Bombs and Politics

Article excerpt

MUCH is being said about the political risks in the United States of a ground war that could result in substantial casualties. Somewhat overshadowed are the political risks in the Middle East of continuing a massive air war that gives Saddam Hussein propaganda bullets.

Not that the reports of civilian loss of life and damage to nonmilitary facilities are simply propaganda. Dispatches from Baghdad are slanted by censors to emphasize civilian damage. But there's no doubt an air attack the scale of that now being waged against Iraq inevitably causes significant harm to civilians - even with precision targeting and a policy of avoiding, as much as possible, "collateral damage."

Iraqis and others not in uniform have been killed and injured, errant bombs and missiles have occasionally plunged into neighborhoods, basic services have been disrupted, and a whole population is living in terror of destruction from the skies. For all President Bush's protestations to the contrary, pictures of bombed bridges and collapsed housing can create an impression that the coalition's does, in fact, intend to "destroy Iraq. …