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    U.S. FORCES MARK IRAQI VILLAGERS WITH NUMBERS photo essay http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2007/kozyrev_qubah_multimedia/ === Plight of Iraq s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2007
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      U.S. FORCES 'MARK' IRAQI VILLAGERS WITH NUMBERS
      photo essay
      http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2007/kozyrev_qubah_multimedia/

      ===
      Plight of Iraq's Palestinian refugees worsens-UN
      Mon May 14, 2007
      By Khaled Yacoub Oweis


      DAMASCUS, May 14 (Reuters) - Intense heat and a lack of water and
      medical care are making life "hell" for around 1,000 Palestinians
      stranded in a camp near Iraq's border with Syria, a U.N. official who
      visited the refugees said on Monday.

      A baby has died from fever and a man from asthma at the desolate
      al-Waleed camp in the desert. A 13-year-old needs a back operation to
      avoid paralysis and a two-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has no
      specialist care, said Michelle Alfaro, Iraq protection officer for the
      U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

      "The refugee numbers are swelling by the day. It's a tragedy for these
      people to start dying from preventable diseases after escaping Baghdad
      to save their lives," said Alfaro, who obtained a clearance from the
      Syrian authorities to cross to the camp.

      "The conditions are especially treacherous for children. There is
      nothing green to be seen anywhere. With the heat and dust, life is
      hell," Alfaro told Reuters and the BBC at the offices of the UNHCR in
      the Syrian capital.

      Most of the refugees fled persecution and violence in Baghdad, where
      Iraq's Palestinian community is concentrated. Complicated procedures
      to reach the camp from Syria and lack of security on the Iraqi side
      have hampered aid efforts, Alfaro said.

      Iraq had 30,000 registered Palestinian refugees before the U.S.-led
      invasion in 2003. The community became the target of attacks partly
      because of the government's support for the Palestinians under Saddam
      Hussein's rule.

      Syria stopped taking in Palestinian refugees from Iraq after allowing
      in 250 a year ago. It allows pregnant women and sick people from Tanf,
      another camp sheltering 389 Palestinian refugees in the no man's land
      on the border, to go to Syrian hospitals for treatment but sends them
      back afterwards.

      Damascus says it is cooperating with international organisations but
      that other countries in the region, including Israel, should take in a
      proportion of the Palestinian refugees from Iraq.


      ACCESS

      Alfaro said the UNHCR recognised the dimension of the problem but
      urged Syria to facilitate movement into Waleed.

      The camp has only one doctor, himself a Palestinian refugee and no
      regular water supply. Each refugee receives 1.5 litres of bottled
      drinking water every two days.

      "If only we could get the medical cases out, but we need regular
      access from Syria. The nearest hospital in Iraq is five hours away but
      it's dangerous to go there," she said.

      The number of refugees at al Waleed has risen sevenfold since January
      and attacks against Palestinians in Baghdad show no signs of halting,
      she said.

      "One woman watched her home burn. She was not even allowed to collect
      her ID cards from the house. Others suffered torture," Alfaro said.

      The UNHCR, which considers all Palestinians still in Iraq at risk,
      says 200 to 300 have been killed there since the U.S.-led invasion
      removed Saddam from power.

      Syria already hosts more than one million Iraqi refugees and 430,000
      Palestinian refugees registered with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
      Most are descendants of those who fled their land when Israel was
      created in 1948.

      ===

      Our Shadowy Iraq Air War
      Nick Turse
      May 24, 2007
      http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/05/24/our_shadowy_iraq_air_war.php


      Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of
      Tomdispatch.com. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San
      Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for
      Tomdispatch. A shorter version of this piece appears in this week's
      Nation Magazine, and this version appeared on TomDispatch.com.


      Did the U.S. military use cluster bombs in Iraq in 2006 and then lie
      about it? Does the U.S. military keep the numbers of rockets and
      cannon rounds fired from its planes and helicopters secret because
      more Iraqi civilians have died due to their use than any other type of
      weaponry?

      These are just two of the many unanswered questions related to the
      largely uncovered air war the U.S. military has been waging in Iraq.

      What we do know is this: Since the major combat phase of the war ended
      in April 2003, the U.S. military has dropped at least 59,787 pounds of
      air-delivered 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." We also know that, according to expert
      opinion, rockets and cannon fire from U.S. aircraft may account for
      most U.S. and coalition-attributed Iraqi civilian deaths and that the
      Pentagon has restocked hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these
      weapons in recent years.

