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The media and the "air war"
from left i on the news
Entered into the database on Wednesday, January 04th, 2006 @ 20:25:12 MST


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It wasn't long ago that a Washington Post article on death from the air in Iraq included not one but more than a half dozen "claims" by the military about the great pains they take to spare civilian casualties, how the Iraqis are always exaggerating, and so on. In today's news, it's happened again - nine members of a family, including women and children, were obliterated by "precision guided munitions" and 100 (!) cannon rounds. And, surprise, the Reuters description of the event closes with the obligatory claim: "U.S. commanders say they make every effort to minimize that risk."

Really? Let's examine the situation. According to the New York Times article (linked above), an unmanned drone spotted people allegedly planting a roadside bomb, who were then followed (from the air) into a building, which was then completely destroyed by a bomb and cannon fire. So exactly what "effort" was made to "minimize the risk" of killing civilians? Precisely none. Other than thinking (which, it appears, was untrue) that there were three resistance fighters in the building, the U.S. pilots had exactly no idea what else might be in that building. It could have been an orphanage for all they knew. Or for all they cared.

Update: The Washington Post version of the story counts 12 dead, not nine, but, preposterously given the circumstances, includes this statement in the third paragraph of the article: "A U.S. military spokesman said that American forces take every precaution to prevent civilian casualties." A little later they quote the same spokesman saying, "We are determining the facts in this particular case so we will know exactly how civilians may have been drawn into the air strike that was deemed necessary by our forces fighting insurgents on the ground." "Drawn into the air strike"? According to the Post's own reporter, "The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in the nightclothes and blankets in which they had apparently been sleeping." Talking about sleeping people being "drawn into the air strike" as if they had some involvement in it is an outrage. That doesn't stop the Post from allowing the military to have its say, without the slightest rebuttal from anyone with a different opinion.

Oh, and about those "precision guided munitions"? The Post's reporter did add this to the story: "Officials said six surrounding houses were damaged."

Further update: USA Today has an even more interesting take on the event. The front page, as I write this, asserts "U.S. bombs Iraq hideout Attack kills 7 insurgents, police say."

So this was a "hideout," and the police claimed 7 insurgents were killed, eh? The article, which is an AP article, leads with this: "U.S. aircraft bombed a building where suspected insurgents were hiding north of Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding four, Iraqi police said Tuesday." They missed one "suspected"; not only were the targets "suspected" insurgents, but it was also only "suspected" that they were hiding in the building (and subsequent evidence suggests they were not). Even if they were hiding, they wouldn't make the building a "hideout," which implies some kind of permanent or routine hideout, for which there's no evidence. And finally, note that Iraqi police, contrary to the headline on the front page, said nothing about "7 insurgents" being killed, they said seven people were killed in this bombing of a building containing suspected insurgents. Quite a different thing.

Still another update: I just noticed this in the subhead of the Washington Post article referred to above: "Americans Believed Targeted Farm Was Shelter for Insurgents." And what's wrong with that? Try to square the claim that this was a "farm" (and not just a "house") with the fact that "six surrounding houses were damaged" and the assertion that "precision guided munitions" were used. Did your head explode yet?