By James Cogan
12 January, 2008
The US military unleashed a huge bombardment on the Arab Jubour district just 15 kilometres south-east of Baghdad on Thursday. In the space of 10 minutes, B-1 Stealth bombers and F-16 fighter-bombers pounded 47 targets with 47,500 pounds of high explosive bombs. A military spokesman, Major Alayne Conway, boasted that the operation “was one of the largest air strikes since the onset of the war”. The blasts were seen, heard and felt in the suburbs of Iraq’s capital.
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has ordered increasing use of air strikes in order to meet the Bush administration’s desperate demands for reduced US casualties and the suppression of the ongoing insurgency. In 2007, there were at least 1,119 air strikes, according to the US Air Force, compared with 229 the previous year.
American spokesmen have claimed that four targets were not hit due to concerns over civilian casualties. As in Afghanistan, however, the reliance on air power against guerrillas embedded within the Iraqi civilian population leads to the slaughter of non-combatants. In the Arab Jubour area, three women and two children were killed by an air strike 10 days ago, according to a source cited by the New York Times on Friday.
The largest operations are taking place in districts of Diyala province to the north east of Baghdad, and further north in regions near the cities of Tikrit, Kirkuk and Mosul. In all areas, the US military is receiving assistance from sections of the Sunni establishment to hunt down opponents.
The towns, villages and hamlets of Arab Jubour have been a major battleground between the US occupation and insurgents, and in the civil war between rival Sunni factions. The area, which had a pre-war population of more than 100,000, is now a wasteland of bombed-out buildings, dried-up channels and abandoned fields. It was once renowned for its intricate and centuries-old irrigation systems which fed off the Tigris River and supplied productive date and fruit orchards. Its beauty, rural charm and proximity to Baghdad made it a desirable location for the homes of better-off Iraqis, including officials of the Baathist government and military officers.
Following the US invasion, it was a logical base of operations for Iraqi guerrillas. It was close to the capital and the population was sympathetic to the resistance. The terrain both provided ample hide-outs and made operations by US armoured vehicles difficult.
Just 12 months ago, on January 18, 2007, the then US commander in the area, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Odom, told CBS News: “We’re up against a Sunni-based insurgency that is dissatisfied with the Iraqi government. They think the government does not support them with basic services like electricity, food and fuel vouchers. They view the Iraqi government as essentially supporting Shiite militias. Ninety to 100 percent of the area’s residents either actively or passively support the insurgency. Clearly, many of them have been in the military, based on the engagements we have had. Their tactics, their employment of indirect fire systems, indicates something beyond just paramilitary training.”
A great deal is said in the US media about the ruthlessness of Islamist insurgent groups in dealing with opponents, but the savage methods employed by the US military and the anti-democratic character of their new Sunni allies are allowed to pass without comment.