My God! We Dropped Bombs On People Who Were Shooting At Us!
Looks like this week's talking point for those opposed to the opening of the Iraqi front of the Global War on Terror has to do with increased Allied retaliatory bombing in the No-Fly zones in 2002 and early 2003. Michael Moore has any entry up, and my good friend Rob is also talking about it. (Actually, he's posted about it a couple of times.)
It's interesting to me that the apparent new interest in this bombing campaign was brought about by an article in the London Sunday Times, as part of their coverage of the Downing Street Minutes (DSM). This article "revealed" that Allied air forces had ramped up their retaliatory bombing of the Iraqi military targets in retaliation for no-fly zone violations. This is apparently a believable source, as opposed to U.S. General Tommy Franks, commander of CENTCOM during the major combat operations of Afghanistan and Iraq. General Franks, in his 2004 autobiography, described a meeting in the White House Situation Room in August 2002 in which he said: "We've flown over four thousand sorties over Iraq since January... Iraqi air defenses have targeted our aircraft or violated the no-fly zones fifty-two times... We want to continue to use response options to degrade the Iraqi Integrated Air Defense System. If it ever comes to war, we'll want their IADS as weak as possible." (p. 388, "American Soldier", Gen. Tommy Franks, 2004.)
And the left wonders why some on the right dismiss the "DSM" as "old news"?
Yes, I'll admit that it seems that CENTCOM did this as part of a plan to make any subsequent invasion easier, if and when it was ordered. It needs to be pointed out, though, that each bombing raid was done in response to an Iraqi violation of the no-fly zones. Had Iraq quit violating the rules that were imposed on them as a consequence of their earlier failure to fulfill the terms of the cease-fire that they had signed, we wouldn't have been bombing them. The fact is that we did raise the level of retaliation (instead of bombing only the gun that shot at us, we bombed the HQ that controlled that gun), but we never said that we'd only retaliate in kind. As the victors of the 1991 war, we had the right to impose those conditions on Iraq, as confirmed by the UNSC resolutions confirming the cease fire and subsequent to that. (In fairness, this point is debatable, as shown in this BBC article.) We even warned the air defense troops that we'd retaliate if they fired on us. I also happen to know that the leadership of Congress (both parties) were briefed after every raid. OK, we didn't spell it out in detail to the public... after all, apparently maintaining military secrecy is not allowed in a "free" society. (/sarcasm)
If those opposed to the Iraq war consider that any bombing we did prior to the October 2002 Congressional resolution to be illegal, I can provide a personal witness that this bombing did indeed take place. As I commented on one of Rob's posts:
"I was on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff aboard USS John C. Stennis during their 2000 deployment, and can report that we dropped several bombs on Iraq. Does this help in your investigation? None of them were napalm, though..."
I didn't mention who the President was in 2000 in my comments, but figured that was pretty self-evident...
Rob also wonders if these raids happened outside of the no-fly zones. To be honest, since the southern no-fly zone extended up to within 20mi of downtown Baghdad, we really didn't need to go beyond it. The only time I know of recently that we went beyond that line, prior to October 2002, was during Operation Desert Fox... in 1998.
As far as any suggestion that we used napalm on any of these retaliatory bombing raids -- as one of Rob's commenter's suggested -- this shows a complete ignorance of the mandatory legal review that goes on for any planned operation, as well as how the world works in general (the Iraqi's would have pasted it all over the news at the time, which they didn't...)