B1 Bomber goes down at sea
December 12, 2001 10:55 AM   Subscribe

B1 Bomber goes down at sea Looks like the crew may have survived.
posted by Davezilla (17 comments total)
Breaking reports do confirm that the crew was rescued. They have the same ejection seat system used in the SR-22 Blackbird and the Space Shuttle.

Alas, this is another black mark on the B-1B's already-spotty record. I'm old enough to remember when these were still in the prototype phase -- back in the Carter administration -- and being ripped apart from all sides as inadequate to penetrate Soviet defenses. The later redesign to the B-1B quieted most of the objections and it proceeded to mass production, but by the time it was ready to deploy the USSR was crumbling, its mission was in doubt, and it's never really been loved by anybody. Even these Afghanistan bombing missions have been criticized as a way to get the "hangar queens" off the ground. (They do round trips from MacDill AFB to Afghanistan to Diego Garcia then back to the USA.)
posted by dhartung at 11:20 AM on December 12, 2001

Great quote: “This underscores what we try to remember all the time — that the men and women in the U.S. military put their lives at risk every single day,” Clarke said. “And we’re grateful.” God Bless our uniformed protectors, and may they come home safely and soon.
posted by msacheson at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2001

The Shuttle doesn't have ejection seats anymore.
posted by @homer at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2001

Amen-msacheson. A lot of people, myself included at various times in my life have engaged in a lot of(sometimes justified)military-bashing. However, the fact that over time many people who are either former full-time military personell or current guardsmen or reservists have become my close freinds, has made me reassess my thinking. Being a soldier is a necessary and often noble calling. To those in the B1-Godspeed, good luck and thanks.
posted by jonmc at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2001

Spotty service record or not, can I just say that the B-1 is one of the coolest looking planes ever produced (next to the SR-71)?

It's true!
posted by thewittyname at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2001

I appreciate your patriotism, msacheson and johmc, but I had a very different reaction when reading that quote. "The men and women in the U.S. military put their lives at risk every single day" are putting their lives at risk while they end the lives of innocents all over Afghanistan. Have you read some of the accounts of how many civilians we've blown up with bombs that weigh more than your cars? Probably not, if your preferred news outlet is American-based. (This link is the best supporting evidence I could come up with.)
posted by Neb at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2001

while they end the lives of innocents all over Afghanistan
Neb, you are too right, the death of any civilians are horrible and I could not agree with you more. However, civilian deaths are simply party of war and no matter how hard any (including the US army) army tries to avoid them, they will happen.
Also, I think that it should go out saying that the media will not focus on reports of civilians death given that our military has asserted that they are not trying to purposefully or intentionally cause civilian deaths (duh), why are so surprised? I guess I’m just cynical.
P.S. It's not just us-base media, the media of any country that at war is likely to down play the civilian deaths of the other side if it makes that country look bad (duh).
posted by Bag Man at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2001

@homer: "used" being past tense.

Neb: Perhaps you don't realize that this may be the most accurate bombing campaign in history. There's no question we are not targeting civilians. Their deaths are regrettable at all times, but especially when a clear lost cause is holding out to the death. Are you being just as meticulous when counting the number of combatant deaths? What about the deaths among friendly forces? What about the Afghans who themselves have said "the Arabs [foreigners] would not leave except for the bombs"? Any opprobrium for the Taliban, or for the terrorists who took over Afghanistan? Got any bright ideas how to fight a bloodless war?

Civilians have been killed, this is true. But many, many more combatants have been killed. And the Afghan people have been given, for the first time in years, a chance to build a functioning, responsible government.
What's next, Neb? Labeling the pilots war criminals? Cheering when they drown? Would that make you happy?
posted by dhartung at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2001

Neb, I'm confused. Your "evidence" links to a report about ABC's airing of unsubstantiated Taliban charges of civilian deaths in Kandahar. The link (and I'm not familiar with the Media Research Center) doesn't suggest that CBS, NBC et al are downplaying collateral damage; it suggests that ABC is playing up unconfirmed reports that were part of a Taliban "PR" campaign.

