U.S. military's bombing spree in Iraq

By Elizabeth Schulte

DURING ONE nightmarish 10-minute spree, U.S. bombers and jet fighters dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad on January 10.

Two B-1 and four F-16 aircraft dropped bombs on 40 targets in the Latifiya district and Arab Jabour region in one of the largest air strikes since the "shock and awe" bombing campaign that began the Iraq war.

Though the U.S. has been escalating its use of air power in Iraq over the past year, large attacks like this one on January 10 have been relatively rare. Col. Terry Ferrell, commander of the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, told the New York Times that the immense amount of firepower was needed to clear areas that U.S. forces had long neglected.

The U.S. says the bombardment, called "Operation Marne Thunderbolt," was part of Phantom Phoenix, an Iraq-wide operation against al-Qaeda that began January 8. At least nine American soldiers were killed since the offensive began, making these the deadliest days for U.S. forces since last fall.

After the air strikes, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers advanced through burning citrus groves into what they consider important al-Qaeda enclaves around Arab Jabour. According to an Iraqi officer, soldiers discovered two houses used by insurgents and arrested at least 12 people.

Ammar Falah, a tribal militia member near Latifiya, told the Times that his fellow tribesmen had been fighting al-Qaeda insurgents since last month. But Falah also said, "Ten days ago, three women and two children were killed by mistake by American bombings targeting al-Qaeda."

This is what the "security" that the U.S. claims to be bringing to Iraq really looks like.

All this mayhem flies in the face of Bush administration reports that everything is under control in Iraq. "Nine U.S. soldiers were killed in 24 hours, U.S. B-1 and F-16 bombers dropped over 40,000 pounds of special munitions on the Arab Juboor villages just south of Baghdad, and Awakening [militias paid to fight by the U.S.] leaders and senior police officers are being assassinated all over Iraq, yet U.S. Army leaders and top officials say Iraq is safe and sound," human rights activist Mahmood al-Dulaimy told the Inter Press Service.

As independent journalist Dahr Jamail pointed out, "The recent bombing campaign conducted by the U.S. military highlights the fact that despite Bush administration claims of 'progress' in Iraq, the situation on the ground remains largely out of occupation forces' control...We are once again repeating a scenario we've witnessed countless times in Iraq."

According to Oxfam International, 4 million people in Iraq are in need of emergency aid. More than 4.5 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates.

The reality is that the people of Iraq are living under conditions of utter destruction--with more destruction sure to come as long as U.S. forces remain.