Future Shock: A Deadly Harbinger of Post-Surge Iraq

From AP, July 21:
Aircraft fired missiles and dropped a bomb in a Shiite stronghold in northeastern Baghdad, killing six militants, the U.S. military said Saturday. Iraqi officials claimed a higher death toll, saying 18 civilians were killed.

The Husseiniyah airstrikes began after American forces came under small-arms fire from a building just before midnight, prompting helicopters to fire missiles at the structure, the military said, adding that three of the gunmen fled into another building.Aircraft dropped a bomb that destroyed that house, setting off at least seven secondary explosions believed caused by explosives and munitions stored inside, according to the military statement. Iraqi police inspected the site and reported six militants killed and five wounded, it said.

The military account contradicted reports from Iraqi police and hospital officials, who said 18 civilians had been killed and 21 wounded in the 2 a.m. attack in Husseiniyah, where Shiite militias operate openly near the road leading to volatile Diyala province.

AP Television News videotape showed wounded women and children lying in hospital beds, and white pickup trucks carrying at least 11 bodies wrapped in blankets to the morgue. Men unloaded the bodies, including several that were small and apparently children, as women shrouded in black wailed in mourning.

Relatives said those killed had died in the airstrike. The conflicting accounts could not be reconciled.

You'd better get used to hearing a lot more stories like this in the months to come, even if – or especially if – the "consensus bipartisan position" on Iraq that Fred Hiatt champions comes to pass: i.e., a withdrawal of some U.S. troops, leaving a "residual force" behind to "train the Iraqi army" and "fight terrorism." With a reduced number of combat troops, airpower – against civilian areas – will come increasingly to the fore. (Not that it hasn't been a heavy presence all along.)

In this, of course, George W. Bush will making the dream of his great hero, Winston Churchill, come true: keeping the "recalcitrant tribes" of Mesopotamia in line by bombing the hell out of them. We are watching a similar scenario play out in Afghanistan, where civilians deaths from U.S. and NATO airstrikes have taken a quantum leap in the last few months.

Any "withdrawal" plan that includes a "residual force" in Iraq is simply a perpetuation of the current war crime by other means. Indeed, as we have pointed out over and over here, it would constitute "mission accomplished" for one of Bush's primary aims in this war of aggression: a permanent military presence in Iraq. Client regime; oil law; permanent bases: these are the Holy Trinity of Bush's ungodly enterprise. The political exigencies of the moment may cause some alterations in the methods used to achieve these goals; e.g., eventually moving from a massive ground force to a smaller presence backed up by the increased use of airpower (and mercenaries); or exchanging one weak "sovereign government" in Baghdad for another. But the goals remain the same; and by every indication, most of the Democrats in Congress share those goals, since every one of their oh-so-bold "antiwar" measures would give Bush what he ultimately wants: a client regime hustling to meet "benchmarks" set by Washington – including an oil law opening up the conquered nation's patrimony to Western interests – all safeguarded by a continuing American military presence.

So I guess the execrable Fred Hiatt is right after all: there really is a consensus bipartisan position on Iraq in Washington. And it's the same position that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld held when they set in motion the slaughter of nearly a million innocent civilians so many years ago. And as long as this "consensus" holds, the killing – whether by "surging" ground troops or "residual" airstrikes – will go on and on and on and on.
***