A Little Easier to Occupy from
Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*
BAGHDAD, Jul 31 (IPS)
Many Iraqis believe the dramatic escalation in U.S. military
use of air power is a sign of defeat for the occupation forces on the
U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped five times as many bombs in
Iraq during the first six months of this year as over the first half
of 2006, according to official information.
They dropped 437 bombs and missiles in Iraq in the first half of 2007,
compared to 86 in the first half of 2006. This is also three times more
than in the second half of 2006, according to Air Force data.
The Air Force has also been expanding its air bases in Iraq and adding
entire squadrons. It is now preparing to use a new robotic fighter known
as the Reaper. The Reaper is a hunter-killer drone that can be operated
by remote control from thousands of miles away.
"We find it strange that the big strategists of the U.S. military
have actually failed in finding solutions on the ground and are now
back to air raids that kill more civilians than militants," former
Iraqi army brigadier-general Ahmed Issa told IPS.
"On the other hand, they are giving away the land to local forces
that they know are incapable of facing the militants, who will grab
the first chance of U.S. withdrawal to bases to hit back and hold the
"Going back to air raids is an alarming sign of defeat,"
Salim Rahman, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad told IPS. "To
bombard an area only means that it is in the hands of the enemy."
"Our area is under threat of air raids all the time," Mahmmod
Taha from the Arab Jboor area southwest of Baghdad told IPS. "Each
time they bombed our area, civilians were killed by the dozens, and
civilians' houses were destroyed. They could not fight the resistance
face to face, and so they take revenge from the air."
May 2007 was the most violent month for U.S. forces in Iraq in nearly
three years, according to the U.S. Department of Defence.
There were 6,039 attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government forces, 1,348
roadside bombs detonated under their vehicles, 286 "complex ambushes"
involving roadside bombs and coordinated teams of attackers were carried
out, 102 car bombs exploded, 126 U.S. soldiers were killed and 652 were
The U.S. forces have been hitting back at predominantly Sunni areas
such as those around Fallujah. But the forces have also targeted Shia
pilgrims around Najaf in the south.
"Air raids are back even in Shia areas like Sadr City in Baghdad
and many southern cities like Diwaniya, Samawa, and Kut where the al-Mehdi
militia (of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) controls the ground," Abbas
Abdul-Mehdi from Diwaniya told IPS while on a visit to Baghdad. "Their
bombs fall on our heads, while the militiamen know how to hide and escape."
The U.S. forces are looking to do more of all this. "There are
times when the Army wishes we had more jets," F-16 pilot Lt. Col.
Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron
"What the U.S. forces are doing now is increasing their air force
potential in a last attempt to crush the fighters with the minimum casualties
possible," retired Iraqi Army colonel Mustafa Abbood from Baghdad
told IPS. "It is a desperate attempt to make Iraqis turn against
their fellow-fighters. It failed in Fallujah, and I do not see how it
will work elsewhere."
Iraqis around Baghdad say they have noticed more air traffic in recent
months. "There is a notable increase in the number of airplanes
flying in the Iraqi skies," Amjad Fadhil, a farmer from Latifiya,
south of Baghdad, told IPS. "F-16s and helicopters are roaring
like monsters everywhere." There are more than 100 U.S. aircraft
crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time.
Air Force engineers are working long hours to upgrade Balad air base,
just north of Baghdad, which already supports 10,000 air operations
per week. One of the two 11,000-foot runways has been reinforced to
withstand five to seven years more of hard use.
Ten-year-old Salli Hussein lost both her legs when her home was bombed
by a U.S. jet fighter near the Abu Ghraib area of Baghdad in November
2006. Her 11-year-old brother, Akram, and cousin Tabarak were torn to
pieces in that missile attack.
"I want to have legs again so that I can play with my friends
and make Mama happy," she told this IPS correspondent.
(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close
collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on
Iraq who travels extensively in the region)