By Brian Cook
IN These Times
July 17, 2007
For the Iraqi people, the surge in U.S. troops has meant more bombs dropping from the sky and a surge in deaths
On June 22, the Operation Iraqi Freedom website issued a press release that hyped a devastating blow against 17 al-Qaeda terrorists, who were gunned down by coalition attack helicopters at Khalis, Iraq, a small town outside of Baqouba. But when the BBC visited the town days later, the villagers told a different story. The men attacked by coalition forces were not al-Qaeda members, but local village guards, who only minutes earlier had been helping Iraqi police raid a suspect’s house. (It turned out to be a false alarm.) Eleven of the men were killed when U.S. helicopters suddenly appeared, raining missiles and heavy machine gunfire upon them. “It was like a battlefront, but with the fire going only in one direction,” one local witness said. “There was no return fire.”
These tragic deaths represent more than another sad chapter in the Pentagon’s Tolstoyan-length Book of Lies. At the same time Iraq has undergone a “surge” of an extra 28,000 U.S. troops, the country has experienced a surge in the number of U.S. bombs dropped on it. On June 11, the Associated Press’ Charles J. Hanley reported that in the first four and a half months of 2007, the U.S. Air Force dropped 237 bombs and missiles on Iraq, eight more than in all of 2006. (Those totals don’t include cannon rounds or rocket fire, nor any weaponry fired by Marine Corps aircraft.) It’s no surprise the number of Iraqi civilians killed by coalition forces has surged as well.
According to Iraq Body Count (IBC), a British anti war group that tabulates Iraqi civilian deaths reported by the media, civilian deaths by air strikes, rose steadily toward the end of 2006, before increasing by 25 percent this year, to an average of more than 50 a month. Due to its passive methodology, IBC’s numbers—while valuable in capturing trends—are likely conservative. Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists, writing in the Lancet last October, reported that coalition air strikes caused 13 percent of all violent civilian deaths between March 2003 and June 2006. At the time the survey ended, which was before the escalation of air strikes in late 2006, and the even greater escalation in 2007, the estimate stood at more than 78,000 Iraqis killed by coalition aircraft.