Sunday 3 August 2014

Colonel Richard Kemp: An idiot at home

A Rupert. Not a very bright one.

Colonel Richard Kemp spent most his 30-year career in the British Army commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. From 2002 - 2006 he headed the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister's Office.

It is that kind of prestige that lends weight to his opinions among the great and the good, and I as a mere blogger really ought to know my place and not question him. But this somewhat overlooks the fact that our counter insurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan were a total disaster and we had not properly equipped our forces for these operations until it was almost over - and the worst of the damage had already been done.  

First off, Kemp argues that the civilian body count from Gaza is not all that it appears. Analysis of casualty details released by Qatar-based Al Jazeera indicate that so far most of those killed in Gaza have been young men of fighting age, not women, children or old people.

But this actually tells us nothing. This report addresses that argument.
First, Abrams does not consider possible patterns in civilian behavior during strikes or following warnings of impending strikes, or the movement more broadly in various public and private spaces of adult men when compared with women and children.  For example, do parents generally keep their children in safer locations?
Such information, together with data about the Israeli military’s targeting practices and patterns, would need to be taken into account when considering whether certain groups in a population were more or less likely to be killed during attacks. It may or may not be relevant in a particular context, but it cannot be assumed that all civilian members of a population are equally at risk of injury or death.
In fairness, many of Kemp's arguments stand up in that Hamas is engineering civilian casualties and there are inherent risks to these particular operations - and the IDF does make some effort to avoid collateral damage. "The truth is very different", he complains. "The IDF has developed the most comprehensive and sophisticated measures to minimize civilian casualties during attacks against legitimate military targets."

But it is no good complaining that things are not as they appear. How things appear is every bit as important as how things are. If Kemp was half the expert on asymmetric warfare he claims to be, then he would know this. When the enemy relies on the propaganda of collateral damage, the last thing you want to do is give him that moral victory.

We have seen over the last few days countless dead babies, scores of deaths from artillery fire and massive black clouds over Gaza. Certainly many large smoke clouds will be the result of secondary explosions from Hamas ordinance, but the public doesn't think about these things, nor will they trouble themselves to find out. Mitigating circumstances aside, Hamas is still rubbing its hands with glee at the mountains of dead baby pornography how ever much care was taken.

It is true that such collateral damage is inescapable when conducting a conventional military intervention. So the obvious answer that escapes Kemp is not to mount one. Here below Kemp describes the high-tech techniques employed, without once questioning whether such measures are effective.
Mandatory, multi-sensor intelligence and surveillance systems to confirm the presence or absence of civilians precede attacks on every target from the air. Text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic warn occupants to leave. Air-dropped leaflets include maps showing safe areas. When warnings go unheeded, aircraft drop non-lethal explosives to warn that an attack is imminent.

Only when pilots and air controllers are sure that civilians are clear of the target will authorization be given to attack. When pilots use laser-guided munitions they must have pre-designated safe areas to which to divert the missiles in flight should civilians suddenly appear. In the last few days IDF pilots have aborted many missions because civilians remained in the target area.
There's a few problems here. Even if a munition is laser-guided and delivered to within an inch of the target, it makes very little difference if the munition itself is a 2000lb Paveway II or a 155mm artillery shell. The blast and shrapnel radius alone guarantees civilian casualties. Moreover, if you helpfully tell Hamas where you are going to bomb, that is where Hamas is going to put civilians.

Kemp acknowledges this, but it does not occur to him to use alternatives such as a Small Diameter Bomb or Viper Strike. And of course NOT bombing the hell out of the place is also an option. This operation is totally unnecessary.

Kemp further complains of Hamas using the dead and wounded:
This sickening exploitation of their own people's suffering, and media's complicity in it, is nowhere more cynically demonstrated than in the operating theaters of the Gaza Strip. Without the slightest regard for life-saving hygiene, or for the care, privacy or dignity of the wounded, Palestinian officials enthusiastically hustle camera crews in to the emergency room as desperate surgeons battle for a bleeding and broken child's life.
This is nothing at all new. We saw this in 2006 in Lebanon and many times before. The propaganda aspect of asymmetric wars, and in fact all wars, is a feature of the modern world, along with our morally bankrupt media. This is a fixture for the now and forever, so it's really no good Colonel Kemp complaining about the facts of life. If you don't want dead bodies being used in the propaganda war, the answer is not to create the dead bodies if you don't have to.

Kemp complains of a "naive and uncomprehending willingness to believe" what we are told about the IDF. Sadly, due to institutional prestige, there exists a similar naive and uncomprehending willingness to take men like Kemp seriously. Until that is otherwise, the body count will continue to climb.

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