Some thoughts on Iraq coverage today

Jim Michaels of USA Today reports that airstrikes in Iraq are on the rise this year, with 1,140 airstrikes launched in the first nine months of 2007 compared to 229 in all of last year. Airstrikes are up in Afghanistan, too, with 2,764 bombing runs this year, up from 1,770 last year. Helicopter gunship attacks aren’t included in those numbers. The increase in American troops in Iraq — and their more frequent enemy engagement — has led to the need for more close air support, the Air Force said, and with more insurgents pushed out into the countryside, they’re easier to spot and hit. In both wars, air power is being used in lieu of extensive ground forces, admits Air Force Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center. The downside, given only brief mention in Michael’s story, is that these air strikes are more likely to kill civilians, despite the increased smartness of smart bombs, and that turns the Air Force into a recruitment tool for al Qaeda.

Plus, and just as important, they kill civilians, the moral wrongness of which seems to be lost in this story. Yes, it’s good to decrease reasons for locals to hate America, but not killing innocent people is a good unto itself, no? Am I the only one getting tired of seeing civilian casualties as something to be avoided for tactical reasons and not that it’s supposed to be wrong to kill innocent people?

Secondly, O’Brien Browne, who teaches Middle Eastern history and politics at Schiller International University and intercultural communication at Heidelberg University, argues that the reason for Iraq’s problems are those damn colonial straight-edges, wielded by the likes of Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill after World War I. So what’s the big deal if Iraq splits up?, he asks. Furthermore, the three new regions in the country formerly known as Iraq should not even be called Iraq, because it’s a made up country anyway, he says. It’s full of people who don’t want to live together, and the Ottomans had it right. Oddly, he present Ottoman rule as one of benign neglect, letting the … whatever the people of the region should be called … run their own affairs as three provinces in the empire.

Well, that may have been true, but a large majority of Iraqis today don’t want the country to be split up. Arabs across the region see any attempt to do so as Zionist plot to divide and conquer the Arabs, and he ignores the thousands of families who are mixed Arab-Kurdish or Sunni-Shi’ite, as well as the ethnically diverse areas of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Basra and the like. Simplistic answers are often emotionally satisfying, but they usually involve body counts. Where does the *Monitor* get these guys?