In Thursday night’s GOP debate, the final matchup before the Iowa caucus, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) repeated his promise to conduct “carpet bombing” in the Middle East to combat ISIS forces. Yet he did not acknowledge that carpet bombing is a war crime under the international Geneva Conventions.
The Fox News moderators challenged Cruz on his voting record not lining up with his “tough talk” on national security.
“You opposed giving President Obama authority to enforce his red line in Syria,” they asked. “You have voted against the Defense Authorization Act for three years. How do you square your rhetoric with your record, sir?”
Instead of addressing the discrepancies in his voting record, Cruz defended his past promises of “carpet bombing” and “saturation bombing” parts of Iraq and Syria, saying it was a successful strategy for the United States during the Persian Gulf War.
“We need to define the enemy, rebuild the military to defeat the enemy, and we need to be focused and lift the rules of engagement so we’re not sending our fighting men and women into combat with their arms tied behind their back,” he said.
The Geneva Conventions, which the U.S. joined decades ago along with nearly every other country in the world, explicitly forbids carpet bombing. “Area bombardments and other indiscriminate attacks are forbidden,” the agreement reads. “An indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or civilian objects and resulting in excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.” When Cruz said Thursday that the U.S. should “lift the rules of engagement” in wartime, he did not explain whether that included rejecting the Geneva Conventions.
Cruz is also incorrect to cite the Gulf War as a positive example of carpet bombing. The U.S. used laser-guided precision bombing during that conflict, which “substantially reduced the accidental damage that would otherwise have befallen civilian buildings.” Even so, thousands of innocent civilians were killed.
Cruz, who is poised to win or take second place in the Iowa caucus, has previously offered incorrect information about carpet bombing.
Cruz is also not the first GOP candidate to advocate for a practice that violates international law. In December, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called for the ability to assassinate the family members of terrorists. Such intentional killing of civilians would consitute a war crime.