The White House announced that it will not follow strict standards imposed by President Barack Obama last year to avoid civilian deaths in its airstrikes when it comes to military operations in Syria and Iraq. The decision comes just weeks after the State Department said that it supports an investigation of Israel for committing war crimes for civilian casualties during its strikes in Gaza.
As the United States steps up its battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), defense leaders on Capitol Hill are raising concerns about a looming shortage in the Tomahawk missile supply, a key offensive weapon that the Navy has been deploying against militant strongholds in Syria and elsewhere.
The better part of a year ago—the day after New Year’s Day, to be precise—I was returning from an overseas trip when I noticed, with a start, that my plane was flying more or less directly over Ramadi, Iraq.
The day is fixed in my mind because just before take-off I had been reading in the news that a group calling itself ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State or the Caliphate looked to be in the process of seizing Ramadi and nearby Fallujah from the Iraqi government. Yet, there it was, depicted on the inflight map in front of me. I cracked the window cover and looked down, but you can’t make out much in the way of gun-fighting at 38,000 feet. Putin’s special forces hadn’t yet shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, so no one on the plane was particularly concerned about our location.
Reflecting on what a difference 30,000 feet makes, I shut the blind again and thought about how crushing the loss of those cities would be to those of my friends who had fought for them a decade earlier.
So, that was the second of January, 2014. The press was covering the story extensively. From the following day’s New York Times: