Annals of Liberation: Iraqis Cite Another Massacre of Civilians by American Airpower

Our text for today: Accounts Differ Sharply on U.S. Attack in Iraq (NYT)

American troops backed by aircraft attacked a Shiite town north of Baghdad at dawn on Friday, killing at least 25 Iraqis the military described as criminals who were involved in the transport of weapons. But Iraqis at the scene said the dead were civilians, though some were armed. The military said it was searching for an insurgent leader believed to be associated with the elite Iranian Quds Force, which American intelligence sources believe is working in Iraq to foment violent activity by some Shiite militias. A military spokesman said the insurgent leader was not captured in the raid.

Iraqis at the scene gave an account that diverged sharply from that of the military. They said that the Iraqis who were killed were trying to defend their town from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni militant group that American intelligence believes has foreign leadership. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has been active in Diyala Province, where the town is located, but so have militias associated with the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

“The residents were defending themselves and the town,” said Uday al-Khadran, the mayor of Khalis, the district in which the fighting occurred.“They were not militias for killing people and they were recognized by the security forces in the district, and this issue is familiar in all the towns of Khalis because of Al Qaeda threats, especially to the Shiite,” he said.

An official in the provincial office in Baquba, the provincial capital, said that the city’s hospital had received eight children, four of whom died.

We had a post on a similar theme here last week, but it was lost in the hack that hit us last Sunday; because it was the last piece before the attack, it had not been backed up. So here is it again. As noted below, we will be seeing a lot of more of this in the weeks and months to come, thanks to the bipartisan consensus to "give the surge a chance."

A Respectful Reply to a Statement by the U.S. Military Regarding Allegations of Civilian Deaths in Iraq

On Thursday, the U.S. military admitted that it had killed five women and four children in a raid by fighter jets on a house in the small Iraqi village of Babahani on Tuesday. (The Pentagon had initially reported only that "seven suspected insurgents" had been killed in the airstrike on the civilian neighborhood.)

A statement issued by the occupation force explained the attack thusly:

"Structures in the area have historically been found to be used as safe houses for Al-Qaeda. Coalition Forces searching a nearby house located (bomb)-making material including command wire, batteries and timers."

At this point, we must, reluctantly, take issue with the statement of the unnamed military spokesperson. With all the due respect and deference now mandated by the United States Senate toward each and every military official, we must politely insist that it is not strictly correct to say that "structures in the area have historically been found to be used as safe houses for Al-Qaeda." On the contrary. Historically, in this area there was never any presence of al Qaeda (or any group purporting to be allied with al Qaeda, or any group accused of being connected with al Qaeda) -- until the United States invaded and occupied Iraq.

So, even assuming the truth of the assertion that some structures in the area are now being used as safe houses by al Qaeda – and it would of course be disrepectful to point out the unfortunate lack of credibility that has, historically, attended assertions by U.S. government spokespersons in regard to Iraq – the fact remains that there would not be any al Qaeda in Iraq if not for the resolute Commander-in-Chief who ordered the invasion and occupation.

Thus let us properly appportion the guilt for the murder of these innocent people, especially the children. It belongs, first and foremost, to George W. Bush. Then, from this most rotten of heads, it flows down through all those in the Administration who planned, promoted and carried out the war crime, and to all those outside the Administration who championed it, and to all those who, like the majority of Democrats in Congress, countenanced it and funded it (and do so still), and so on and on, coursing through the natural gates and alleys of the whole body politic, barking it about, most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust.

NOTE: Two days after the Babahani raid, an attack by U.S. helicopter gunships on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad killed at least seven men taking part in a Ramadan game. The next day, on Friday, at least 10 civilians, including four children and two women, were killed in an attack by U.S. helicopter gunships on a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad.

If it would not be too disrespectful to say so, one might almost note a trend at work here. Indeed, if we were not bound by the strictures of Senate-mandated civility, we could say that rising number of indiscriminate attacks on civilian neighborhoods by U.S. airpower appears to be an integral element of the "counterinsurgency" doctrine at the heart of the vaunted "surge." One might even go so far as to suggest – respectfully, of course – that we are witnessing a deliberate attempt to terrorize the civilian population into submission.

However, if such a suggestion is considered simply too far beyond the pale – especially as it could be seen as a criticism of the architect of the surge's counterinsurgency doctrine, General David Petraeus, whose reputation is under special protection by the Senate – then one could say that these increased civilian deaths are simply the inevitable result of trying to maintain the occupation and control of another country while minimizing impolitic and unsettling losses to your ground forces.

Thus what we are seeing in this constant harvesting of "collateral damage" through airstrikes is a preview of what Iraq would look like under the "withdrawal" plans offered by "serious" Democrats, all of which envision keeping a "residual force" in Iraq to deal with "terrorism," maintain "peace in the region," and staff the permanent U.S. bases being built there. The only way to protect such a diminished, isolated but still present force is, of course, through the increased use of airpower. So whichever "serious" candidate of whatever party wins (or is given) the presidency next year, there will be many more Babahanis.

But isn't it nice to see that the bipartisan unity that so many have sought to foster in Washington is now coming together at last?