      Unfortunately, thanks to an utter lack of coverage by the mainstream
      media, what we don't know about the air war in Iraq so far outweighs
      what we do know that anything but the most minimal picture of the
      nature of destruction from the air in that country simply can't be
      painted. Instead, think of the story of U.S. air power in Iraq as a
      series of tiny splashes of lurid color on a largely blank canvas.

      Cluster Bombs

      Even among the least covered aspects of the air war in Iraq, the
      question of cluster-bomb (CBU) use remains especially shadowy. This is
      hardly surprising. After all, at a time when many nations are moving
      toward banning the use of cluster munitions—at a February 2007
      conference in Oslo, Norway, 46 of 48 governments represented supported
      a declaration for a new international treaty and ban on the weapons by
      2008—the U.S. stands with China, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia in
      opposing new limits of any kind.

      Little wonder. The U.S. military has a staggering arsenal of these
      weapons. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Army
      holds 88% of the Pentagon's CBU inventory—at least 638.3 million of
      the cluster bomblets that are stored inside each cluster munition; the
      Air Force and Navy, according to Department of Defense figures, have
      22.2 million and 14.7 million of the bomblets, respectively. And even
      these numbers are considered undercounts by experts.

      A cluster bomb bursts above the ground, releasing hundreds of smaller,
      deadly submunitions or "bomblets" that increase the weapon's kill
      radius causing, as Garlasco puts it, "indiscriminate effects." It's a
      weapon, he notes, that "cannot distinguish between a civilian and a
      soldier when employed because of its wide coverage area. If you're
      dropping the weapon and you blow your target up you're also hitting
      everything within a football field. So to use it in proximity to
      civilians is inviting a violation of the laws of armed conflict."

      Worse yet, U.S. cluster munitions have a high failure rate. A sizeable
      number of dud bomblets fall to the ground and become de facto
      landmines which, Garlasco points out, are "already banned by most
      nations on this planet." Garlasco adds: "I don't see how any use of
      the current U.S. cluster bomb arsenal in proximity to civilian objects
      can be defended in any way as being legal or legitimate."

      In an email message earlier this year, a U.S. Central Command Air
      Forces (CENTAF) spokesman told this reporter that "there were no
      instances" of CBU usage in Iraq in 2006. But military documents
      suggest this might not be the case.

      Last year, Titus Peachey of the Mennonite Central Committee—an
      organization that has studied the use of cluster munitions for more
      than 30 years—filed a Freedom of Information Act request concerning
      the U.S. military's use of cluster bombs in Iraq since "major combat
      operations" officially ended in that country. In their response, the
      Air Force confirmed that 63 CBU-87 cluster bombs were dropped in Iraq
      between May 1, 2003 and August 1, 2006. A CENTAF spokesman contacted
      for confirmation that none of these were dropped on or after January
      1, 2006, offered no response. His superior officer, Lt. Col. Johnn
      Kennedy, the Deputy Director of CENTAF Public Affairs, similarly
      ignored this reporter's requests for clarification.

      These 12,726 BLU-97 bomblets—each CBU-87 contains 202 BLU-97s or
      "Combined Effects Bombs" (CEBs) which have anti-personnel, anti-tank,
      and incendiary capabilities or "kill mechanisms"—dropped since May
      2003 are, according to statistics provided by Human Rights Watch, in
      addition to almost two million cluster submunitions used by coalition
      forces in Iraq in March and April 2003.

      Asked about CBU usage by the Air Force in Iraq in 2006, Ali
      al-Fadhily, an independent Iraqi journalist, commented: "The use of
      cluster bombs is a sure thing, but it was very difficult to prove
      because there were no international experts to document it." In the
      past, however, international experts have actually had a chance to
      examine some locations where a fraction of the bomblets that coalition
      forces used have landed.

      On a 2004 research trip to Iraq, for instance, Titus Peachey visited
      numerous sites which had experienced such strikes. At a farm in
      northern Iraq, he was shown not only impact craters from exploded
      bomblets on a farmer's property but also unexploded bomblets, by a
      team from the Mines Advisory Group, a humanitarian organization
      devoted to landmine and bomb clearance. While "the de-miners expressed
      frustration that the farmer had planted his field before it had been
      cleared," Peachey explained that this was a common, if dangerous,
      practice in such situations. The U.S. used similar ordnance in Laos
      during the Vietnam War, he pointed out, noting:

      "The villagers of Laos waited more than 20 years for clearance
      work to get started in their fields and villages. During that time
      they had no choice but to till soil that was filled with bombs.
      Otherwise they could not eat. In Iraq, the several visits that we made
      confirmed this very same dynamic. People could not afford to wait
      until clearance teams made their farms safe for cultivation. They had
      to take great risks in order to survive."

