The US has unleashed a ferocious bombing campaign on Iraq and Afghanistan, with devastating effects on the population. This surge in the “air war” is largely hidden behind talk of “recent successes” for the occupations.
According to figures released by the US military – known as “airpower summary of close air support missions” – in 2006 there were 229 US bombing missions. But last year this rose to 1,447 – more than a 500 percent increase.
The most frequently used munition in this campaign of air bombardment is the Guided Bomb Unit 12, a laser guided bomb with a 500 pound “general purpose warhead”. This warhead is capable of reducing houses to rubble.
In 2006 over 111,000 pounds of bombs were dropped on targets in Iraq. Extrapolating for 2007, it can be estimated that 500,000 pounds have been dropped.
This month there were massive airstrikes in the region south of Baghdad involving 38 bombers dropping 40,000 pounds of bombs in 10 minutes. This is a portent of the kind of high-tech destruction Iraqis face. These figures do not include guided missiles, unguided rockets and cannon rounds fired by helicopter gunships and warplanes. One weapon left out is the Hydra-70 rocket which is a widely used helicopter launched weapon system.
US special forces often use aircraft which wield a Gatling gun that fires up to 1,800 rounds a minute. The damage caused by these munitions is unimaginable.
Within a matter of minutes aerial bombardment can destroy homes, infrastructure and workplaces. Historical evidence attests that the US air war during the 1960s and 1970s displaced 25 percent of the population in Laos, 33 percent of Vietnamese and almost a million people in Cambodia.
Although the number of Iraqi casualties is contested, the highly credible survey published in the Lancet medical journal estimated that from March 2003 to June 2006 over 13 percent of the “excess” 601,000 violent deaths in Iraq were caused by airstrikes.
The authors of the report have also attributed half the deaths of Iraqi children under 15 to these airstrikes. With a fivefold increase in bombings, Iraqi fatalities can be expected to increase proportionately.
The vast increase in the numbers of refugees – two million internally displaced people and an equal number fleeing abroad – bears witness to this devastation.
Although there are no maps to track the damage to populated urban areas and villages throughout Iraq, there have been vivid eyewitness accounts of the destruction in Fallujah and Baghdad where residential and commercial buildings have been reduced to rubble.
Saleh Mamon is a peace campaigner and a retired teacher