A comprehensive look at countries the US has bombed since the end of the second world war.
Since WWII, most wars, conflicts and interventions have been accompanied by targeted attacks from jet planes, drones, or naval vessels. Due to its superpower status and unofficial reputation as the world’s policeman, the United States has been the leader of many.
After WWII, the U.S.’ acquired superpower muscle has been flexed for various reasons to bomb at least 20 different countries by air, land, or sea.
Some key points:
- President Obama has bombed the most countries (7) since WWII. Six of these were attacked first by previous presidents.
- A close second is President Clinton, who bombed 6 countries, only one of which was bombed by a former administration.
- 5 out of 20 countries bombed since WWII were related to the Cold War.
- 7 out of 20 were related to terrorism.
- 3 out of 20 were isolated attacks, lasting a period of less than two days.
- 8 out of 20 were extensive campaigns lasting for a period of over 5 years.
- 5 out of 20 have been struck by drones.
- Attacks on other countries were backed by alliances or coalitions 9 times; two of these instances were without UN approval.
Here’s a list of 20 confirmed countries the US has bombed since 1946, along brief details as to when and why it happened.
Afghanistan: 1998, 2001-present
President: Clinton, W. Bush
Details: 1998 air strikes targeted the Al Qaeda terror group and Osama Bin Laden. Strikes, beginning in 2001 in response to terror attacks on the U.S, were part of the UN coalition ISAF’s 13-year-long war in the country.
Bosnia: 1994, 1995
Details: In coordination with the UN, NATO orchestrated aggressive air campaigns targeting Bosnian Serb troops due to an escalating humanitarian crisis in which Serbs attacked civilian Muslim populations in Srebrencia and other UN protected enclaves.
Details: Suspected communist base camps in Cambodia were attacked in 1969-70, and initially kept secret from Congress and U.S. public. Over 2.7 million tons of bombs were dropped over a 9 year period.
President: Eisenhower, Kennedy
Details: During a failed military invasion known as the “Bay of Pigs,” U.S. B-26 aircrafts camouflaged as Cuban planes assisted ex-patriots in a bombing campaign, with the intention of overthrowing Fidel Castro.
Details: After a military coup and murder of the nation’s prime minister in 1983, the U.S. invaded the island of Grenada, where some Americans were purported to be in danger. The invasion, which imposed a regime change on Grenada, was later called a “flagrant violation of international law” by the UN but viewed favorably by most Americans.
Iraq: 1991-2011, 2014-present
President: H.W. Bush, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama
Details: Beginning with the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. and others bombed Iraq and continued with air strikes in an effort to enforce “no fly zones.” These strikes carried over the course of the decade well into the 2003 Iraq war. In 2014, air strikes have resumed in Iraq to combat ISIS forces.
Details: After military clashes in the Persian Gulf, during which an American ship was damaged by an Iranian mining operation, the U.S. Navy retaliated by bombing Iranian oil platforms, along with several vessels in the aftermath when the Iranian navy fought back. (The attack was called unjustified by the International Court of Justice).
Details: When Northern Korea invaded Southern Korea in an attack supported by Russia and China, the U.S. and others allies rushed to defend the south in an effort to contain communism. The result was an aerial bombing campaign, part of a United Nationsmilitary effort that helped turn back North Koreans and aggressors. The war caused massive damage and death to millions of innocent people.
President: H.W. Bush
Details: During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi-controlled oil facilities in Kuwait were subject to air strikes by the U.S. An international coalition executed a five-week naval and air bombardment, which eventually lead to Iraqi troops’ withdrawal from Kuwait.
President: Johnson, Nixon
Details: The U.S. dropped about 2.5 million tons of bombs on Laos over a nine year period as part of its “Secret War.” The attacks were to protect U.S. allies from the communist group Pathet Lao and to stop the flow of weapons and soldiers through the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Details: Upon the Lebanese government’s request, the U.S. authorized military forces to help the Lebanese Army regain control amidst a debilitating civil war. Though U.S. forces did not intend to engage in combat, naval attacks were authorized during the second deployment.
Libya: 1986, 2011
President: Reagan, Obama
Details: In retaliation to the Libyan bombing of a German discotheque which killed two American servicemen, and other attacks suspected to be carried out by Libyan agents, the U.S. attacked five terrorist hubs in operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.
In 2011, American and European forces struck Libyan air defense systems to enforce a no-fly zone and prevent attacks on its own citizens.
President: W. Bush, Obama
Details: Drone strikes on hundreds of terrorist targets in Pakistan began under the Bush administration and have continued through the Obama administration.
President: H. W. Bush
Details: The Bush administration perceived Panama’s declaration of a “state of war” between it and the U.S. (along with the execution of an unarmed U.S. marine) as a direct threat to the American citizens living there. For this reason (along with issues of human rights conditions and drug trafficking), the U.S. invaded and bombed Panama.
Somalia: 1993, 2007-Present
President: Clinton, Obama
Details: In 1993, a bloody civil war in Somalia prompted the U.S. and UN to assist with humanitarian aid. After peacekeepers were threatened, the U.S. lead aerial attacks (off which the Black Hawk Down is based). From 2007-2014, the Obama administration carried out drone strikes against al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups in Somalia.
Details: A factory thought to be in part owned by Osama Bin Laden in Sudan was destroyed by U.S. missiles in 1998. However, some suggest that what was thought to be a chemical weapon factory was in actuality a medicine factory.
Details: America’s first bombing of Syria is backed by a coalition backed by over 60 nations. The attacks are in response to the militant group ISIS’ terrorist expansion and execution of Western journalists.
President: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Details: During the Vietnam War, the U.S. defended South Vietnam from the Soviet and Chinese-backed North Vietnam. U.S. involvement escalated to a wide-scale bombing campaign in an air war that left South Vietnam devastated.
Yemen: 2002, 2009-present
President: W. Bush, Obama
Details: The first known counter-terrorist attack on Yemeni soil occurred in 2002, killing 6-7 al Qaeda suspects. Since 2009, Yemen has seen hundreds of U.S. drone strikes targeting terror suspects.
Details: In response to humanitarian crisis in Yugoslavia, NATO attacked the country without the approval of the UN, even though no members of the alliances were threatened directly. Bombing relied heavily upon the U.S. Air Force and Navy, and included a controversial bombing of the Chinese Embassy there, which some officials claim was an intentional act.
CIA-assisted bombings, covert operations in which U.S. troops allegedly directed or assisted foreign attacks, are believed to have occurred in Congo (1964), El Salvador (1985), Guatemala (1950s), Indonesia (1958), Nicaragua (1981-90), and Peru (1968).
This list also excludes the U.S. bombing of legal Chinese territory in Belgrade, and the accidental bombing of the French embassy in Tripoli.