News Release

Escalation of U.S. Air War


In a front-page piece headlined “U.S. Role Deepens in Sadr City,” the Washington Post reports today: “In the Sadr City clash, the U.S. soldiers responded by firing rockets armed with high-explosive, 200-pound warheads, killing 28 fighters, [Lt. Col. Steve] Stover said. In a separate incident in Sadr City, a fixed-wing aircraft dropped a bomb at 5:15 p.m. that killed two fighters firing mortars at a joint U.S.-Iraqi outpost, the U.S. military said.

“But Sadr City residents gave a very different accounting of the fighting. They said at least 50 people were killed and 130 injured, many of them women and children.”

Author of the book Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment, Grosscup is professor of international relations at California State University in Chico.
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A columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, Hallinan wrote the article “Death at a Distance: The U.S. Air War.” He said today: “We need to really look at U.S. actions right now in Sadr City — like the increase in the use of air power in a packed, urban environment — and the enormous increase in the use of armed robot drones in Iraq, like the ‘Reaper.’

“The press has given the military a pass on the air war in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the air war ends up alienating the civilian population and serves as a recruiting sergeant for the insurgents. …

“The U.S. military is falling apart on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a recent study by the Rand Corporation, 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Another 320,000 may have suffered traumatic brain injury. This means than more than one-third of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are casualties. I might add, that both PTSD and TBI are difficult and complex to treat, and many of these soldiers will never recover. We cannot sustain this casualty rate, particularly given the declining recruiting numbers.

“So the U.S. government is resorting to an air war, which they hope will make it a bloodless war for us. A stepped-up air war will mean an increase in civilian casualties, and greater anger at the United States. The U.S. military tried this tactic during the Vietnam War, but the touted ‘increased firepower’ ended up alienating the South Vietnamese peasants. ‘Fire power freaks’ always say they can win if we just let them bomb everyone back to the stone age. But it doesn’t work and it also leads to serious violations of Geneva Conventions.

“The current fighting in Sadr City is a case in point. According to U.S. figures, more than 500 people have been killed and 2,100 wounded since fighting broke out there in March. The Iraqis say these figures are much higher and that most of them are civilians. This is a case of the ‘fire power freaks’ running the show. Bombing from the air, artillery strikes, and indiscriminate small arms fire in a crowded urban environment mean you are going to kill a lot of civilians. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Stover said that U.S. troops were only responding to attacks when they called in air strikes and opened fire in Sadr City. He blamed the Madhi Army for hiding behind civilians.

“But his defense of what the U.S. is doing in Sadr City is an explicit violation of Article 48 of the 1977 addition to the Geneva Conventions. That article requires the parties to the conflict to ‘at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants,’ and Article 50 makes it clear that ‘The presence within the civilian
population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.’ What this means is that you can’t go into Sadr City and shoot up the place because you don’t like the Madhi Army. It can land you on the docket of the International Court at the Hague.

“The moral of that is: don’t occupy other countries because it is almost impossible to avoid violating international law. Of course since we violated international law and the UN Charter to invade Iraq in the first place, I don’t suppose that cuts a lot of ice with the Bush administration. But we Americans should be paying attention. This is happening in our name.”

Background: AP’s report “300,000 vets have mental problem, 320,000 had brain injuries”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167