      Evidence of these risks can be found in U.S. military documents. Case
      in point: a June 2005 internal memorandum from the U.S. Army's 42d
      Infantry Division which describes how a 15-year old Iraqi boy, working
      as a shepherd, "was leading the sheep through north Tikrit, near an
      ammo storage site, when he picked up a UXO [unexploded ordnance] from
      a cluster bomb. The UXO detonated and he was killed." Asked to pay
      $3,000 in compensation for the boy's life, the Army granted that his
      death was "a horrible loss for the claimant," his mother, but
      concluded that there was "insufficient evidence to indicate that US.
      Forces caused the death."

      Iraqi documents also chronicle the effects of air-delivered cluster
      munitions. Take a September 2006 report by the Conservation Center of
      Environment & Reserves, an Iraqi non-governmental organization (NGO),
      examining alleged violations of the laws of war by U.S. forces during
      the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. According to its partial list of
      civilian deaths, at least 53 people were killed by air-launched
      cluster bombs in the city that April. An analysis of data collected by
      another Iraqi NGO, the Iraqi Health and Social Care Organization,
      showed that, between March and June 2006, of 193 war-injured
      casualties analyzed, 148 (77%) were the result of cluster munitions of
      unspecified type.

      Air War, Iraq: 2006

      While cluster bombs remain a point of contention, Air Force officials
      do acknowledge that U.S. military and coalition aircraft dropped at
      least 111,000 pounds of other types of bombs on targets in Iraq in
      2006. This figure—177 bombs in all—does not include guided missiles or
      unguided rockets fired, or cannon rounds expended; nor, according to a
      CENTAF spokesman, does it take into account the munitions used by some
      Marine Corps and other coalition fixed-wing aircraft or any Army or
      Marine Corps helicopter gunships; nor does it include munitions used
      by the armed helicopters of the many private security contractors
      flying their own missions in Iraq.

      In statistics provided to me, CENTAF reported a total of 10,519 "close
      air support missions" in Iraq in 2006, during which its aircraft
      dropped those 177 bombs and fired 52 "Hellfire/Maverick missiles." The
      Guided Bomb Unit-12, a laser-guided bomb with a 500-pound general
      purpose warhead—95 of which were reportedly dropped in 2006—was the
      most frequently used bomb in Iraq last year, according to CENTAF. In
      addition, 67 satellite-guided, 500-pound GBU-38s and 15 2,000-pound
      GBU-31/32 munitions were also dropped on Iraqi targets in 2006,
      according to official U.S. figures. There is no independent way,
      however, to confirm the accuracy of this official count.

      Rockets

      Rockets, like the 2.75-inch Hydra-70 rocket which can be outfitted
      with various warheads and fired from either fixed-wing aircraft or
      most military helicopters, are conspicuously absent from the totals—so
      as not to "skew the tally and present an inaccurate picture of the air
      campaign," said a CENTAF spokesman mysteriously. If released, these
      figures might, however, prove impressive indeed. According to a 2005
      press release issued by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who helped secure a
      five-year, $900 million Hydra contract from the Army for General
      Dynamics, "the widely used Hydra-70 rocket… has seen extensive use in
      Afghanistan and Iraq… [and] has become the world's most widely used
      helicopter-launched weapon system." By this April, $502 million in
      orders for the Hydra-70 had been placed by the Army since the contract
      was awarded.

      Cannon Rounds

      The number of cannon rounds—essentially large caliber "bullets"—fired
      by CENTAF aircraft is also a closely guarded secret. The official
      reason given is that "special forces often use aircraft such as the
      AC-130" gunships, which fire cannon rounds, and "their missions and
      operations are classified, so therefore these figures are not
      released." However, an idea of the number of cannon rounds expended by
      CENTAF aircraft can be gleaned from a description of a single
      operation on January 28, 2007 when U.S. F-16s and A-10 Thunderbolts
      not only "dropped more than 3.5 tons of precision munitions," but also
      fired "1,200 rounds of 20mm and 1,100 rounds of 30mm cannon fire" in a
      five square mile area near the southern city of Najaf.

