Several years ago, I warned that as the Bush/Cheney administration sought to reduce politically problematic casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would resort to increased use of air attacks to combat the growing insurgency in Iraq and the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
I also predicted that the result of this switch in tactics would lead to higher civilian casualties in those two countries.
We're now seeing those results.
The casual use of the term "air strikes" belies the horror of what is happening. It's one thing to call in air strikes during a battle out in the desert or the mountains, where the enemy is isolated and readily identified. It's another to call in the bombers and gunships in the heart of a densely populated city. Such tactics are guaranteed to kill innocent people in large numbers.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, where there is even less media coverage than in Iraq, the casual slaughter of innocents by American forces has become routine--so much so that even British officials are complaining. The US command simply "regrets" the "loss of innocent life," making it sound like the after-effects of a natural disaster, when it fact the killings are the predictable result of the cold calculus of mass murder by a technologically advanced military inflicted on an impoverished Third World country. It is unacceptable to argue, as the Pentagon does all the time, that the enemy "uses civilians as shields." Maybe they do, but that's the reality, and the military has to accept it, not ignore it. If a gunman is holding a baby, you can't just shoot the baby and blame the gunman.
The problem is, if the US stops using its gunships and its fighter-bombers to do its fighting, it will have to either quit and go home, or put more troops out on patrol, where they are vulnerable to attack. In fact, the Pentagon may not even have that option. Already, it has been reported that troops in Iraq have coined the term "search and avoid" for missions where they go out under orders, but then spend their time avoiding danger.
What would one expect? The rank-and-file troops know that the war is lost in both countries, and that the American public doesn't support what they are doing anyhow, so who's going to want to die for that? You'd have to be a real chump to let yourself be killed just to provide political cover for a politically challenged president and vice president--especially a president and vice-president who famously ducked their own duty during the Vietnam War.
DAVE LINDORFF is an investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net