Wednesday, July 11, 2007
From Dresden and Tokyo to Hanoi and now Iraq's Baquba and Afghanistan's tribal villages, the US military has been "hooked on air power". The addiction will only grow stronger as US ground troops gradually withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, increasingly leaving civilians, not insurgents, to continue to take the heat.
By Tom Engelhardt
"......All these 1968 dispatches from the "front" were, of course, military fairy tales. (There were no reporters in the vicinity.) It took over a year for a former GI named Ronald Ridenhour, who had heard about the bloody massacre from participants, and a young former Associated Press reporter named Seymour Hersh working in Washington for a news service virtually no one had ever heard of, to break the story, revealing that "red, white, and blue village" had just been red village - the red of Vietnamese peasant blood. More than 400 elderly men, women, children, and babies were slaughtered there by Charlie Company of Task Force Barker, an ad hoc unit commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Barker Jr, in a nearly day-long rampage......
Recently, however, in Afghanistan, such isolated incidents from US or NATO (often still US) air attacks have been occurring in startling numbers. They have, in fact, become so commonplace that, in the news, they begin to blur into what looks, more and more, like a single, ongoing airborne slaughter of civilians......
Ours is, of course, a callous and dishonest way of thinking about war from the air (undoubtedly because it is the form of barbarism, unlike the car bomb or the beheading, that benefits us). It is time to be more honest. It is time for reporters to take the words "incident", "mistake", "accident", "inadvertent", "errant", and "collateral damage" out of their reportorial vocabularies when it comes to air power. At the level of policy, civilian deaths from the air should be seen as "advertent". They are not mistakes or they wouldn't happen so repeatedly. They are the very givens of this kind of warfare.
This is, or should be, obvious. If we want to "withdraw" from Iraq (or Afghanistan) via the Gates Plan, we should at least be clear about what that is likely to mean - the slaughter of large numbers of civilians "including women and children". And it will not be due to a series of mistakes or incidents; it will not be errant or inadvertent. It will be policy itself. It will be the Washington - and in the end the US - consensus."