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One Hundred Years of Bombing Libya
by Paul Doolan

...most people seem to be unaware that this year marks an important centenary in aeronautics, for it is exactly 100 years ago that humans first bombed other humans from airplanes. Should we be celebrating this example of human ingenuity?

Already in the late 19th century some were becoming nervous that developments in balloon and dirigible technology meant it was only a question of time before humans took warfare to the skies. Delegates from various states met in The Hague in 1899 and signed a declaration banning the militarization of the air. Ominously the biggest global power, Great Britain, refused to sign. In 1903 the first airplane flight took place, and within six years a pilot flew across the English Channel. In the meantime it was writers such as Jules Verne who, in their science fiction novels, created nightmare scenarios with death falling from the sky. In 1907 H. G. Wells published his prophetic The War in the Air.

Lieutenant Guilo Cavotti was a future oriented, risk taking, innovative Italian pilot. One day he took off on his plane, equipped with a Danish "Hassen" hand grenade. When he spotted the enemy he lobbed the grenade at them, to great effect, and thereby introduced aerial warfare to human kind. The time was 100 years ago. The place was Libya. His exploits constituted an opening salvo in Italy's 1911 attack on Libya. One hundred years later, almost as if it is to mark the centenary with near poetic symmetry, Italy is active once more as part of the coalition that is attacking from the skies over Libya again. The Libyan theatre of 1911 was also the place of the first aerial photo and the first ever night bombing raid.

The public in the "civilized" countries expressed anger at the Italian outrages. But two years later Spanish planes bombed upstart Moroccans. By 1919 Britain had become the first power to create an independent airforce - the Royal Air Force. Within the year they were dropping bombs in, again, irony of irony, Iraq and Afghanistan. The first town to be destroyed by aerial bombardment was not Guernica in 1937, as our Eurocentric histories claim, but the Moroccan town of Chechaouen, bombed by the Spanish in 1925.

100 Years of Bombing Libya
By Mark Almond

... On 1st November, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped the first bomb from an aeroplane. According to the Ottoman authorities it hit the military hospital in Ayn Zara in the Libyan desert. The Italians strongly denied targeting an installation protected by the Geneva Convention. Modern aerial warfare and the propaganda battle which has accompanied it ever since was underway from the start.

Lt. Gavotti's four bombs were modified hand grenades, but soon the Italians had learned how to drop incendiary bomb and shrapnel bombs - what we would now call cluster munitions.

On 1st November, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped the first bomb from an aeroplane. According to the Ottoman authorities it hit the military hospital in Ayn Zara in the Libyan desert. The Italians strongly denied targeting an installation protected by the Geneva Convention. Modern aerial warfare and the propaganda battle which has accompanied it ever since was underway from the start.

Lt. Gavotti's four bombs were modified hand grenades, but soon the Italians had learned how to drop incendiary bomb and shrapnel bombs - what we would now call cluster munitions.


by das monde on Wed Apr 6th, 2011 at 12:45:15 AM EST

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