Sydney Schanberg, the former Times reporter (played by Sam Waterston in “The Killing Fields“), borrows on his Vietnam/Cambodia experience to speculate in The Village Voice on the past, present and future dimensions of the U.S. air war in Iraq:
“Little is known or seen of the air part of the American war of today, in Iraq. One of the reasons is that the press, with less mobility because of security risks, has to be focused on what’s happening on the ground, where the damage, human and material, is taking place. A more crucial reason is that the Pentagon and the CIA prefer to tell us as little as possible about air war operations.
“Recently, but only in bits and pieces, military officials in Washington have acknowledged that after the U.S. and Britain withdraw the bulk of their ground troops, the American air component will be kept in the region to support the American-trained Iraqi ground forces who will be taking over the ground war. While the Pentagon doesn’t say anything about increasing air power in Iraq, other military sources—speaking anonymously because the information is classified—confirm that the plans call for the air war to be beefed up and kept that way for years to come. These sources also point to Iran and its nuclear ambitions as a reason for keeping air power at a high-alert level in the region.
“Since air strikes cause a significant percentage of civilian casualties, the air war’s continuance ensures that the U.S. will wear a bull’s-eye on its back indefinitely in the Middle East. It also means that the American press will have to push harder to provide more detailed and regular coverage of the air war.”