In a recent inside-the-fold round-up of the previous day’s mayhem in Iraq, David S. Cloud, writing for my hometown paper, devoted 729 words to an account of American casualties from IEDs ("Six American soldiers and their interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad…"), Iraqi Army, police, insurgent, and civilian casualties, and various bombers — all of whom were on the ground: suicide bombers, car bombers, truck bombers. Nine words in the report were devoted to the American air war: "American troops killed eight suspected insurgents on Sunday, the military said — six in an airstrike near Garma, in Anbar Province, and two southwest of Baghdad." We have no further information on that air strike in Garma; no idea what kind of aircraft struck, or with what weaponry, or how those in the air were so certain that those dead on the ground were "suspected insurgents," or who exactly suspected them of being insurgents. The equivalent Washington Post round-up did not even mention that the operation involved an air strike.
This has been fairly typical of the last few years of minimalist to nonexistent mainstream media coverage of the air war in Iraq, based almost singularly on similarly minimalist military press handouts or statements. We do, however, know something about an air strike, also "in the Garma area," last December in which the U.S. military announced that it had "destroyed a foreign fighter safe house in a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, killing five insurgents, two women and a child." Local residents later claimed to an Iraqi journalist that the strike had actually "killed nine members of the same family — three women, three girls and three boys — and wounding a man." Air power, for all its "precision," remains a remarkably indiscriminate form of warfare, though headlines like this one from the BBC, are seldom seen here: "US attack ‘kills Iraqi children.’"
We also know from a recent report that the ill-covered operations of the U.S. Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan have nonetheless significantly degraded American equipment, in the air as on the ground. According to the Air Combat Command’s Gen. Ronald Keys, U.S. planes and helicopters are wearing down (and out) from conducting so many missions "in harsh environments." For instance, the general tell us that the A-10 — a plane used regularly because "its cannon is particularly effective in strafing" — is increasingly likely to have "cracked wings."