What they call "victory in Iraq"

IS THE U.S. winning the war in Iraq? It depends on who's answering the question.

According to the Bush administration, the U.S. military has never been doing better. In his State of the Union address, he declared, "Some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated."

But the view is very different from Iraq.

On February 3, the U.S. military reported that it "accidentally" killed nine civilians and wounded at least three more in a bombing raid the day before south of Baghdad that was supposed to target a group called Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. According to Iraqi police, among the dead and injured were civilian Sunni guardsmen who the U.S. military had contracted with to go after insurgents.

This "accident" is very much the inevitable result of a terrifying escalation in bombings being carried out by the U.S. military "The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many air strikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006," reported the Washington Post. That's 1,447 bombs dropped on Iraq in 2007, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.

The U.S. military says the "precision" bombing campaign goes hand in hand with the strategy of troops surging into "insurgent" areas. But there's nothing precise about these bombs. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, some 200 civilians were killed by U.S. air strikes between April and the end of 2007.

The horror continued January 17 when the U.S. dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives in a 10-minute period on 38 targets in Arab Jabour, southeast of Baghdad--the largest air strike since the 2003 invasion. The week before, another 16,500 pounds of bombs were dropped north of Baghdad.

The terror isn't ending soon--as the U.S. military appears to have settled in for a long stay.

"In these last years, the Pentagon has invested billions of dollars in building up an air-power infrastructure in and around Iraq," writes Tom Engelhardt on his Web site TomDispatch. "As a start, it constructed one of its largest foreign bases anywhere on the planet about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad. Balad Air Base has been described by Newsweek as a '15-square-mile mini-city of thousands of trailers and vehicle depots,' whose airfields handle 27,500 takeoffs and landings every month."

Engelhardt concludes, "Here's the simple calculus that goes with all this: Militarily, overstretched American forces simply cannot sustain the ground part of the surge for much longer. Most, if not all, of those 30,000 troops who surged into Iraq in the first half of 2007 will soon be coming home.

"But air power won't be. Air Force personnel are already on short, rotating tours of duty in the region. In Vietnam, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as ground troops were withdrawn, air power ramped up. This seems once again to be the pattern. There is every reason to believe that it represents the American future in Iraq."

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THE AIR campaign is a response to an occupation that is unraveling. Despite superior air power, the U.S. has so far been unable to quash resistance. And if there has been a decrease in violence in Iraq, it is due not to actions on the part of the U.S., but in large measure to the six-month ceasefire called by Moktada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army militia, which is due to end later this month.

If "winning the war" in Iraq is measured by freedom and a better way of life, which the U.S. claimed it would bring to Iraq, then the U.S. war is, of course, a failure. Iraq's infrastructure is in a shambles--rebuilding remains at a standstill, and Iraqis are suffering without adequate shelter during this year's cold winter. Because of poor sanitation and lack of clean water, Iraq is once again in danger of a cholera outbreak.

But of course, it is control over Iraq and its oil--not infrastructure and clean water--that the U.S. is fighting for. In a recent article, independent journalist Dahr Jamail shared this comment by Abu Taiseer in Baquba: "At the very beginning of the occupation, the people of Iraq did not realize the U.S. strategy in the area. Their strategy is based on destruction and massacres. They do anything to have their agenda fulfilled.

"Now, Iraqis know that behind the U.S. smile is hatred and violence. They call others violent and terrorists, while what they are doing in Iraq and in other countries is the origin and essence of terror."

When the U.S. loses and is forced out of Iraq, then there can be a chance of peace for Iraqis.