The Pentagon finally has its first Airpower Summary published since President Biden took office almost a year ago. These monthly reports have been published since 2007 to document the number of bombs and missiles dropped by the US-led air forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2004. But President Trump stopped publication after February 2020, keeping the continued US bombing in secrecy.
Over the past 20 years, the US and its allies’ air forces have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles on other countries, as shown in the table below. That corresponds to an average of 46 attacks per day in 20 years. Not only was this endless bombardment deadly and devastating to the victims, but it is widely viewed as a serious undermining of world peace and security, and a weakening of America’s image in the world.
The US government and political establishment have done remarkably well in keeping the American public in the dark about the dire consequences of these long-term acts of mass destruction, so that they have maintained in their domestic rhetoric the illusion that US militarism is a force for good in the world.
Now, with the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan, they are doubling their success selling this counterfactual representation to the American public to rekindle the old Cold War with Russia and China, dramatically and predictably increasing the risk of nuclear war.
The new data from the Airpower Summary shows that the United States has dropped an additional 3,246 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since February 2020 (2,068 under Trump and 1,178 under Biden).
The good news is that US bombing of these three countries has decreased significantly compared to the 12,000+ bombs and missiles it dropped on them in 2019. In fact, the US military has not officially launched any air strikes there since the US occupation forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August only 13 bombs or missiles dropped in Iraq and Syria – although this does not preclude additional unreported attacks by forces commanded or controlled by the CIA.
It is to the credit of Presidents Trump and Biden for realizing that endless bombing and occupations cannot lead to victory in Afghanistan. The speed with which the US-appointed government fell to the Taliban after the US withdrew confirmed that 20 years of hostile military occupation, aerial bombing, and support for corrupt governments ultimately only served to bring the war-weary Afghan people back To pursue Taliban rule.
Biden’s callous decision to follow up on 20 years of colonial occupation and bombing of Afghanistan with the same kind of brutal economic siege warfare that the United States inflicted on Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela can only further discredit America in the eyes of the world.
No account has been given for these 20 years of senseless destruction. Even with the release of the Airpower Summaries, the ugly reality of the US bomb wars and the many victims they cause remain largely hidden from the American people.
How many of the 3,246 attacks documented in the Airpower Summary since February 2020 were you aware of before reading this article? You have probably heard about the drone attack that killed 10 Afghan civilians in Kabul in August 2021. But what about the other 3,245 bombs and missiles? Who did they kill or maim, and whose houses did they destroy?
The New York Times December 2021 exposé on the aftermath of the US air strikes, the result of a five-year investigation, was startling not only because of the high civilian casualties and military lies it exposed, but also because it showed how The US media did little investigative coverage of these two decades of war.
In America’s industrialized, remote-controlled air wars, even the most directly and intimately involved U.S. military personnel are shielded from human contact with the people whose lives they are destroying, while for much of the American public it is as if those hundreds of thousands of deadly explosions never occurred .
The public’s ignorance of the US air strikes is not because they are not interested in the mass destruction our government is committing on our behalf. On the rare occasions we learn of it, like the gory drone attack in Kabul in August, the public wants to know what happened and strongly supports US accountability for civilian deaths.
The public ignorance of 99% of US air strikes and their consequences is not the result of public apathy, but a conscious decision by the US military, politicians from both parties and the corporate media to keep the public in the dark. The largely unnoticed 21-month suppression of the monthly “Airpower Summaries” is just the latest example of this.
Now that the new Airpower Summary has added to the previously hidden numbers for 2020-21, here is the most complete data available on 20 years of deadly and devastating air strikes by the US and its allies.
Number of bombs and missiles dropped on other countries by the United States and its allies since 2001:
Total = 337,055 bombs and missiles.
** Other countries: Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia.
These figures are based on the US Airpower Summaries for Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the count of drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the count of bombs and missiles dropped on Yemen by the Yemen Data Project (only until September 2021), the New America Foundation’s Database of Foreign Air Strikes in Libya, and other sources.
There are several categories of air strikes that are not included in this table, which means that the actual number of weapons used is certainly higher. This includes:
Helicopter Strikes: The Military Times published an article in February 2017 entitled “The US military’s stats on deadly air strikes are wrong. Thousands have not been reported. ”The largest group of air strikes not included in the US Airpower Summaries are attacks by attack helicopters. The U.S. Army told authors that their helicopters carried out 456 unreported air strikes in Afghanistan in 2016. The authors stated that non-reporting of helicopter attacks was common throughout the post-9/11 wars and that they still did not know how many missiles were fired in those 456 attacks in Afghanistan in the one year they investigated.
AC-130 attack helicopter: In 2015, the US military destroyed MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, not with bombs or missiles, but with a Lockheed Boeing AC-130 attack helicopter. Typically manned by US Air Force special forces, these machines of mass destruction are designed to orbit a target on the ground and bombard it with howitzer shells and cannon fire until it is completely destroyed. The United States has used AC-130 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria.
Low-altitude flights: The US Airpower Summaries for 2004-2007 noted that the number of “dropped ammunition attacks … does not include 20mm and 30mm cannons or missiles”. But the 30mm cannons of the A-10 Warthogs and other ground attack aircraft are powerful weapons that were originally designed to destroy Soviet tanks. The A-10 can fire 65 depleted uranium shells per second to strike an area with deadly and indiscriminate fire. But that doesn’t seem to count as a “gun levy” in the US Airpower Summaries.
“Counterinsurgency” and “counter-terrorism” operations in other parts of the world: The United States formed a military coalition with 11 West African countries in 2005 and set up a drone base in Niger, but we do not have systematic records of air strikes by the US and its allies in this region, found in the Philippines, Latin America, or elsewhere.
The failure of the US government, politicians and corporate media to honestly inform and educate the American public about the systematic mass extermination by our country’s armed forces has resulted in this slaughter going largely unnoticed and uncontrolled for 20 years.
It has also left us vulnerable to the revival of an anachronistic, Manichaean narrative of the Cold War that conjures up an even greater catastrophe. In this upside-down narrative “through the mirror”, the country that lays down cities and wages wars that kill millions of people presents itself as a well-meaning force for the good in the world. Then countries like China become Portrayed Russia and Iran, who understandably stepped up their defenses to deter the United States from attacking them, as a threat to the American people and world peace.
The high-level talks between the United States and Russia beginning January 10 in Geneva are a crucial opportunity, perhaps even the last chance, to contain the escalation of the current Cold War before the collapse of East-West relations becomes irreversible or one transformed into military conflict.
If we are to break out of this quagmire of militarism and avoid the risk of an apocalyptic war with Russia or China, the US public must question the counterfactual portrayal of the Cold War that US military and civilian leaders are peddling about theirs to justify increasing investments in nuclear weapons and the US military apparatus.