“Far more lethally Â— starting with the attack by Italian fighter planes near Tripoli in October 1911 Â— European nations had been bombing their colonies.
So-called “air control operations” were favored as an economical alternative to the costly practice of maintaining large garrisons to police Britain’s more restive possessions.
One of these was Iraq, which (along with Palestine) had gone to Britain as part of the spoils of victory when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered after the First World War.
Between 1920 and 1924, the recently formed Royal Air Force regularly targeted Iraqi villages, often remote settlements, where the rebellious natives might try to find shelter, with the raids “carried on continuously by day and night, on houses, inhabitants, crops, and cattle,” according to the tactics outlined by one RAF wing commander.
What horrified public opinion in the 1930s was that the slaughter of civilians from the air was happening in Spain; these sorts of things were not supposed to happen here.
As David Rieff has pointed out, a similar feeling drew attention to the atrocities committed by the Serbs in Bosnia in the 19905, from the death camps such as Omarska early in the war to the massacre in Srebrenica, where most of the male inhabitants who had not been able to fleeÂ—more than eight thousand men and boysÂ—were rounded up, gunned down, and pushed into mass graves once the town was abandoned by the Dutch battalion of the United Nations Protection Force and surrendered to General Ratko Mladic: these sorts of things are not supposed to happen here, in Europe, any more.”
Susan Sontag, “Regarding the Pain of Others”, p.31, footnote.