Today's Washington Post -- part of the American media, to be sure -- reports that civilian damage in Kandahar wasn't as bad as the Taliban had been suggesting.
posted by coelecanth at 3:47 PM on December 12, 2001

Thank you for taking me down the slippery slope, dhartung, but I think you would be hard pressed to prove that the American military has killed more combatants than civilians so far in this 'war', as any and all statistics to fall into our hands are likely to be inaccurate.

My point was that, when dropping 12,000 lb bombs, it is very hard to be discriminating as to who gets hit. These pilots are killing civilians alongside what they think are the 'enemy'. I feel that it is rather hypocritical for the US to use bombs in the volume they are using in a 'War against terror'. Aren't the Afghani civilians being terrorized?

All that aside, I agree fully that the Taliban were just about the worst ruling party you could ever hope for, and any attempts at a new democratic government are to be supported fully.

coelecanth: Sorry for the bad link. I was hardpressed to find ANY reporting on numbers of civilians killed. There was a great post on MeFi awhile back that was a fairly good account, but I could not find it.
posted by Neb at 4:50 PM on December 12, 2001

neb- the people that our armed forces are trying to root out deliberately caused over 3,000 innocent deaths, remeber?
Now any innocent civilian deaths that occur are deeply saddening to me and (to most Americans, I believe). Unfortunately, they are an unavoidable by-product of war.
While any thoughtful person realizes that war is, at absolute best, a bloody vicious swindle, we are doing what we have to do right now. And while I mourn for everybody on the planet affected by the events stemming from 9/11 right now my main sympathies lie with those in our armed forces(and those of our allies) trying to bring those responsible for these atrocities to justice. That's not patriotism, that's simply a desire for justice.
Not that there's a damn thing wrong with patriotism.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on December 12, 2001

Bottomline: better their innocents than ours.
posted by HTuttle at 5:13 PM on December 12, 2001

Sorry that I took this thread this far off topic.

jonmc, that's an interesting way to look at it, but I still don't see how the civilians that we are killing are in any way linked to the perpetrators of the WTC attacks? Or, perhaps, those families that we're turning into dust were 'harboring' terrorists? How are we 'rooting out' anything with 12,000 lb 'daisy cutters'?

I realize my arguments/protests don't hold much water when you think about the goals the US has made public to us, but it would seem that we being in the position we are, we should exercise a lot more care. We should be using ground troops. We should be focussing more on al Qaeda than the Taliban (the US has proven it knows how to arm other factions to keep them under control). We should be sending in more humanitarian workers than soldiers, so we can convince the locals that we are on their side. That's just the way I see things.
posted by Neb at 5:25 PM on December 12, 2001

Neb: tell us they're lobbing daisy cutters in the middle of cities, instead of the middle of a mountain valley that's miles from the nearest town, which happens to be a military base capable of housing thousands of combatants, and maybe that argument would have some validity.

We are not "killing civilians" because they are "linked to the perpetrators". They get killed because they are too close to military targets, many of which were deliverately placed in civilian areas so as to prevent us from hitting them or that if we did we would be forced to stop by a propaganda campaign that plays into pre-existing Western media conceits about the necessity of avoiding any and all civilian deaths. That's a far cry from them being killed out of revenge or retaliation, and you offer nothing to demonstrate that we've done so for those reasons.

How much care should we exercise? Care such that we kill no civilians, ever, means absolutely no bombing -- because all bombing involves unpredictable elements, ranging from faulty intelligence, to bad weather, to human error, to things on the ground over which we have no control (such as hitting an arms cache). So only no bombing will kill no civilians. No bombing, then, means sending in ground troops with no protection from enemy aircraft; no protection from enemy artillery; against enemy troops with constant supply trains, full larders, and all the mobility they can muster, even if it's only a flotilla of Japanese crew-cab pickups. That enemy army can move, can keep up an offensive, can retreat, and can most importantly place itself in the best possible position for an attack. So you're proposing sending in ground troops against the worst possible odds. Are you prepared to tell that to (for example) Mike Spann's widow -- that you were happy to risk their lives, and waste the millions of dollars we spent training and equipping and supplying and delivering and defending that one soldier, all in the name of some abstract idea of fair fighting?

