A Policy of Collateral Damage

On January 13, the US military added another notch to its
bombing bedpost with an

air attack on a small village in Pakistan
that apparently
killed 18 civilians. In what looks like an attempt to kill
al-Qaida’s No. 2 man, the military launched massive missiles on
houses in the Bajaur region of Pakistan. Amidst the international
uproar over the incident, Senator

John McCain

defended the bombing
on the grounds that ‘this war on terror
has no boundaries.’ ‘We have to go where these people are, and we
have to take them out.’ But nation-states do have boundaries, and
Pakistani citizens and officials are outraged by the attack.

The incident illustrates the United States’ policy of bombing
from the sky and letting the chips (and bodies) fall where they
may. As

Seymour Hersh reports in the December 5 issue of The New
, the US military now seems to be relying on drawing
down troop numbers on the ground while shifting focus to its air
assault capabilities. While that may gladden the parents of those
in the service, it should strike fear in the hearts of Iraqis, as
Schwartz writes in TomDispatch
: ‘The new American
strategy, billed as a way to de-escalate the war, is actually a
formula for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians.’

Air assaults, though they may be accompanied by words such as
‘precision’ and ‘laser-guided,’ have proved astonishingly effective
at producing mayhem and civilian casualties in Iraq and now in
Pakistan. The point, Schwartz claims, is that ‘this mayhem was not
a matter of dumb munitions, human error, carelessness, or
gratuitous brutality. It was policy.’ And while Hersh quotes
aerospace analyst Andrew Brookes as saying that ‘[r]eplacing boots
on the ground with airpower didn’t work in Vietnam,’ there seems to
be no indication of a policy change. Schwartz suggests that the
Bush administration, for its part, seems content to tinker with the
deadly calculus of ‘trading lower American casualties and stronger
support domestically for ever lessening Iraqi support and the ever
greater hostility such attacks bring in their wake.’

Go there >>
Formula for Slaughter

Go there too >>

18 Killed in Pakistan Air Strike

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.