Sa’ada killed eight civilians in the Al Anad area; impact reports from air strikes in other areas were unclear as of 10.00. Armed clashes also continued in the south. In Aden, fighting intensified and was spreading towards residential areas of Al Ma’ala and Tawahi Districts. Clashes involved bombardment of residential districts; four residential buildings in Ma’ala were reportedly destroyed. Bridges connecting two major roads from Aden to neighbouring areas have also been damaged. In Abyan, clashes were reported in Lawder and Zinjibar Districts.

In Al Dhale’e, a party to the conflict has reportedly seized three hospitals and evicted patients; snipers are reportedly firing from the building. According to international humanitarian law, all parties to conflict must refrain from targeting civilian infrastructure. Commandeering civilian infrastructure for military purposes is also prohibited.


(1) Asymmetric warfare can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the weaker combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality. Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized. This is in contrast to symmetric warfare, where two powers have similar military power and resources and rely on tactics that are similar overall, differing only in details and execution.
The term is also frequently used to describe what is also called “guerrilla warfare”, “insurgency”, “terrorism”, “counterinsurgency”, and “counterterrorism”, essentially violent conflict between a formal military and an informal, less equipped and supported, undermanned but resilient opponent.


(2) In it’s later despatches Reuter and media all over the world that follow it, do show and quote these photographs without further reference on their authenticity. Curious remains that Yemen state news agency SABA which is quoted as a source by Reuter does not (in its English language version) give any report, when I double checked on Monday April 6. I still think there is not enough good reason for disbelieve, even when the name of the village – Okash – does not show up in the regular geographical/mapping on-line services. The mountain range mentioned does show. I may be because of transliteration of the Arabic name (?).

See also my news-tableau of 30/3/2015: “USA to Saudi Arabia: “Your turn” to bomb the world into safety”

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‎11 November 2011 ~ 11 November 1911, today is the centennial of one hundred years of aerial bombing, the first example being the bombing of Turkish troops by Italian airplanes during the Italo-Turkish War in Libya in 1911. Some grenades hand held, dropped onto troops below. Aerial bombing is in fact incorrect as the launching of airborne missiles date back much further in time. Balloons have for instance been used by the Austrians when they beleaguered Venice in 1849 using unmanned balloons filled with explosives that could be triggered by electro-contacts using long wires (the idea of drones which are used in a more advanced way nowadays is born here). So today it is the centenary of airborne attacks by humans launching explosives from flying contraptions. The idea of airborne attack goes back into mythical times, though.

Seven years ago I made two visual scrolls telling the long story of aerial bombardment. The thunderbolts of Zeus thrown down from the Olympus, the ‘vajras’ of the Hindi Lord of Heaven and the God of War, Indra, the apocalyptical revelations of St John (“the stars of heaven fell unto the earth”), imagery of winged angels with revenging swords to punish earthly sinners, all these mythical tales and images of cruel gods and other divine beings, have later been translated into human warfare technology.

Primordial air power, a fragment of scroll 1

There are also ample examples of plans for warfare from above: – many made during the Napoleontic campaigns against England, with whole armies transported on gigantic ‘Montgonfliers’; – 17th century Italian priest and inventor Lana Terzi who designed an airship for war; – the Chinese – far before that – with all kind of launched flying devices that delivered fire into beleaguered cities; – huge kites that have been part of warfare from the Chinese and Japanese to Europeans, and in 1886 Jules Verne, who describes in one of his futuristic books the flying ship Albatros shooting down rebellious indigenous people in Africa…. All this and more can be seen in these two scrolls…

fragment of scroll one: "Primordial air power and God's judgement"

The second scroll depicts and describes the terrifying results of the advancement of the technology of destruction from the air, from a support of ground troops on battlefields during World War I to  making whole cities into battlefields, changing the target from soldiers to civilians. The application of the theories of the Italian general Douhet with his 1921 publication “Il domino dell’area” (Domination from the air) where the ‘will of a nation’ is that what needs to be attacked, its civilian and cultural centers, this in order to cut war short, ideally just the threat of aerial bombing or hitting some example target would be enough for a nation to give up any resistance to another nation having superior air power. A doctrine that is exemplified  on up to this very day by the United States Air Force. The devastation wrought over decades is immeasurable: by Italian air power in Ethiopia, Japanese airpower in China, German air force, starting in Spain and continuing over Poland, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Great Britain, France and so on; early use of  ‘air force’ to police “rebellious natives” from Sudan and Mesopotamia to Afghanistan by the Brits and later Anglo-American joint operations over the whole of Nazi occupied Europe,  pioneering ‘terror bombings’ of vast cities, torching most of Germany’s cities, with only a few cases remembered: Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden. Arson from the air again in Japan by the American Air Force, generating possibly more victims during the fire bombing of Tokyo (estimates run from 80 to 160.000 dead), than the two atom-bombs that closed the curtains of the World War  Theatre  II on Hiroshima (estimates from 80.000to 160.000) and Nagasaki (60.000/180.000).

