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Operation Swarmer

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Operation Swarmer, a U.S.-led "offensive against suspected guerilla targets near the northern Iraqi town of Samarra in their latest bid to weaken a raging insurgency," was described by U.S. military officials on March 16, 2006, the first day of the operation, as "the biggest 'air assault' since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003." [1]

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that President George W. Bush "didn't give the order for the assault" and that "military commanders made the call to begin the offensive just before this weekend's third anniversary of the war's start." [2] McClellan said that Bush has "begun another round of speeches [3][4] aimed at rousing support for the war."

The White House denied "any political motive in the timing," the Associated Press reported March 17, 2006.


Photo Op

"The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that" 50 helicopters had been used to "place 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground [which] had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released," TIME's Brian Bennett and Al Jallam reported March 17, 2006.

Officials explained that the "area" "has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence," Bennett and Jalam wrote.

"Just to clear some things up," uruknet's Christopher Allbritton explained March 17, 2006, "'air assault' does not equal air strikes. There are no JDAMs being dropped, and there are no fixed-wing aircraft involved at all, except maybe for surveillance. An air assault is the 101st Airborne’s way of inserting troops into a battlespace. There is so far no evidence of bombardment of any kind. Also, it’s a telling example of how 'well' things are going in Iraq that after three years, the U.S. is still leading the fight and conducting sweeps in an area that has been swept/contained/pacfied/cleared five or six times since 2004. How long before the U.S. has to come back again?"

"[C]ontrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported," Bennett and Jallam wrote, "the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war," they wrote. U.S. and Iraqi commanders said that "there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance."

"Whack-a-mole"

U.S. Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) "used uncharacteristically vivid language to blast what's being called the largest air assault in Iraq since the 2003 invasion as a 'large-scale game of whack-a-mole' ... 'forgetting that in whack-a-mole when you hit down one target, another pops up elsewhere'," Newsday's Tom Brune wrote March 17, 2006.

"Today we are playing another version of whack-a-mole with 50 aircraft, 200 vehicles and elements of four U.S. brigades," Israel said.

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