Medea Benjamin Military Nicolas J S Davies

Hey, Hey, USA! How Many Bombs Did You Drop Today?

Over the past 20 years, U.S. and allied air forces have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles on other countries.
Above photo: August 2020 U.S. drone strike in Kabul killed 10 Afghan civilians. Getty Images.

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies / Popular Resistance

The Pentagon has finally published its first Airpower Summary since President Biden took office nearly a year ago. These monthly reports have been published since 2007 to document the number of bombs and missiles dropped by U.S.-led air forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2004. But President Trump stopped publishing them after February 2020, shrouding continued U.S. bombing in secrecy.

Over the past 20 years, as documented in the table below, U.S. and allied air forces have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles on other countries. That is an average of 46 strikes per day for 20 years. This endless bombardment has not only been deadly and devastating for its victims but is broadly recognized as seriously undermining international peace and security and diminishing America’s standing in the world.

The U.S. government and political establishment have been remarkably successful at keeping the American public in the dark about the horrific consequences of these long-term campaigns of mass destruction, allowing them to maintain the illusion of U.S. militarism as a force for good in the world in their domestic political rhetoric.

Now, even in the face of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, they are doubling down on their success at selling this counterfactual narrative to the American public to reignite their old Cold War with Russia and China, dramatically and predictably increasing the risk of nuclear war.

The new Airpower Summary data reveal that the United States has dropped another 3,246 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (2,068 under Trump and 1,178 under Biden) since February 2020.

The good news is that U.S. bombing of those 3 countries has significantly decreased from the over 12,000 bombs and missiles it dropped on them in 2019. In fact, since the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from Afghanistan in August, the U.S. military has officially conducted no air strikes there, and only dropped 13 bombs or missiles on Iraq and Syria – although this does not preclude additional unreported strikes by forces under CIA command or control.

Presidents Trump and Biden both deserve credit for recognizing that endless bombing and occupation could not deliver victory in Afghanistan. The speed with which the U.S.-installed government fell to the Taliban once the U.S. withdrawal was under way confirmed how 20 years of hostile military occupation, aerial bombardment and support for corrupt governments ultimately served only to drive the war-weary people of Afghanistan back to Taliban rule.

Biden’s callous decision to follow 20 years of colonial occupation and aerial bombardment in Afghanistan with the same kind of brutal economic siege warfare the United States has inflicted on Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela can only further discredit America in the eyes of the world.

There has been no accountability for these 20 years of senseless destruction. Even with the publication of Airpower Summaries, the ugly reality of U.S. bombing wars and the mass casualties they inflict remain largely hidden from the American people.

How many of the 3,246 attacks documented in the Airpower Summary since February 2020 were you aware of before reading this article? You probably heard about the drone strike that killed 10 Afghan civilians in Kabul in August 2021. But what about the other 3,245 bombs and missiles? Whom did they kill or maim, and whose homes did they destroy?

The December 2021 New York Times exposé of the consequences of U.S. airstrikes, the result of a five-year investigation, was stunning not only for the high civilian casualties and military lies it exposed, but also because it revealed just how little investigative reporting the U.S. media have done on these two decades of war.

In America’s industrialized, remote-control air wars, even the U.S. military personnel most directly and intimately involved are shielded from human contact with the people whose lives they are destroying, while for most of the American public, it is as if these hundreds of thousands of deadly explosions never even happened.

The lack of public awareness of U.S. airstrikes is not the result of a lack of concern for the mass destruction our government commits in our names. In the rare cases we find out about, like the murderous drone strike in Kabul in August, the public wants to know what happened and strongly supports U.S. accountability for civilian deaths.

So public ignorance of 99% of U.S. air strikes and their consequences is not the result of public apathy, but of deliberate decisions by the U.S. military, politicians of both parties and corporate media to keep the public in the dark. The largely unremarked 21-month-long suppression of monthly Airpower Summaries is only the latest example of this.

Now that the new Airpower Summary has filled in the previously hidden figures for 2020-21, here is the most complete data available on 20 years of deadly and destructive U.S. and allied air strikes.