In 1995 I started to make a database of victims of aerial bombing and in 2003 a preliminary first overview has been put on line in PDF format.  The real list is still in the making. My first research dating back to 1999 used a system of lowest, highest and most probable estimates of death toll from aerial war, resulted in a total of over one million of death and the devastation and erasure of over one thousand square kilometers of townscapes, …human habitat. This leaves out the rural bombardments during the wars fought in Korea and Indochina, the mining of  land, the defoliation and poisening of forests, the breaking of dikes to inundate agricultural land. 

Visual summary of the installation ‘Unbombing the World 1911-2011″

Especially the Indochina Wars have resulted in widespread criticism of indiscriminate forms of aerial war fare, something the staffs of air forces and the weapon industry have been taken to heart in the last decades, resulting in endless propaganda representations of new “clean” and “precise” forms of force from the air. Precision bombardments are presented as ‘humanitarian’ having taken the place of primitive wholesale ‘carpet bombing’. Guided missiles do come to us with guided press campaigns to cover up what has widely come to be known as ‘collateral damage’, attempts at control of targeting goes together with control of news agencies with the ultimate military control instrument of the ’embedded journalist’, who signs away his/her independence for the comfortable war-spectacle offered by the military staff.

This text, meant as a short reminder, will expand beyond its boundaries when I would go in any further detail on the use of aerial power in the last three decades, Gulf Wars, Balkan Wars, Russian air force obliteration of the capital of Chechnya Grozny, Turkish raids into Kurdish rebellious areas, Sudanese civil war bombardments, Sri Lanka government attacks on Tamil strongholds, Israeli high tech bombings of Lebanon and Gaza in response to low tech rockets fired at Israel, and the continuing military test ground of  Afghanistan having been battered from 1925 to this very day by the air forces of the British, the Soviets, American Air Force and NATO.Last Syria and Iran in the waiting room after ‘imperial’ aerial employments in Libya earlier this year.

We are one century from the moment that a grenade was dropped by hand from an Italian airplane circling over an oasis in the Libyan desert onto the heads of a few Ottoman soldiers. The Italian colonization of Libya that followed the break down of the Ottoman empire – at that time – created the circumstances that lead one century later to renewed usage of aerial power to force ou yet another reign, that of Gaddafi and his Green revolution. We may have progressed in technical sense a lo tin one hundred years, but politically speaking we have not yet freed ourselves of a system of crude imposture of imperial military power.

Scroll 1 = http://imaginarymuseum.org/OpenSKOR/UBWa.html

Scroll 2 = http://imaginarymuseum.org/OpenSKOR/UBWb.html

Context of scrolls = http://imaginarymuseum.org/OpenSKOR/index.html

Unbombing the world 1911-2011 project =  http://imaginarymuseum.org/UBW/ubw01a.html

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The number of civilian death as result of the Allied bombings has according to the propaganda machine of Gaddafi reached 718 or so. The NATO bombing machine does give us nice numbers of strikes and the objects that have been struck but NO number of victims. Other sources say that there may be a total number of 10.000 violent death since the rising in Libya in February 2011. All numbers remain vague and contested from this or the other side in the conflict.

But let us be clear about something when it comes to mapping human violence. The total number of people that found their lives ending suddenly counts in the thousands. The factor may be 5 or 10 of thousands, but thousands for sure. The number of victims – collateral or not – as result of the NATO interventionist enforced change of regime, counts in the hundreds at least and the factor may be 7 or more. The number of soldiers and insurgents falling in this Civil War mixed with Western intervention is not given by any of the warring parties. And each human life should be considered as sacred – at least that is what my system of ethics says to me.

The Guernica of Picasso was painted after the Nazi bombing of this little town in Basque country  in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and the involvement of German and Italian military airplanes was a clear interventionist action on behalf of the Nationalist Spanish government of General Franco, who was fighting the Republican Spanish Government. The number of victims that fell has never been firmly established, according to different sources in different times, between 400 and 1600 people are said to have been killed by this Luftwaffe bombardment, which was at that time described as a barbaric act unto a defenseless population.

So what about people dying unwanted by high tech destructive devices thrown from the air in the year 2011? Is their inflicted death a barbaric act or is it not? Where is the public outcry against it. Or are we lead to believe that there are either no victims at all of NATO bombing, or that each victim is a soldier supporting dictator Gaddafi, so it is a victory for democracy when such a ‘stand in the way of democracy in Libya’ will be blasted away from the air?

Comparative interventionist historical policy studies should be undertaken to answer this question.

Painting by Pablo Picasso. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.

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