|01-13-2006, 09:47 AM||#46|
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Outside it's Amerika
Local Time: 04:09 PM
Another article about "Better Off"__________________
Precision killing in Iraq
By Michael Schwartz
A little more than a year ago, a group of Johns Hopkins University researchers reported that about 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the Iraq war during its first 14 months, with about 60,000 of the deaths directly attributable to military violence by the US and its allies.
The study, published in The Lancet, the highly respected British medical journal, applied the same rigorous, scientifically validated methods that the Hopkins researchers had used in estimating that 1.7 million people had died in Congo in 2000. Though the Congo study had won the praise of the Bush and Blair administrations and had become the foundation for UN Security
Council and State Department actions, this study was quickly declared invalid by the US government and supporters of the war.
One reason the Hopkins study did not generate sustained outrage is that the researchers did not explain how the occupation had managed to kill so many people so quickly - about 1,000 each week in the first 14 months of the war. This may reflect our sense that carnage at such elevated levels requires a series of barbaric acts of mass slaughter and/or huge battles that would account for staggering numbers of Iraqis killed. With the exception of the battle of Fallujah, these sorts of high-profile events have simply not occurred in Iraq.
Mayhem in Baiji
But the Iraq war is a 21st-century war and so the miracle of modern weaponry allows the US military to kill scores of Iraqis (and wound many more) during a routine day's work, made up of small skirmishes triggered by roadside bombs, sniper attacks and US foot patrols. Early this month, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported a relatively small incident (not even worthy of front-page coverage) that illustrated perfectly the capacity of the US military to kill uncounted thousands of Iraqi civilians each year.
Here is the Times account of what happened on January 3 in the small town of Baiji, 240 kilometers north of Baghdad, based on interviews with various unidentified "American officials":
A pilotless reconnaissance aircraft detected three men planting a roadside bomb about 9pm. The men "dug a hole following the common pattern of roadside bomb emplacement", the military said in a statement. "The individuals were assessed as posing a threat to Iraqi civilians and coalition forces, and the location of the three men was relayed to close air support pilots. The men were tracked from the road site to a building nearby, which was then bombed with 'precision guided munitions'," the military said. The statement did not say whether a roadside bomb was later found at the site. An additional military statement said navy F-14s had "strafed the target with 100 cannon rounds" and dropped one bomb.
Crucial to this report is the phrase "precision guided munitions", an affirmation that US forces used technology less likely than older munitions to accidentally hit the wrong target. It is this precision that allows us to glimpse the callous brutality of US military strategy in Iraq.
The real rules of engagement in Iraq
We can gain some perspective on this military strategy by imagining similar rules of engagement for a police force in some large US city. Imagine, for example, a team of criminals in that city fleeing into a nearby apartment building after gunning down a police officer. It would be unthinkable for the police simply to call in airships to demolish the structure, killing any people - helpless hostages, neighbors or even friends of the perpetrators - who were with or near them.
In fact, the rules of engagement for the police, even in such a situation of extreme provocation, call for them to "hold their fire" - if necessary allowing the perpetrators to escape - if there is a risk of injuring civilians. And this is a reasonable rule ... because we value the lives of innocent US citizens over our determination to capture a criminal, even a cop-killer.
But in Iraqi cities, US values and priorities are quite differently arranged. The contrast derives from three important principles under which the Iraq war is being fought: that the war should be conducted to absolutely minimize the risk to US troops; that guerrilla fighters should not be allowed to escape if there is any way to capture or kill them; and that Iraqi civilians should not be allowed to harbor or encourage the resistance fighters.
We are familiar with the first principle, the determination to safeguard American soldiers. It is expressed in the elaborate training and equipment they are given, as well as the continuing effort to make the equipment even more effective in protecting them from attack. (This was most recently expressed in the release of a Pentagon study showing that improved body armor could have saved as many as 300 American lives since the start of the war.) It is also expressed in rules of engagement that call for air strikes such as the one in Baiji.
The alternative to such an air attack (aside from allowing the guerrillas to escape) would, of course, be to use a unit of troops to root out the guerrillas. Needless to say, without an effective Iraqi military in place, such an operation would be likely to expose American soldiers to considerable risk. The administration of President George W Bush has long shied away from the high casualty counts that would be an almost guaranteed result of such concentrated, close-quarters urban warfare, casualty counts that would surely have a strong negative effect on support in the United States for its war. (The irony, of course, is that, with air attacks, the US is trading lower American casualties and stronger support domestically for ever-lessening Iraqi support and the ever-greater hostility such attacks bring in their wake.)
The second principle also was applied in Baiji. Rather than allow the perpetrators to take refuge in a nearby home and then quietly slip away, the US command decided to take out the house, even though they had no guarantee that it was uninhabited (and every reason to believe the opposite). The paramount goal was to kill or capture the suspected guerrilla fighters, and if this involved the death or injury of multiple Iraqi civilians, the trade-off was clearly considered worth it. That is, annihilating a family of 12 or 14 Iraqis could be justified, if there was a reasonable probability of killing or capturing three individuals who might have been setting a roadside bomb. This is the subtext of Johnson's comment.
The third principle behind these attacks is only occasionally expressed by US military and diplomatic personnel, but is nevertheless a foundation of US strategy as applied in Baiji and elsewhere. Though Bush administration officials and top US military officers often, for propaganda purposes, refer to local residents as innocent victims of insurgent intimidation and terrorism, their disregard for the lives of civilians trapped inside such buildings is symptomatic of a very different belief: that most Sunni Iraqis willingly harbor the guerrillas and support their attacks - that they are not unwilling shields for the guerrillas, but are actively shielding them. Moreover, this protection of the guerrillas is seen as a critical obstacle to our military success, requiring drastic punitive action.
|02-13-2006, 08:08 PM||#47|
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: ATL and Boca Raton
Local Time: 08:09 PM
Re: Ted Turner- Iraq Is "No Better Off"
|Thread Tools||Search this Thread|