Bring the soldiers home...

On December 22nd, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered an aptly-timed holiday message to troops in Iraq: President Bush had authorized a cut in combat troops. But after facing an incredibly bloody day in Iraq, the question is how we can withdraw troops without the proverbial shit hitting the fan.

Enter airstrikes. In late November, Seymour Hersh was talking about the tons of bombs that are being dumped on Iraq -- and how the U.S. Army (much to the consternation of some members of the Air Force) has plans to take the reigns and accelerate the airwar in lieu of combat soldiers on the ground. Hersh writes, "The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant -- and underreported -- aspect of the fight against the insurgency. The military authorities in Baghdad and Washington do not provide the press with a daily accounting of missions that Air Force, Navy, and Marine units fly or of the tonnage they drop, as was routinely done during the Vietnam War."

From what the Washington Post can gather, the number of air attacks has increased from 25 in January 2005 to 120 in November.

Today, we got a sense of what's to come: a U.S. airstrike hit a family's house in Baiji, Iraq. So far, "the bodies of a nine-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, three women and three men have been found in the rubble." According to U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson, the house was allegedly targeted because men who were suspected of planting a roadside bomb ran into the house. But note the incredibly sterile and distant way in which Johnson notes the Army's justification:

"An unmanned aerial vehicle… observed the would-be attackers as they dug a hole following the common pattern of roadside bomb emplacement…The individuals left the road site and were followed from the air to a nearby building. Coalition forces employed precision guided munitions on the structure."

That's right, an unmanned aerial vehicle "saw" a hole being dug in a "common pattern." He sounds like a computer. And a computer's observation is exactly what led to the employment of "precision guided munitions." Precision is a debatable term as six surrounding houses were also damaged in the bombing. Johnson, subsequently did not confirm whether or not a roadside bomb had been found.

A local Baiji police chief told Reuters,"I absolutely confirm there were no terrorists in this house," asking, "Even if there had been, why didn't they surround the area and detain the terrorists instead?"

Because that would require human beings.

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