Monday, the Pentagon acknowledged a long-unspoken truth: that the bombardment of civilian neighborhoods in Iraq is an integral part of the vaunted "counterinsurgency" doctrine of Gen. David Petraeus. The number of airstrikes in the conquered land has risen fivefold since George W. Bush escalated the war in January, as USA Today reports:
"Coalition forces launched 1,140 airstrikes in the first nine months of this year compared with 229 in all of last year, according to military statistics ... In Iraq, the temporary increase of 30,000 U.S. troops ordered by President Bush in January has led to the increase in bombing missions. The U.S. command has moved forces off large bases and into neighborhoods and has launched several large offensives aimed at al-Qaeda ... 'You end up having that many more opportunities for close air support,' said Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Mueller, director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Doha, Qatar."
Leaving aside the undigested lump of pure propaganda spewed up by the reporter -- "al-Qaeda" has not been the sole or even the main target of the "offensives" launched into civilian areas -- the military stats reveal the growing centrality of airstrikes in Iraq. What's more, these figures do not include attacks by helicopter gunships, whose fearsome destructive power rivals that of any bomb or missile.
The results of this deliberate strategy have been entirely predictable and deeply horrific: Innocent civilians chewed to pieces by blast force and metal. Innocent civilians dispossessed of homes, cars, goods, all means of survival. Innocent civilians turned into bitter enemies of the United States, as they bury their young, their old, their most beloved ones.
Listen to the Iraqis themselves speaking from the ground zero of their reality. From the Washington Post:
"Iraqis voiced outrage Friday over a U.S. military airstrike that killed an estimated 15 civilians -- nine children and six women, one of the highest reported civilian death tolls from an American bombing in months. The bombing occurred Thursday evening after U.S. troops raided a suspected leadership meeting of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq that was taking place south of Lake Tharthar, near the city of Samarra in western Iraq ...
"'This could have been done through the infantry,' said Ibrahim al-Khamas, a Samarra city council member. 'But the American Army prefers the easiest solution, which is the air bombardment ... This airstrike was excessive, as usual, which led to the fall of civilians. People here are now carrying great hatred against the Americans after the raid. This airstrike turned their Eid to grief' ...
"Mohammed al-Samarrae, 34, said his pregnant cousin was killed in the bombing. He expressed a mix of dismay at her death and the weariness of life after more than four years of war. 'Where can anybody be safe from Bush's democracy?' he asked. 'Whenever we want to open a new chapter with the Americans, to forget the past and try all over again, they drag us into violence, weapons and fighting again. And to sympathize with al-Qaeda against them. All because of their inconsideration for our blood.'"
(Here's a report on several more similar incidents earlier this month. And for a richly detailed dissection of the latest airstrike mulching -- including how it was thoroughly airbrushed by the headlines in the "homeland" -- see this post from Winter Patriot.)
As I've noted elsewhere, this rising mound of innocent dead is the inevitable consequence of trying to maintain the occupation and control of another country while minimizing impolitic losses to one's ground forces. And there would actually be even more of this under the nonwithdrawal "withdrawal" plans of the leading Democrats, all of which call for retaining some sort of "residual" force in Iraq. The only way to protect such a diminished, isolated but still very present and provocative force is through the increased use of airpower. So once again, we see the bipartisan nature of the ongoing war crime in Iraq.
What we are also seeing with this strategy is, to put it plainly, an attempt to terrorize a civilian population into submission. Let's strip away all the political gamesmanship and partisan point scoring that encrusts the Beltway debate -- that hideous masque of red death, where fine-dining blowhards prate and prance to the music of keening mothers and dying soldiers. Let's break down the on-message jargon and lumps of propaganda into the base elements of truth. For what the air campaign, and the "offensives into neighborhoods," are really saying is brutally frank:
"We invaded your country under knowingly false pretenses, fixing the intelligence around the policy, because our leaders, who were in possession of vast amounts of intelligence that undermined or refuted their stated casus belli, couldn't reveal their true, long-held intentions. ('I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,' Alan Greenspan says.) We destroyed your infrastructure, we destroyed your society, we destroyed your history, we enthroned extremist militias to rule over you, we tortured your sons and fathers in the same hellhole that Saddam used, we killed a million of your people and drove millions more from their homes. And we intend to stay here for as long as we like, in the vast 'enduring bases' we are building on your land. Now if you don't accept this, if you keep shooting at us and trying to make us leave, then we will go on bombing your families in their homes, we will go on killing your women and children, until you stop."
The military tactic of close air support in a firefight is not the issue here. The issue is why the U.S. military is engaged in this Iraqi urban warfare, with its inevitable killing of civilians, in the first place. And the reason is that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their cohorts have made the deliberate, conscious decision to engage in state terrorism in order to advance foreign policy and energy objectives they held long before 9/11 "changed the world."
That is the true context, and content, of the war. Anyone who supports its continuation -- under any auspices, in any form, for any amount of time longer than it takes to remove all the troops quickly and safely -- is advocating the perpetuation of state terror in the name of the American people.
You'd think even a prating blowhard could see the danger of that. But no doubt the masque will go on and on.