Then do you truly believe that merely by using ground troops without significant air power, we will reduce civilian deaths? Ground troops would have to take territory. That would mean combatants stuck in the middle of even fiercer fighting, the use of more and more landmines, the use of artillery, the use of armored cavalry. Are those more accurate than air power bombs delivered by laser targets and computer-controlled winglets? Are they safer for civilians? That's the argument you're suggesting, but I don't see any evidence to support it, and I can see a lot of common sense reasons it's completely wrong. Casualties would be higher; we'd have to take cities in house-to-house fighting, like Stalingrad. Casualties among our own troops would be higher, resulting in sapping morale, both in the field and at home, which would reduce our resolve to win this war and intervene where necessary in future, and of our allies to stand beside us there or anywhere else. The most important counterargument is that -- even should it succeed, the way you're proposing to fight it -- the war would take longer.

Should we be focusing on al Qaeda "more than" the Taliban? Again, you are suggesting putting American troops in harm's way, essentially surrounded by a hostile army, which you've conveniently left well supplied and mobile, and supported by a network of native targeters with satellite phones. Remember what happened to Abdul Haq? Our troops would not be able to focus on al Qaeda while being harrassed on all sides by Taliban militia. You say we've proven we can arm other factions to "control" the Taliban, but that assumes a) that the factions would help us if we were only going to help them "control" the Taliban instead of win the war (ask the Kurds), b) that "controlling" the Taliban without air power would be sufficiently safe for our troops and militarily possible for the tribal forces (you're joking), and c) that our global strategy of fighting terrorism would be served by failing to take out a government that supported terrorism, probably more explicitly than any regime in history. In fact, I believe that for our fight against terrorism to be at all effective, other governments must know that if they don't take us seriously they will be removed. Yes: that is a blunt threat. Three thousand people make that blunt threat necessary.

Finally, your idea that we send in more humanitarian workers than soldiers "so we can convince the locals we're on their side" assumes that the locals desire powerless aid workers rather than deliverance from the repressive Taliban. As it stands we seem to have done quite well at persuading people we're on their side, not by offering mincing words of support at international conferences (the years wasted at the Six Plus Two meetings), not by putting in place useless sanctions that themselves hurt many of the wrong people in the long run (what we did in Iraq), not by taking a neutral stance on an unelected government and leaving the problems it caused to be solved, unaided, by the people themselves (what we did in the early 90s), but by making our goals explicit from the beginning, seeking out allies who will support those goals, and following through with full commitment to the very end.

We most certainly are on their side, and the worst part of it is that some of the people in the war zone will be killed by friendly fire. That's a risk our own troops face; but that's also a risk the Afghan people have faced for most of the last two decades, which this conflict has every chance of delivering them from.
posted by dhartung at 6:41 PM on December 12, 2001

Dan, since you are intent on picking apart every sentance I put to this thread, instead of attempting to understand my good intentions, I offer you a few links to articles by more convincing authors.

"What causes the documented high level of civilian casualties --
3,767 [thru December 6, 2001] civilian deaths in eight and a half
weeks -- in the U.S. air war upon Afghanistan? The explanation is
the apparent willingness of U.S. military strategists to fire
missiles into and drop bombs upon, heavily populated areas of

     --Professor Marc W. Herold

An article on how the US news networks treat civilian casualty statistics as Taliban propaganda

One of the first groups of special forces dropped in Afghanistan, hit by an errant US bomb. Most accurate bombing campaign in history?

I'm curious, what do you think of these articles?
posted by Neb at 6:35 PM on December 13, 2001

The standard isn't perfection, the standard is the alternative. The question isn't whether it is conceivable that different tactics would have resulted in the US causing fewer civilian casualties, but rather whether doing so would cause other effects even more negative.

There is no flawless way to fight this war. Every way we go about it will have problems of some sort. We cannot choose a good path because there isn't one. All we can do is choose the least bad path, and it turns out that that's the one we've been on.

As to "these articles" they're written by people who don't understand the reality of war.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:33 AM on December 14, 2001

By the way, "good intentions" don't win wars.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:33 AM on December 14, 2001

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