Numbers of bombs and missiles dropped on other countries by the United States and its allies since 2001:

Iraq (& Syria*)      Afghanistan   YemenOther Countries**
2001            214        17,500
2002            252          6,500           1
2003       29,200
2004            285               86            1 (Pk)
2005            404             176            3 (Pk)
2006            310          2,644     7,002 (Le,Pk)
2007          1,708          5,198             9 (Pk,S)
2008          1,075          5,215          40 (Pk,S)
2009            126          4,184            3    5,554 (Pk,Pl)
2010                 8          5,126            2        128 (Pk)
2011                 4          5,411          13    7,763 (Li,Pk,S)
2012          4,083          41          54 (Li, Pk,S)
2013          2,758          22          32 (Li,Pk,S)
2014        6,292*          2,365          20     5,058 (Li,Pl,Pk,S)
2015      28,696*             947  14,191          28 (Li,Pk,S)
2016      30,743*          1,337  14,549        529 (Li,Pk,S)
2017      39,577*          4,361  15,969        301 (Li,Pk,S)
2018        8,713*          7,362    9,746          84 (Li,Pk,S)
2019        4,729*          7,423    3,045          65 (Li,S)
2020        1,188*          1,631    7,622          54 (S)
2021            554*              801    4,428     1,512 (Pl,S)
Total    154, 078*        85,108  69,652    28,217

Grand Total = 337,055 bombs and missiles.

**Other Countries: Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia.

These figures are based on U.S. Airpower Summaries for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria; the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count of drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen; the Yemen Data Project‘s count of bombs and missiles dropped on Yemen (only through September 2021); the New America Foundation’s database of foreign air strikes in Libya; and other sources.

There are several categories of air strikes that are not included in this table, meaning that the true numbers of weapons unleashed are certainly higher. These include:

Helicopter strikes: Military Times published an article in February 2017 titled, “The U.S. military’s stats on deadly air strikes are wrong. Thousands have gone unreported.” The largest pool of air strikes not included in U.S. Airpower Summaries are strikes by attack helicopters. The U.S. Army told the authors its helicopters had conducted 456 otherwise unreported air strikes in Afghanistan in 2016. The authors explained that the non-reporting of helicopter strikes has been consistent throughout the post-9/11 wars, and they still did not know how many missiles were fired in those 456 attacks in Afghanistan in the one year they investigated.

AC-130 gunships: The U.S. military did not destroy the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in 2015 with bombs or missiles, but with a Lockheed-Boeing AC-130 gunship. These machines of mass destruction, usually manned by U.S. Air Force special operations forces, are designed to circle a target on the ground, pouring howitzer shells and cannon fire into it until it is completely destroyed. The U.S. has used AC-130s in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria.

Strafing runs: U.S. Airpower Summaries for 2004-2007 included a note that their tally of “strikes with munitions dropped… does not include 20mm and 30mm cannon or rockets.” But the 30mm cannons on A-10 Warthogs and other ground attack planes are powerful weapons, originally designed to destroy Soviet tanks. A-10s can fire 65 depleted uranium shells per second to blanket an area with deadly and indiscriminate fire. But that does not appear to count as a “weapons release” in U.S. Airpower Summaries.

“Counter-insurgency” and “counter-terrorism” operations in other parts of the world: The United States formed a military coalition with 11 West African countries in 2005, and has built a drone base in Niger, but we have not found any systematic accounting of U.S. and allied air strikes in that region, or in the Philippines, Latin America or elsewhere.

The failure of the U.S. government, politicians and corporate media to honestly inform and educate the American public about the systematic mass destruction wreaked by our country’s armed forces has allowed this carnage to continue largely unremarked and unchecked for 20 years.

It has also left us precariously vulnerable to the revival of an anachronistic, Manichean Cold War narrative that risks even greater catastrophe. In this topsy-turvy, “through the looking glass” narrative, the country actually bombing cities to rubble and waging wars that kill millions of people, presents itself as a well-intentioned force for good in the world. Then it paints countries like China, Russia and Iran, which have understandably strengthened their defenses to deter the United States from attacking them, as threats to the American people and to world peace.

The high-level talks beginning on January 10th in Geneva between the United States and Russia are a critical opportunity, maybe even a last chance, to rein in the escalation of the current Cold War before this breakdown in East-West relations becomes irreversible or devolves into a military conflict.

If we are to emerge from this morass of militarism and avoid the risk of an apocalyptic war with Russia or China, the U.S. public must challenge the counterfactual Cold War narrative that U.S. military and civilian leaders are peddling to justify their ever-increasing investments in nuclear weapons and the U.S. war machine.

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J.S. Davies

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

12 comments

  1. The sickenss is with ALL countries and ALL private mercenary outfits. Look at this sick thing here — “top” 100 offensive murdering companies:

    https://www.salesartillery.com/fs/top-100-defense-companies

    https://people.defensenews.com/top-100/

    All those countries, big and small, with so many great social safety nets, educational programs for all, all the healthy food systems, health systems, housing, water, yep . . . . Stop just going after USA. Bad hombres, sure, but the rest of them, too —

    Look at Israel, Sweden, UK, France, et al. Bad millionaires and many women running these outfits.