      A sense of usage levels can also be gathered from a consideration of
      contracts awarded in recent years. Take the 20mm PGU-28 ammunition
      used by helicopters like the AH-1 Cobra and fixed-wing aircraft like
      the F-16. In 2001, the Department of Defense noted that it held
      approximately eight million PGU-28/B rounds in its inventory. In May
      2003, the Army took steps to increase that arsenal by modifying an
      existing contract with General Dynamics to add 980,064 rounds of 20mm
      ammunition to 1.3 million rounds already delivered since December 2001.

      In February 2004, General Dynamics was awarded an almost $11 million
      add-on to an already existing contract for an extra 427,000 cannon
      rounds for the AH-1 Cobra helicopter. In September 2006, General
      Dynamics was awarded a similar nearly $14 million add-on for yet more
      20mm ammunition; and, in April 2007, $22 million for more of the same.
      That same month, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command issued a "sources
      sought notice," looking for more arms manufacturers willing to produce
      six million or more rounds of such ordnance with promises of an
      "estimated 400% option over 5 years."

      Yet, repeated inquiries about cannon rounds fired in Iraq prompted a
      CENTAF spokesman to emphatically state in an email: "WE DO NOT REPORT
      CANNON ROUNDS." Lt. Col. Johnn Kennedy followed up, noting, "Glad to
      see you appreciate the tremendous efforts [my subordinate] has already
      expended on you. Trust me, it's probably much more significant than
      the relentless pursuit of the number of cannon rounds."

      But the number of cannon rounds and rockets fired by U.S. aircraft is
      hardly an insignificant matter. According to Les Roberts, co-author of
      two surveys of mortality in Iraq published in the British medical
      journal, The Lancet, "Rocket and cannon fire could account for most
      coalition-attributed civilian deaths." He adds, "I find it disturbing
      that they will not release this [figure], but even more disturbing
      that they have not released such information to Congressmen who have
      requested it."

      In 2004, Roberts himself witnessed the destruction caused by cannon
      fire in Baghdad's vast Shiite slum, Sadr City. He recalls again and
      again passing through 100-200 meter-wide areas of neighborhoods that
      had been raked by cannon rounds. "It wasn't one house that was beat
      up," he recalled. "It would be five, six, seven buildings in a row."
      Unlike bomb- and artillery-ravaged Ramadi and Fallujah, Roberts noted:

      "There weren't whole buildings knocked down. There were just big
      swaths of many, many houses where every window was broken, where there
      were thousands of pockmarks from cannon fire; not little dents, but
      huge chunks the size of your fist out of the walls, and lamp-posts
      bent over because they lost their integrity from being hit so many times."

      This portrait of devastation is echoed in the words of journalist Ali
      al-Fadhily, who told me that he had witnessed helicopter gunships in
      action, noting: "The destruction they caused was always immense and
      casualties so many. They simply destroy the target with every living
      soul inside. The smell of death comes with those machines."

      While the destructive capacity of helicopter gunships has been
      well-documented and we have indications of the levels of ammunition
      available to the military, the actual scale of use is hard to pin
      down. Flight hours are, however, another indication. According to
      James Glantz of the New York Times, Army helicopters logged 240,000
      flight hours in Iraq in 2005, 334,000 in 2006, and projections for
      2007 suggest that the figure will reach 400,000. (And these numbers
      don't even include Marine Corps squadrons, heliborne missions by
      private security contractors, or those of the nascent Iraqi Air Force.)

      Top Secret Information

      While military press information officers continue to stonewall on the
      number of cannon rounds fired by helicopters ("We cannot comment on
      your inquiry due to operational security"), earlier this year Col.
      Robert A. Fitzgerald, the Marine Corps' head of aviation plans and
      policy, was quoted in National Defense Magazine on the subject. He
      claimed that, in 2006, "Marine rotary-wing aircraft flew more than
      60,000 combat flight hours, and fixed-wing platforms completed 31,000.
      They dropped 80 tons of bombs and fired 80 missiles, 3,532 rockets and
      more than 2 million rounds of smaller ammunition." (When asked if Col.
      Fitzgerald's admission endangered "operational security," a military
      spokesman responded, "I cannot comment on the policies or release
      authority of a Marine colonel.")

      While Col. Fitzgerald's statistics presumably also include operations
      in Afghanistan (where we know U.S. air power has been called upon ever
      more heavily), they do remind us that the minimalist figures regularly
      given out by CENTAF hardly offer an accurate picture of the air war in
      Iraq. When combined with the military's evasive non-answers, they are
      also a reminder of what a dearth of information is actually available
      on even seemingly innocuous matters relating to the air war in Iraq.

