“The Secret Air War in Iraq.”
The Nation. 24 May 2007.
By Nick Turse
Since World War II air power has been key to the American way of warfare--and civilian casualties have been a constant result, from Japan and Korea to Southeast Asia and now Afghanistan and Iraq. This year a seeming surge in airstrikes has led to a corresponding spike in civilian casualties. For example, in a two-day span in May, an airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed at least twenty-one civilians, while a US helicopter attack north of Baghdad killed five civilians, including two children. Yet very little is known about the air war. Due to an apparent disregard by the mainstream media, with a few notable exceptions, the full story remains one of the best-kept secrets of the Iraq War.
What we do know is that since the major combat phase of the war ended in April 2003, the United States has dropped at least 59,787 pounds of cluster bombs in Iraq--the very type of weapon that Marc Garlasco, the senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW), calls "the single greatest risk civilians face with regard to a current weapon that is in use." And expert opinion argues that rocket and cannon fire from US aircraft may account for most coalition-attributed Iraqi civilian deaths. The Pentagon has restocked hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of these weapons in recent years.
The question of cluster-bomb use is especially shadowy. This is hardly surprising. After all, at a time when many nations are moving toward banning cluster munitions--at a February 2007 conference in Oslo, forty-six of forty-eight governments represented supported an international ban by 2008--the United States stands with China, Israel, Pakistan and Russia in opposing new limits of any kind.
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