'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Air War 

Dahr Jamail corroborates the claims made by Hersh in "Up in the Air" and stresses the scale of the current use of of air power in occupied Iraq:

But visions of a frightful future in Iraq should not be overshadowed by the devastation already caused by present levels of American air power loosed, in particular, on heavily populated urban areas of that country.

CENTAF reports, for example, that on November 14th of this year, "Air Force F-15 Eagles, MQ-1 Predators unmanned aerial vehicles and Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of Karabilah. The F-15s dropped precision-guided bombs and the Predators fired Hellfire missiles successfully against insurgent positions." The tactic of using massively powerful 500 and 1,000 pound bombs in urban areas to target small pockets of resistance fighters has, in fact, long been employed in Iraq. No intensification of the air war is necessary to make it a commonplace.

The report from November 14th adds, "Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces near Balad. The F-16s successfully dropped a precision-guided bomb on a building used by insurgents. F-16s and a Predator also flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of Karabilah. The Predator successfully fired a Hellfire missile against insurgent positions."

The vagueness of certain aspects of such reports from CENTAF is troubling, however. The reasons for bombing raids are usually given in generic formulas like this typical one found in official statements released on November 24th and 27th: "Coalition aircraft also supported Iraqi and coalition ground forces operations to create a secure environment for upcoming December parliamentary elections." Such formulations, of course, tell us, as they are meant to, next to nothing about what may actually be happening -- and as the air war is virtually never covered by American reporters in Iraq, these and other versions of the official language of air power are never seriously considered, questioned, explored, or compared to events on the ground.

Another common mission, as stated on the 17th, 22nd and several other days in November (and used again in CENTAF's December statements) has been the equally vague: "included support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities, and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities."

One of the busier days for the U.S. Air Force in Iraq recently was the last day of November, when 59 sorties were flown. CENTAF reported that "F-15 Eagles successfully dropped precision-guided munitions against an insurgents' weapons bunker near Baghdad. F-16 Fighting Falcons, an MQ-1 Predator and Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Al Hawijah, Al Mahmudiyah and Fallujah." In addition, Royal Australian Air Force were also flying surveillance and reconnaissance missions that day, as the British Air Force often does on other days.

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