Oops! Did we do that?

At least seven people were killed on Monday when a warplane mistakenly dropped a bomb on a residential area in Baghdad.

The Iraqi plane dropped the bomb on Ne’iriyah district in southeastern Baghdad, destroying six houses and damaging several nearby buildings and civilian cars.

(Deccan Herald, 6 July 2015)

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

On the night of 17 April 2002, near Kandahar, Afghanistan, an American F-16 fighter pilot dropped a laser-guided 500-pound (230 kg) bomb on the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group, who were conducting a night firing exercise at Tarnak Farms.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed.

Eight others were injured.

The Americans claimed they bombed their ally mistakenly and had acted in self-defence, though a reasonable pilot never would have believed that the fire on the ground was a threat to flight.

The pilot was fined, reprimanded but allowed to retire honorably.

The deaths were the first of Canada’s war in Afghanistan and the first Canadian deaths in a combat zone since the Korean War (1950-1953).

…and these were allied countries fighting together.

On 7 May 1999, during the NATO bombing of Belgrade, five US JDAM guided bombs hit the Chinese embassy, killing three Chinese reporters and outraging the Chinese public.

President Bill Clinton apologized for the bombing saying it was accidental, as the CIA had identified the wrong coordinates for a Serbian military target on the same street.

Ah, those misjudged folks at the CIA…

Switzerland was a neutral country during World War II, but was completely surrounded by Axis or Axis-conquered countries.

On several occasions, Allied bombing raids hit targets in Switzerland, resulting in fatalities and property damage.

In subsequent diplomatic exchanges, Allied forces explained the causes of violations as navigational errors, equipment failure, weather conditions and pilot error, while the Swiss expressed fear that these violations were intended to exert pressure on the country to end its economic cooperation with Nazi Germany.

The daylight bombing of Schaffhausen at 10:50 am on 1 April 1944 by the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) was the most serious of all incidents.

Approximately fifty B-24 Liberators of a larger force misidentified Schaffhausen as their target Ludwigshafen am Rhein near Mannheim (235 km north of Schaffhausen) and dropped 500 fire and high-explosive bombs on the city centre and triggered off almost 50 fires.

Forty people lost their lives, 270 were injured and many many buildings were destroyed, including some priceless, irreplaceable cultural heritage.

At the insistence of the Swiss government for an explanation, Allied investigations into the incident found that bad weather broke up the American formation over France and that high winds that nearly doubled the speed of the bombers confused the navigators.

As Schaffhausen is situated on the north side of the Rhine River, it was assumed to be a German city.

In the middle of the forest above Schaffhausen lies a large quiet sprawling cemetery called Waldfriedhof.

Search diligently enough and you will come across a semi-circle of gravestones, in front of a long wall and an angel statue nearby.

A plaque on the wall reads:

“Am Vormittag des 1. April 1944 in 5.ten Jahr des 2.ten Weltkriegs wurde die Stadt Schaffhausen irrtumlich von Amerikanischen Fliegen bombardiert die Brand und Sprengbomben forderten 40 Todesopfer. Ihrem Andenken ist diese Grabstatte geweiht.”

(On the morning of 1 April 1944, in the 5th year of the 2nd World War, the city of Schaffhausen was mistakenly bombed with fire and high explosive bombs by American warplanes, resulting in 40 victims killed. Their memory is preserved in this place.”)(Rough translation)

The Americans paid $193 million to the Swiss government.

None of the pilots were ever found guilty.

The Americans send a wreath every 1 April.

War has distressing consequences for civilian populations.

Even if civilians are not directly killed or maimed as a result of military action, they may suffer longterm injury as a result of radiation, post-conflict contact with unexploded munitions or pollution caused by the spillage of toxic materials.

Populations become displaced and many people suffer deep psychological traumas.

As I type these words, more than a third of the world’s population are involved in conflict, many of them civil wars.

US President Dwight Eisenhower once remarked:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Money spent on arms is money not being spent on development.

Just half the amount spent on arms could put every child on the planet into school.

And perhaps an educated populace might learn how to wage war responsibly.

Or perhaps learn how to live intelligently without waging war.

“Imagine there’s no countries.
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

Imagine no possessions.
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world”

(John Lennon, “Imagine”)

Just imagine…


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