Mikhail Antonov, a correspondent for the Russian program Vesti Nedeli (“Weekly News”), recently expressed his outrage in response to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's statement on the Israel-Hamas war. Scholz had remarked that Israel, as a democratic state, would unquestionably adhere to international law in its actions against Hamas.
Here’s what Antonov wrote:
“That's just lovely: since Guernica in Spain, carpet bombing has been Western democracies’ signature move — that's their MO: they wiped out Dresden and Tokyo, they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and there are plenty of more recent examples. But Scholz has no doubt [in Israel] — and that’s apparently incurable.”
What's truly remarkable is the claim that Western democracies were to blame for the destruction of Guernica. On April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, this Basque city, then under the control of the Republican Army, suffered hours of bombardment by the Condor Legion — a volunteer unit of Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe. The Italian Air Force, under Benito Mussolini, also took part in the bombing.
A similar large-scale bombing, orchestrated by the Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force, targeted the industrial areas of Barcelona in March 1938. In May 1940, during World War II, German air raids led to the devastation of the center of Rotterdam, and from 1940 to 1942, a series of bombings almost wiped out the British city of Coventry. It's worth noting that Nazi propagandists even came up with the German verb coventrieren, meaning “to completely destroy.”
The Allies also resorted to carpet bombing in World War II. They destroyed the center of Hamburg in July-August 1943 and Dresden in February 1945. On June 21, 1944, over a thousand British and U.S. bombers took part in a massive air raid on Berlin. However, saying that the tactic is somehow a hallmark of “Western democracies” alone is strange, to say the least.
In later years, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) used carpet bombing during the Vietnam War and the campaign in Cambodia. But the USAF was far from the only one to do so — the carpet bombing of the rebellious province of Biafra by the Nigerian government during the civil war in the late 1960s is widely known. In 1988, during the Somali Civil War, government aircraft destroyed the towns of Hargeisa and Burao.
Soviet aviation employed similar tactics during the war in Afghanistan. The former Russian Defense Minister, Pavel Grachev, noted that it was Colonel Dzhokhar Dudayev, then in the Soviet army, who introduced and developed carpet bombing. Grachev commended Dudayev for the contribution and commended him as a “good officer.” Ironically, when Dudayev became president of the unrecognised separatist Republic of Ichkeria, Russian aircraft completely destroyed its capital Grozny and the town of Shali in a series of bombing raids.
One of the most well-known carpet bombing campaigns in the 21st century, besides Gaza, involved government airstrikes led by Bashar al-Assad against residential areas held by anti-government forces. These strikes included the use of so-called “barrel bombs” — improvised unguided bombs made from sections of pipe filled with explosives. Dropped from helicopters, they lacked precision and primarily served as instruments of terror. In 2015, the Russian Air and Space Forces joined the bombing campaign, conducting extensive attacks on opposition-held towns, which included the use of cluster munitions, resulting in the destruction of countless schools, hospitals, markets, and other essential infrastructure. A large-scale bombing offensive in 2016 ultimately allowed government forces to regain control of the city of Aleppo after years of siege, followed by other areas of resistance. It's worth noting that these bombings indirectly triggered the European refugee crisis of 2015.
In a broadcast on state-owned channel Rossiya 1 in September 2022, propagandist and RT head Margarita Simonyan claimed that Russia could destroy Ukraine by carpet bombing but “doesn’t allow itself to do so.” The 15-hour bombardment of Mariupol on March 2nd and the subsequent air raids on the city, which resulted in the destruction of numerous civilian facilities, seem to have slipped her mind. Russia's carpet bombing damaged the local maternity hospital and drama theater, killing hundreds of civilians seeking refuge in the building’s basement.