      For example, from January through April, I posed questions to a
      Coalition Press Information Center media contact—one "SSG Wiley."
      After being rebuffed on the topic of munitions expenditure, I asked,
      in January, about the total number of "rotary-wing sorties" flown in
      2006. The aptly-named Wiley responded that s/he "sent it out to the
      relevant directorates and [was] awaiting a response.... I will contact
      you as soon as I get something." That turned out, despite follow-up,
      to be never. Following a March 30th query regarding "the relevant
      directorates," s/he entreated me, by email, to drop my request for
      information. Facing the reportorial void, I asked if Wiley would at
      least provide his/her full name and title for attribution in this
      article. S/he has yet to respond.

      The New Iraqi Air Force

      Another little-talked about aspect of the air war is the modest
      emergence of a new Iraqi Air Force (IAF). Until the first Gulf War,
      the Iraqi military had a large air contingent, including hundreds of
      modern Russian and French combat aircraft. Today, apparently owing to
      U.S. reluctance to put powerful modern weaponry of any sort in Iraqi
      hands, the reconstituted IAF is a distinctly less impressive force.
      Instead of advanced fighters and bombers, they fly SAMA CH-2000
      two-seat, single-engine prop airplanes, SB7L-360 Seeker reconnaissance
      aircraft, a handful of C-130 Hercules turbo-prop cargo planes, and
      Bell 206 Ranger, UH-1HP "Huey" and Russian Mi-17 helicopters based out
      of military installations in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and Taji.

      Recently returning from a fact-finding mission in Iraq, undertaken in
      his capacity as an adjunct professor at the United States Military
      Academy at West Point, retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey called
      for sending more aircraft, including 150 helicopters, to the Iraqi
      security forces. In fact, the IAF recently did take delivery of newly
      refurbished helicopters at Taji Air Base, is scheduled to receive new
      aircraft at Kirkuk, and has contracted to add 28 new Mi-17 helicopters
      in the near future.

      The IAF may even be conducting full-scale air strikes of its own
      sometime soon. As of April 1, 2007, five Iraqi Bell 206 Ranger pilots
      from its 12th Squadron had already logged more than 188 combat hours.
      In a recent Air Force Times article, Capt. Shane Werley, the chief
      American advisor to the IAF's 2d Squadron, asserted that pilots he was
      working with would, at an unspecified date, "be taking missions from
      the [Army's] 1st Cavalry [Division at Taji]…. The bottom line is we're
      getting these guys back in the fight."

      The Scale of the Carnage

      Just a few dogged reporters assigned to the air-power beat might, at
      least, have offered some sense of the human fall-out of this largely
      one-sided air war. Since this has not been the case, we must rely on
      the best available evidence. One valuable source is the national
      cross-sectional cluster sample survey of mortality in Iraq since the
      2003 invasion, published last year in The Lancet which used
      well-established survey methods that have been proven accurate in
      conflict zones from Kosovo to the Congo. (Interviewers actually
      inspected death certificates in an overwhelming majority of the Iraqi
      households surveyed.)

      Carried out by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg
      School of Public Health and Iraqi physicians organized through
      Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, it estimated 655,000 "excess Iraqi
      deaths as a consequence of the war." The study also found that, from
      March 2003 through June 2006, 13% of violent deaths in Iraq were
      caused by coalition air strikes. If the 655,000 figure, including over
      601,000 violent deaths, is accurate, this would equal approximately
      78,133 Iraqis killed by bombs, missiles, rockets, or cannon rounds up
      to last June.

      There are also indications that the air war has taken an especially
      grievous toll on Iraqi children. Figures provided by The Lancet
      study's authors suggest that 50% of all violent deaths of Iraqi
      children under 15 years of age in that same period were due to
      coalition air strikes. These findings are echoed by Conservation
      Center of Environment & Reserves' statistics, indicating that no fewer
      of 25 of the 59 Iraqis on their partial list of those killed by air
      strikes during the April 2004 siege of Fallujah were children.

      The Iraq Body Count Project (IBC), a group of researchers based in the
      United Kingdom who maintain a public database of Iraqi civilian deaths
      resulting from the war, carefully restricts itself to media-documented
      reports of civilian fatalities. While its figures are consequently
      much lower than The Lancet's —currently, its tally range stands at:
      64,133-70,243—an analysis of its media-limited data offers a glimpse
      of the human costs of the air war.

