The Preferred Method of Murder

Nick Turse, America’s Secret Air War in Iraq

Just last week, in a typical air strike of the Iraq War, two missiles were fired at targets somewhere in the city of Ramadi, capital of al-Anbar province in the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, in the course of a battle with American forces stationed there. According to newspaper accounts, “18 insurgents” were killed.

Air power has, since World War II, been the American way of war. The invasion of Iraq began, after all, with a dominating show of air power that was meant to “shock and awe” -– that is, cow — not just Saddam Hussein’s regime, but the whole “axis of evil” and other countries the Bush administration had in its mental gun sights. Among the largest of America’s “permanent” megabases in Iraq is Balad Air Base with the sorts of daily air-traffic pile-ups that you would normally see over Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. And yet, as Tomdispatch.com has written numerous times over these last years, reporters in Iraq almost determinedly refuse to look up or report on the regular, if intermittent, application of American air power especially to heavily populated neighborhoods in Iraq’s cities.

Now, the Bush “surge” is officially beginning. Little about it is strikingly new or untried — except possibly the unspoken urge to ratchet up the use of air power in Iraq, the only thing a Pentagon with desperately overstretched ground forces really has to throw into the escalation breach (as in recent months it has drastically escalated the use of air power in Afghanistan). Pepe Escobar, the superb globe-trotting correspondent for Asia Times, has recently warned that the new Bush administration “plan” signals “the dire prospect… of a devastating air war over Baghdad” in which “Iraqification-cum-surge” will prove “a disaster mostly for every Baghdadi caught in the crossfire.”

Just last week, Julian E. Barnes of the Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. Air Force has the Iraqi itch and is getting ready to scratch it. Air Force commanders are preparing for a “heightened role in the volatile region.” They are, he reported, already “gearing up for just such a role in Iraq as part of Bush’s planned troop increase” — an expansion of air power that “could include aggressive new tactics designed to deter Iranian assistance to Iraqi militants… [and] more forceful patrols by Air Force and Navy fighter planes along the Iran-Iraq border to counter the smuggling of bomb supplies from Iran.”

Until now, U.S. air power in Iraq has been a non-story — if you weren’t an Iraqi. In the coming months, however, it may force its way onto the front pages of our papers and onto the nightly TV news — but not if the Pentagon has anything to say about it. Doing some journalistic sleuthing, Nick Turse has discovered just how secretive the Pentagon has been about offering any significant information on the size, scope, and damage involved in its air operations over Iraq. The story of this secret American air war is now told for the first time — and at this website. Tom

Bombs over Baghdad: The Pentagon’s Secret Air War in Iraq
By Nick Turse

A secret air war is being waged in Iraq — often in and around that country’s population centers — about which we can find out little. The U.S. military keeps information on the munitions expended in its air efforts under tight wraps, refusing to offer details on the scale of use and so minimizing the importance of air power in Iraq. But expert opinion holds that the forms of aerial assault being employed in that country, though hardly covered in our media, may account for most of the U.S. and coalition-attributed Iraqi civilian deaths there since the 2003 invasion.

Read the rest here.

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