The Moral Inequivalence Of Trump vs. Cruz On ISIS

For those who think that Ted Cruz’s reference to “carpet bombing” ISIS is somehow equivalent to Donald Trump’s call to “take out their families,” you’re either purposely being obtuse, you genuinely don’t understand what you’re talking about, or you’ve ordered a double-shot of Trump Kool-Aid and went back for seconds.

In last night’s debate, Cruz was asked about “carpet bombing” ISIS.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been criticized for vowing on the campaign trail to “carpet bomb” ISIS, said Thursday that he will “apologize to nobody” for that promise.

“It is not tough talk, it is a different fundamental military strategy than what we’ve seen from Barack Obama,” Cruz said. Cruz appealed to the example of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, which he said featured a higher rate of air strikes.

In mid-December, the New York Times criticized Cruz for first using the “carpet bomb” term.

“Hit reset,” he said. “Meaning, pound Raqqa into a parking lot.”

His idea of obliterating the Islamic State’s de facto capital — including killing thousands of innocent people — was met with anxious stares, but the Republican presidential candidates could have been watching with approval. Some have called for loosening the “rules of engagement” when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants, and during Tuesday night’s debate Senator Ted Cruz renewed his call to “carpet-bomb” ISIS.

Historically, that would mean leveling a place without regard for collateral damage. But the senator from Texas seemed to suggest that a Cruz administration would be able wipe out militants without harming civilians.

But that’s not what Cruz meant, and they know it. They even wrote it in the very next paragraph.

“You would carpet-bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops,” Mr. Cruz explained. “You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.”

The U.S. hasn’t used carpet bombing since Vietnam. I used to work for a retired Air Force Major who was the navigator in the lead B-52D over Haiphong Harbor in the first raid in Linebacker II. He told me his string of bombs obliterated the rail yard, and another 26 (or so) bombers dropped time-on-target after his. Over 12 days, we flew 729 sorties over Hanoi and Haiphong.

That’s carpet bombing.

The closest we came since then was during Operation Desert Storm when we used B-52s to drop dumb bombs on Saddam’s bunkered troops along the Saudi and Kuwaiti border to keep them pinned while Schwarzkopf pivoted into the desert around them. That was nothing more than making holes in the sand.

America doesn’t carpet bomb cities anymore. We don’t need to because we have precision guided munitions. Cruz knows this and so does the media. Claiming Cruz suggested any other meaning than increasing the tempo of operations and relaxing President Obama’s impossible zero-collateral-damage ROE is nothing more than political spin and posturing to attack Cruz.

The same tired propagandist arguments used against Israel apply to Cruz: collateral damage is acceptable if the terrorists are putting civilians in harm’s way. The International Red Cross writes about Rule 97 of the Geneva Convention:

With respect to non-international armed conflicts, Additional Protocol II does not explicitly mention the use of human shields, but such practice would be prohibited by the requirement that “the civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations”

If ISIS puts civilians on top of targets of military value or stores munitions in mosques, we can bomb them, and do it with a clear conscience, as long as we do what we can to limit civilian deaths. The problem is, you can’t limit civilian deaths when your enemy ensures civilians will die if you attack them. Every civilized country in the world deals with this issue. Russia, for its part, does what Trump recommends: “Bomb the sh*t out of them.”

Trump, on the other hand, said “You have to take out their families.”

By telephone on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, Trump responded to host Brian Kilmeade’s question on how he would handle the situation in Syria. “ISIS is our number one threat,” he said. “I would knock the hell out of ISIS.”

In a followup question about civilian casualties, Trump said he’d “try his best” to avoid them, but added, “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families! They care about their lives, don’t kid yourselves. They say they don’t care about their lives. But you have to take out their families.”

The billionaire explained that ISIS terrorists use their families for protection. “They’re using them as shields,” he said.

Now, using your families as shields is illegal (and immoral by any definition) under Rule 97, but Trump didn’t simply mean he’d relax the Rules of Engagement. He said “they care about their lives.” If the terrorists care about their families’ lives, they aren’t purposely putting those lives in danger where the U.S. is about to bomb. Trump is talking about targeting the terrorists’ families. That’s illegal under Rule 89 (“Murder is prohibited” – I don’t have to elaborate).

And Trump didn’t just say it once to Fox News. He’s said it multiple times, as recently as Jan. 20th in Hilton Head.

He gave a date. We are leaving Iraq, we will be gone by such and such a time. I said, I’m just sitting there watching and I’m saying, man, that’s really stupid. Because, believe me, the enemy doesn’t want to be killed. You know, you hear so much, oh they want to go with the virgins up to wherever they go, right?

They don’t. They want to live. And they want to take care of their families, always their families. You remember that, because their families know what’s going on OK? You think their wives don’t know what they are planning? You think their kids don’t know exactly what daddy is doing when daddy is going to fly into the World Trade Center? You think they don’t know? They know exactly what’s going on. Remember that. And frankly, I think they have more love for their family’s lives than they do for their own lives, OK. But they still want to live. So here is Obama, gives an exact date. He gives an exact date and so they pull back.

Trump wants to target terrorists’ families, who he said the terrorists love more than their own lives. He knew exactly what he was proposing, and it wasn’t simply increasing the tempo of operations or relaxing the ROE. It was committing a war crime.

If you think that somehow Cruz and Trump are proposing the same thing, you need to understand the difference. Cruz is using an archaic military term to describe a legal and even preferred military strategy for dealing with ISIS. Trump is proposing that we match ISIS barbarism for barbarism.

There’s no equivalence here.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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