      Statistics provided by the Iraq Body Count Project show that from
      2003-2006, coalition air strikes, according to media sources alone
      (which, as we know, have covered the air war poorly), killed
      3,615-4,083 people and left another 11,956-12,962 wounded. Last year,
      media reports listed between 169-200 Iraqis killed and 111-112 injured
      in 28 separate coalition air strikes, according to the IBC project.
      These numbers also appear to be on the rise. John Sloboda, the
      project's spokesperson and co-founder notes by email that, during
      2006, the "vast majority" of lethal air strikes took place during the
      latter half of the year.

      Asked about the assertion that the second half of 2006 was deadlier
      for Iraqis, due to U.S. air strikes, and the possible reasons for
      this, Lt. Col. Kennedy waxed eloquent: "War, by its very nature, has
      ebbs and flows, and we constantly review the application of airpower
      to best support the forces on the ground in theater. We view this as
      simply part of our contract to the warfighters. As we do not discuss
      operational aspects of missions, I'll decline further comment." But
      recently, Air Force Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley did admit that
      he had "anecdotal evidence" suggesting "airpower is the most lethal of
      the components in wrapping up bad guys." He continued, "As far as
      numbers of people killed, as far as wrapping up bad guys and as far as
      delivering a kinetic effect, the air component—which also includes
      Marine and Navy air, by the way—is the most lethal of the components."

      According to IBC's figures, during the first three months of 2007,
      U.S. air attacks had already killed more than half as many civilians
      as had died in all air strikes last year—some 95-107 deaths; and
      publicly available CENTAF statistics indeed do show a surge in close
      air-support missions in 2007. For example, between March 24 and March
      30, 2006, CENTAF reported 366 close air support missions. In 2007, the
      number for the same dates skyrocketed to 437—an almost 20 percent jump.

      The Secret of Why the Air War Is So Secret

      Unfortunately, media reports on the air war are so sparse, with
      reporting confined largely to reprinting U.S. military handouts and
      announcements of air strikes, that much of the air war in Iraq remains
      unknown—although the very fact of an occupying power regularly
      conducting air strikes in and near population centers should have
      raised a question or two. Echoing Ali al-Fadhily's comments about the
      dearth of international observers in Iraq, Garlasco of Human Rights
      Watch notes, "Because of the lack of security we've had no one on the
      ground for three years now, and so we have no way of knowing what's
      going on there." He adds, "It's a huge hole in all the human rights
      organizations' reporting."

      But human rights organizations and other NGOs are just part of the
      story. Since the Bush administration's invasion, the American air war
      has been given remarkably short shrift in the media. Back in December
      2004, Tom Engelhardt, writing at Tomdispatch, called attention to this
      glaring absence. Seymour Hersh's seminal piece on air power, "Up in
      the Air," published in the New Yorker in late 2005, briefly ushered in
      some mainstream attention to the subject. And articles by Dahr Jamail,
      an independent journalist who covered the American occupation of Iraq,
      before and after the Hersh piece, are among the smattering of pieces
      that have offered glimpses of the air campaign and its impact. To
      date, however, the mainstream media has not, to use the words of Lt.
      Col. Kennedy, engaged in a "relentless pursuit of the number of cannon
      rounds" fired—or any other aspect of the air war or its consequences
      for Iraqis.

      Les Roberts especially laments just "how profoundly the press has
      failed us" when it comes to coverage of the war. "In the first couple
      of years of the war," he says, "our survey data suggest that there
      were more deaths from bombs dropped by our planes than there were
      deaths from roadside explosives and car bombs [detonated by
      insurgents]." The only group on the ground systematically collecting
      violent death data at the time, the NGO Coordinating Committee for
      Iraq, he notes, found the same thing. "If you had been reading the
      U.S. papers and watching the U.S. television news at the time,"
      Roberts adds, "you would have gotten the impression that
      anti-coalition bombs were more numerous. That was not just wrong, it
      probably was wrong by a factor of ten!"

      With the military unwilling to tell the truth—or say anything at all,
      in most cases—and unable to provide the stability necessary for NGOs
      to operate, it falls to the mainstream media, even at this late stage
      of the conflict, to begin ferreting out substantive information on the
      air war. It seems, however, that until reporters begin bypassing
      official U.S. military pronouncements and locating Iraqi sources, we
      will remain largely in the dark with little knowledge of what can only
      be described as the secret U.S. air war in Iraq.

      *********************************************************************

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