World

The U.S. Dropped 26,000 Bombs On Six Countries In 2016

| by Nik Bonopartis

When President Barack Obama says goodbye to the White House and hands over the title of commander-in-chief to his successor, he'll enter the history books as the only president in U.S. history to serve two complete terms while the nation is at war.

In addition to that dubious distinction, the two-term Democrat's presidency also marks the longest time any U.S. president has guided a nation at war, with eight consecutive years of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries, according to an analysis by the anti-war group Code Pink.

Obama is often portrayed as a cerebral president who has been reluctant to use the military might of the U.S., but that view runs counter to the actions of the armed forces under Obama's orders, critics say.

Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, did the math -- in 2016 alone, the U.S. military dropped at least 26,171 bombs on targets in foreign countries. That's 72 bombs per day, or three bombs every hour, and Zenko says that number is an "undoubtedly low" estimate because the Pentagon keeps tabs of "strikes" but does not keep a publicly available tally of ordnance it uses in war zones. In other words, a single strike could involve one bomb, or it could represent a sortie in which half a dozen bombs were dropped.

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In 2016, American bombs fell on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria -- but also Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Pakistan, Zenko wrote.

Obama, a Nobel Prize winner, has relied on air power more than any other U.S. president. Whether that's an effective strategy is up for debate -- supporters say air-only campaigns avoid the problem of getting mired in war zones for years, while detractors insist airstrikes alone cannot win wars or conflicts.

"Yet, for better or worse, these are the central tenets of the Obama doctrine," Zenko wrote.

Despite Obama's preference for staying aloft in conflicts, the use of special operations teams has also increased during his presidency. While American special forces are known for their direct action capabilities, in recent years they've been repurposed as trainers and advisors, with the U.S. arming rebel groups to support U.S. policy.

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In Syria, for example, special forces continue to arm and train groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while their Russian counterparts work to keep al-Assad in power, prolonging a conflict that has already led to the largest refugee crisis in modern history.

Most Americans might be surprised to learn that American special forces teams are present in 70 percent of the world's countries. That's 138 countries total, an increase of 130 percent from former President George W. Bush's term, according to a report by Common Dreams, which dubbed 2016 "the year of the commando."  

And then there are drones.

"As drone-warrior-in-chief [Obama], spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen," Code Pink's Medea Benjamin wrote in The Guardian. "Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing."

Sources: The Guardian, Common Dreams, Council On Foreign Relations / Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

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