View Full Version : Press and Public Reactions to Civilian Deaths in Wartime

02-19-2007, 07:28 PM
...yet another RAND study: Press and Public Reactions to Civilian Deaths in Wartime (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG441.pdf)

...To date there has been no systematic analysis of media and public reactions to civilian casualty incidents, whether these incidents affect media reporting or public support for military operations, and if so, how. This monograph, part of a larger study of collateral damage undertaken for the United States Air Force, aims to fill this gap. It accomplishes this through an analysis of case studies of incidents of civilian deaths in recent U.S. wars and military operations that describe and explain how the U.S. and foreign media and publics have responded to these incidents:

• the February 1991 bombing of the Al Firdos bunker, which was also being used as a shelter by noncombatants, in the Gulf War

• the April and May 1999 attacks on the Djakovica convoy and Chinese embassy during the war in Kosovo

• the late June 2002 attack involving an Afghan wedding party during operations in Afghanistan

• the late March 2003 incident involving a large explosion in a crowded Baghdad marketplace....

02-19-2007, 08:21 PM
Hey Jed,
This is running around all over the Baltics, so I was somewhat prepared (that is I've been reading) when your post showed.
I think Rand's report merits a read, but then I got this from:

It gets really deep, but this para got me thinking !

Among the active efforts of the US coalition to frame coverage of casualties were suggestions by Defense and State Department officials that (1) the Hussein regime had procured military uniforms resembling those of US forces so that Iraqi personnel might enact atrocities that would be blamed on Americans and that (2) the regime was stockpiling cadavers before the war to be used to create an inflated impression of wartime civilian casualties.28 Similarly, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified to Congress before the war that Iraq would likely destroy its own food, energy, and transportation infrastructure in order to create a humanitarian disaster that it could blame on US forces.29 A more effective and consequential example of news management was the coalition effort to "spin" the coverage of the two marketplace bombings in Baghdad that together claimed more than 70 lives early in the war.

If CNN would turn bodies around to make yet another day in the press in Zaire (We watched that for 40 days) and not have to go outside the wire of US and French force protection at the airport, why would we now believe that somebody else did something real with our taxes ? I have a hard time with this one !

Tom Odom
02-20-2007, 03:15 PM
While efforts to further reduce the likelihood of these incidents and their impacts are laudable, policymakers and military leaders should be very careful to avoid giving the impression that civilian deaths ultimately can be eliminated from warfare; such a belief is unwarranted. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that future U.S. adversaries increasingly will rely upon human shields and other techniques to increase the possibilities of innocent deaths at U.S. hands.

Funny this very issue prompted me to write a piece on Collateral Damage in COIN and how that works against larger strategic goals. The problem with this particular study is that it is US-centric and that essentially ignores the IO implications of collateral damage in a global COIN against Muslim extremists.



Merv Benson
02-20-2007, 04:18 PM
The enemy we are fighting does have a victim strategy that exploits collateral damage from our attacks. But he also has a strategy designed in increase those casualties by camouflaging himself as a civilian. Then there is. of course, his deliberate strategy of targeting non combatants, i.e. civilians, for attack as this latest story (http://prairiepundit.blogspot.com/2007/02/more-enemy-war-crimes-in-iraq.html) from Iraq demonstrates.

Surely there must be someway to counter this double standard and hypocrisy. If the study is just limited to our reaction to unintended civilian casualties we are missing the plot. We can start by explaining the enemy strategy. Once explained it should lose some of its effectiveness.

02-20-2007, 05:01 PM
"The enemy we are fighting does have a victim strategy that exploits collateral damage from our attacks. But he also has a strategy designed in increase those casualties by camouflaging himself as a civilian." (Merv Benson)

This is a classic double whammy and exposing the latter as one of their tactics gets little traction what with minimal exposure given to it. We can't expect much more given the unpopularity of the Iraq war. I think it will take an attack more devastating that 9/11 to turn the tide so to speak for the Public to believe it is better their civilians be killed than ours. When you have elements of our society believing we use million dollar missles to intentionally target civilians, no amount of counter propoganda is going to turn the tide of sentiment against the enemy. Likewise, elements of our own society show as much concern over threatening detainees with dogs and putting a pair of panties on their heads as they do the death and injury of our troops. This in itself tells me we are ripe for an attack more devastating than 9/11 and it certainly must inspire and encourage our enemies. How could it not? The Geneva Conventions, our ROE and the Constitution are held in utter contempt by our enemies. I don't think the average American, or Westerner, has the slightest idea of the visceral contempt jihadists have for us. I think they see beheading videos and market place bombings as reactionary and not as a core values.

02-22-2007, 10:42 AM
In relation to civilian deaths, ROE and insurgents using women and children as shields the following article may be of interest.


02-22-2007, 11:42 AM
These are absolutely standard insurgent tactics. Yugoslav partisans in WWII would launch attacks on German troops in areas where they did not have support. Hamhanded German reprisals would drive the locals into the partisans' arms for self-protection and revenge.