Collateral Damage: Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II
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"Collateral damage" is a military term for the inadvertent casualties and destruction inflicted on civilians in the course of military operations. In Collateral Damage: Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II, Sahr Conway-Lanz chronicles the history of America's attempt to reconcile the ideal of sparing civilians with the reality that modern warfare results in the killing of innocent people. Drawing on policymakers' response to the issues raised by the atrocities of World War II and the use of the atomic bomb, as well as the ongoing debate by the American public and the media as the Korean War developed, Conway-Lanz provides a comprehensive examination of modern American discourse on the topic of civilian casualties and provides a fascinating look at the development of what is now commonly known as collateral damage.
suffering of civilians. Nevertheless, public commentary in the United States and around the world generally accepted the U.S. government’s claim that the attack was made against a legitimate military target out of solely military considerations. American officials argued that the hydroelectric plants were supplying increasing amounts of power to war industries in North Korea and China and that, therefore, the attacks did not constitute any basic change in policy.46 As the air pressure campaign
targets instead of cities. Similarly, those who opposed the bombing of China, at times, appealed to arguments that drew on the disadvantages of harming noncombatants. Some vague statements about bombing the Chinese sounded as if they could be dismissals of noncombatant immunity. General Emmett O’Donnell in early 1951 on his return to the United States after finishing his service with the Far East Bomber Command said about the war in an interview, ‘‘Eventually we’re going to have to cope with this
not value Asian lives as much as those of white people.17 As with the previous summer, the talk among Americans of the atomic bomb’s use stirred up by President Truman’s comments contained expressions of concern over harm to civilians with only a few openly dismissive of the sentiment. Civic leaders like Harold Stassen, the prominent Republican and president of the University of Pennsylvania, and seventy-eight Protestant ministers from New York opposed the weapon’s use because of the innocent
industry failed to offer this destructive “bonus.” Bernard Brodie, a political scientist who worked as a consultant to the Air Force, described SAC’s targeting priorities to the Air Force chief of staff in 1951. “SAC desires to place primary emphasis on cities as such …,” he wrote. SAC views predominated in war planning as that organization came to hold greater responsibility for writing the detailed operational plans that would govern the actual implementation of a strategic air offensive.62
areas of marginal industrial importance. Organizational interests also drove the AAF toward more indiscriminate destruction. Its leaders wanted to demonstrate the importance of the AAF’s contribution to fighting the war. Often unable to provide evidence that bombing had destroyed particular targets, the AAF pointed to statistics on sorties flown, tons of bombs dropped, and acreage destroyed, which served as surrogate measures of the AAF’s contribution to the war effort and a justification of its