As a general rule, it’d be better if media accounts of war did not stress thesurgical precision of the weapons being used. It’s a fixture of U.S. reporting on U.S. wars, but the same rhetoric is used when U.S. allies are dropping bombs.
According to Washington Postcolumnist Richard Cohen (11/19/12):
Israel has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. Its air force has used new, highly accurate ammunition aiming for rocket-launching sites and government installations. For the most part, it has succeeded.
Aron Heller of the Associated Press (11/17/12) had this description of the Israeli military:
Israel, armed with precise intelligence and newly developed munitions, has carried out hundreds of surgical airstrikes in a campaign meant to hit militants hard while avoiding the civilian casualties that have marred previous offensives.
AP’s Ibrahim Barzak (11/20/12) later reported:
Israel has killed dozens of wanted militants in surgical strikes throughout the operation, the result, officials say, of intelligence gathered from its collection of high-flying drones overhead and a network of informants.
Before dawn Monday, a missile struck a three-story home in the Gaza City’s Zeitoun area, flattening the building and badly damaging several nearby homes. Shell-shocked residents searching for belongings climbed over debris of twisted metal and cement blocks in the street.
The strike killed three adults and a 2-year-old boy, and wounded 42 people, al-Kidra said.
That’s a peculiar kind of “surgery.”
It could be argued, as defenders of Israeli military attacks have done before, that this ratio of civilian-to-combatant deaths is more humane than recent U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But calling airstrikes that kill civilians more often than fighters “precise”–well, perhaps there’s a more precise word than that.