To the Editor:
The U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is now the heaviest since the bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s-70s, with 84,000 bombs and missiles dropped between 2014 and the end of May 2017. That is nearly triple the 29,200 bombs and missiles dropped on Iraq in the “Shock and Awe” campaign of 2003.
The Obama administration escalated the bombing campaign last October, as the U.S.-Iraqi assault on Mosul began, dropping 12,290 bombs and missiles between October and the end of January when President Obama left office. The Trump administration has further escalated the campaign, dropping another 14,965 bombs and missiles since Feb. 1. May saw the heaviest bombing yet, with 4,374 bombs and missiles dropped.
The U.K.-based Airwars.org monitoring group has compiled reports of between 12,000 and 18,000 civilians killed by nearly three years of U.S.-led bombing in Iraq and Syria. These reports can only be the tip of the iceberg, and the true number of civilians killed could well be more than 100,000, based on typical ratios between reported deaths and actual deaths in previous war-zones.
As the U.S. and its allies closed in on Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and as U.S. forces now occupy eight military bases in Syria, Islamic State and its allies have struck back in Manchester and London; occupied Marawi, a city of 200,000 in the Philippines; and exploded a huge truck bomb inside the fortifications of the Green Zone in Kabul, Afghanistan.
What began in 2001 as a misdirected use of military force to punish a group of formerly U.S.-backed jihadis in Afghanistan for the crimes of September 11 has escalated into a global asymmetric war. Every country destroyed or destabilized by U.S. military action is now a breeding ground for terrorism.
There are once again 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, up from 8,500 in April, with reports that 4,000 more may be deployed soon. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been killed in 15 years of war, but the Taliban now controls more of the country than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001.
The U.S. is giving vital support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, supporting a blockade of Yemeni ports and providing intelligence and in-air refueling to the Saudi and allied warplanes that have been bombing.
A senate bill to restrict some U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia was defeated by 53 votes (48 Republicans and 5 Democrats) to 47 in June.
Right-wing opposition protests in Venezuela have turned more violent, with 99 people killed since April, as the protests have failed to mobilize enough popular support to topple the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. supports the opposition and has led diplomatic efforts to force the government to resign, so there is a danger that this could escalate into a U.S.-backed civil war.
Meanwhile in Colombia, right-wing death squads are once again operating in areas where the FARC has disarmed, killing and threatening people to drive them off land coveted by wealthy landowners.
Looming over our increasingly war-torn world are renewed U.S. threats of military action against North Korea and Iran, both of which have more robust defenses than any that U.S. forces have encountered since the American War in Vietnam.
Rising tensions with Russia and China risk even greater, even existential dangers, as symbolized by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock, the hands of which now stand at two-and-one-half minutes to midnight.
Although our post-9/11 wars have probably killed at least 2 million people in the countries we have attacked, occupied or destabilized, U.S. forces have suffered historically low numbers of casualties in these operations. There is a real danger that this has given U.S. political and military leaders, and to some extent the American public, a false sense of the scale of U.S. casualties and other serious consequences we should look forward to as our leaders escalate our current wars, issue new threats against Iran and North Korea and stoke rising tensions with Russia and China.
This is the state of war in the United States in July 2017.
Nicolas J.S. Davies