I've been reading the pamphlet Jon Cruddas MP wrote with the usually excellent John Harris "Fit For Purpose" and when my blood pressure decreases and my GP allows I will be blogging on it - however until that time has anyone come across Project Censored before?
I was forwarded the link by a reader and it looks interesting, although a few of their stories (on 9/11 and the piece on US troops in Paraguay particularly) are the kind that will always make me a little cautious.
However, there was also an intriguing item, Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians, which explores issues that I think bear further thought. The article speculates that whilst Bush may well be seeking to reduce the number of ground troops stationed in Iraq it will only be to replace them with an increased air capacity to act in concert with Iraqi government ground forces.
If this turns out to be true then this certainly won't be the first time that Western air power has been used to suppress the region. From 1920 parts of the Middle East were divied up between the victorious Western players of the First World War. Iraq was governed by the British, Lebanon and Syria by the French.
The British government installed a puppet regime that inspired a nationalist uprising (the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution) which was essentially a mass rebellion bringing together creeds and regions.
In order to protect their puppet (and control of the region) the British began to rely almost exclusively on the newly formed RAF, with its ability to cover large distances, to spread terror throughout the region by committing murderous reprisals against areas that were not playing ball. The casualties caused by the RAF strafing and bombing raids were not just an inevitable consequence of their behaviour, these indiscriminate killings were the actual policy objective.
Whilst the regime was completely reliant upon the British, both politically and militarily, this puppet government did not always see eye to eye with its benefactors. In 1923 the Iraqis outrageously demanded that a whopping 20% of oil revenue go to the Iraqi government rather than the British / French consortium TPC. This was clearly not cricket and these demands were well and truly passed over when the TPC consortium was renamed (apparently without irony) as the Iraq Petroleum Company combining UK, French, Dutch and US companies - and what could the Iraqi regime do? They needed the British armed forces to protect them from the people they had been installed to rule over.
Some of the modern day counterparts in the American Air Forces are said to have reservations about using air power in this way. Partly out of a distrust for the democratic credentials of the people they are propping up, one senior military planner is quoted as saying “Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of their own sect and blame someone else? Will some Iraqis be targeting on behalf of al-Qaeda, or the insurgency, or the Iranians?”
The Project Censored article reports that air sorties are on the increase and its difficult to see this as anything other than the US government giving up on trying to win hearts and minds in Iraq altogether and are increasingly reliant on the use of brute force to maintain their dominion of the region.
Air power can be used in a relatively targeted way in "regular" warfare against conventional forces but when used against guerrilla forces, particularly when dug into an urban environment air strikes are guaranteed to create unacceptably high civilian casualties.
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski states the reasons behind the policy rather well when she says;
“Shifting the mechanism of the destruction of Iraq from soldiers and Marines to distant and safer air power would be successful in several ways. It would reduce the negative publicity value of maimed American soldiers and Marines, would bring a portion of our troops home and give the Army a necessary operational break. It would increase Air Force and Naval budgets, and line defense contractor pockets. By the time we figure out that it isn’t working to make oil more secure or to allow Iraqis to rebuild a stable country, the Army will have recovered and can be redeployed in force.”
If the US is genuinely considering shifting their combination of forces towards a predominantly air dominated mix perhaps it could be seen as a cynical maneuver to save US lives (and reduce punishing headlines) at the expense of far greater Iraqi casualties, casualties the Western public care far less about.