- The American military launched some 50 air strikes designed
to kill specific targets during the Iraq war, it emerged yesterday, but
none of them found its mark.
- Instead the air strikes had a high civilian toll, according
to military officials serving at the time.
- Until now only a few of the air strikes, such as the
use of four 2,000lb "bunker-buster" bombs in an attempt to kill
Saddam Hussein at a farm in Masur on March 19, had been made public.
- That air strike, which caused the starting date of the
war to be brought forward, has been the subject of speculation, with analysts
doubting the reliability of the intelligence used and questioning whether
Saddam was at the compound.
- According to the New York Times, a report prepared in
December by the pressure group Human Rights Watch, said the decision to
go for high-profile strikes against individual Iraqi leaders had "resulted
in dozens of civilian casualties that the US could have prevented if it
had taken additional precautions".
- A US air force report prepared in April last year also
confirms that there were 50 such air strikes, while another report, by
the Defence Intelligence Agency last month confirms that all the targets
were from the 55-strong list of Iraqi leaders depicted on playing cards
distributed to US forces in Iraq.
- Those who escaped the raids included not only Saddam
Hussein, but also several Iraqi leaders who are said by the US military
to be leading the insurrection against American-led forces. These include
General Izzat Ibrahim, who was the number two Iraqi official at the time
of the war. He is said by US intelligence to have assume the titular leadership
of the insurrection after the detention of Saddam.
- Marc Garlasco, a former intelligence official during
the war who now works for Human Rights Watch, described the campaign as
an "abject failure".
- "We failed to kill the HVTs (high value targets)
and instead killed civilians and engendered hatred and discontent in some
of the population," he told the New York Times.
- The attacks using precision-guided weapons took place
from March 19 to April 18 2003.
- At least 13 Iraqi leaders were targeted. Often the raids
were trumpeted as being successful.
- On April 7 last year, the US defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, played a video of an attack two days earlier on General Ali Hassan
al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali".
- "We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical
Ali has come to an end," said Mr Rumsfeld. But Gen Majid was not captured
- Under US army rules of engagement, Mr Rumsfeld was required
to authorise any air strike that was likely to result in the deaths of
30 or more civilians.
- Fifty such attacks were proposed, and approved, according
to the air force commander during the war, General Michael Moseley. But
attacks that were time-critical were not subject to such a process. Accordingly,
says the Human Rights Watch report, "attacks on leadership likely
resulted in the largest number of civilian deaths from the air war".
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