During the Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night, candidates weighed in on their propensity to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq. One of the questions CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked pertained to the potential killing of civilians.
In light of the Paris attacks and the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, countering ISIS has carried on as a major issue for Republican presidential candidates agenda. Some statements have been outwardly militant in nature, with calls to bomb areas where ISIS operates — including zones heavily populated with civilians.
During the debate, Blitzer quoted comments from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who some believe has a solid crack at the Republican nomination. “Senator Cruz, you have said you would, quote, ‘carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,’ testing whether, quote, ‘sand can glow in the dark.’ Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?”
Cruz referenced the first Gulf war and noted the much smaller scale of Obama’s current campaign and blamed political correctness for failing to stop the attacks in San Bernardino.
But Blitzer pressed.
BLITZER: Thank you. To be clear, Senator Cruz, would you carpet bomb Raqqa, the ISIS capital, where there are a lot of civilians, yes or no?
CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.
The problem with this statement is that ISIS troops are embedded among a civilian population, as documented by the winners of CPJ’s International Press Freedom award Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.
“Syrian and Russian missiles had hit civilian areas, with residents being used by Isis as human shields,” the Independent reported last month. “Nobody is allowed to leave Raqqa anymore,” a member of RBSS told the Independent.
The U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq has already killed at least 680 civilians, though the number is likely much higher.
The Obama administration supported the notion that ISIS is using civilians, including many children, as human shields. “(ISIS) is increasingly using human shields — particularly children — to prevent the U.S.-led coalition from carrying out airstrikes in key areas such as Ramadi, according to a senior Obama administration official,” CBS reported earlier this month.