A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Historical Note: Libya and Aerial Bombing

The use of combat aircraft against civilian protesters in Libya brings to mind a couple of historical ironies concerning aerial bombing and Libya.

On November 1, 1911, only eight years after the Wright Brothers first flew, the first aerial bomb dropped from an airplane in anger was dropped by an Italian pilot on Turkish positions during the Italo-Turkish war in Libya. At right is a photo of Italian dirigibles dropping bombs on Turkish positions.

After the defeat of Turkey, Italy waged a long counterinsurgency campaign against the Libyan resistance leader Omar Mukhtar. During the long period of pacification (throughout the 1920s), Italy regularly used aerial bombing against Libyan resistance. (Britain also used aerial bombing against Iraqi villages in 1920-21.)

So aerial bombing of civilians in Libya is not new; it's just it hasn't been seen since the fall of Italian fascism.

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