    This doesn’t include all the spying, all the black ops, all the medical bombs, the biological bombs, all the schools teaching youth to stiff arm salute drones, robotics, surveillance.

  2. Warhogs and depleted uranium rounds.
    A-10s can fire 65 depleted uranium shells per second to blanket an area with deadly and indiscriminate fire. But that does not appear to count as a “weapons release” in U.S. Airpower Summaries. And who keeps track of the radiation dust blowing around from the tons of these radiation dust fragments. And who will compile the birth defects and cancers from DU rounds? And compensate for this radiation destruction? Likely no-one. One can only assume this was to lay waste the country for generations. For easy oil access for years?

  3. Absolutely horrifying. Do the American people know it’s this bad and condone it? Or have they been kept in the dark about it? Or do they not really care?

    1. @Carol
      Americans haven’t cared about this since the Vietnam war. Once the government stopped drafting people into the military, people weren’t scared that they or their kids would be drafted, so they stopped caring about U.S. wars and mass murders. We need to reinstate the draft!

    2. The answer is — all of those things. We are the most ignorant, propagandized people in the world. There are strong elements of white supremacy and xenophobia in our society. People are conditioned to be “patriotic”, which translates into believing the constant stream of lies told to sell these illegal and immoral wars of aggression. If there were large numbers of U.S. military being brought back in body bags, as was the case with the Vietnam war, more people would become aware. But as long as the murdering is largely being done by drones and bombs, most people just don’t care enough to bother getting informed. Most also get their “news” from television, which is a primary source of state propaganda. It doesn’t matter which channel they watch. There is 100% bipartisan support for the mass murder.

      1. Jim, do not be fooled by the content of American media propaganda. What you see on media does not any longer reflect American values. Few people watch, listen, or read establishment news media. They are fully aware that it is propaganda. The real reason Trump had a great following is that he SAID he was against US military actions. He also said many other true things, and got conservatives and others to trust him. Now they have learned to not trust ANY politician, or the voting machines, and are getting ripe for revolution. When left and right unite, it is a very real possibility. My books have something to do with that . My newsletter goes out to five hundred email addresses, and is eventually read by fifty million people internationally. The truth.
        http://truthforceinternational.org contact sign up page for the newsletter, books attached for free

      2. Jim, in case you misread my faulty wording, the conservatives are now aware that tRump lied regarding him being against military actions, and by him now condoning vaccines, and my exposing him in multiple ways, they are aware that no democrat or republican politician gets any significant position without proving loyalty to the globalists. Trump was a damn liar. I have not voted for any party politician for decades. THe Vatican and globalists run the nations, and I prove it in my books.

      3. The media only tells the public what the powers want them to know or think, using information management. This includes withholding of information, disseminating misinformation (lies), and misdirecting people so that none can comprehend the reality of the world events and the forces that make them happen. This is a major player in war against humanity.

        The information war was made more effective by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1930s, when it initiated secret psychological “war” projects whose purpose was to shape public opinion. According to Christopher Simpson, author of “Science of Coercion”: “…a tight circle of men and women who shared several important conceptions of mass research. They regarded mass communication as a tool for social management, and as a weapon in social conflict, and they expressed common assumptions concerning the usefulness of quantitative research –  particularly experimental and quasi-experimental effects research, opinion surveys, and quantitative content analysis as a means of illuminating what communication “is” and improving its application to social management.”

        As this was being implemented and working in overdrive, the Office of Strategic Services and the Office of War Information recruited the “best and brightest” from American intelligentsia into secret “intelligence,” and after training, were placed into powerful positions of mass media, politics, and universities.

        In the 1950s, the CIA and the American mass media began to be interlocked, the agency feeding information to journalists in exchange for their own intelligence developed at home and abroad. Many American journalists currently work for the CIA. That is the explanation for the “fake news” in the media. Intentional fake news is very real, and manipulatively deceptive.

        Another strategy used by the large public relations corporations and the government is the use of surveys in polling. By slanting questions and using outright deception regarding results in service to whoever is paying them, the public is often misled as to what the rest of the population thinks. Under the impression that one is alone in his attitude of perception, one will not voice opinion nor organize to further one’s cause.

        Kahn, Michael Lewis. ANGRY LOUD AND CLEAR TRUTH SECOND IMPROVED EDITION: THE GROWTH AND MECHANISMS OF THE ROMERICAN EMPIRE (pp. 137-138). Kindle Edition.

  4. Am afraid too many Americans have been massaged and coddled by seeing American flags, some beyond belief huge, over malls, gas stations, banks, car dealerships, courthouses and flying from huge dust colored military vehicles in some far off country on the mesmerizing tube. Most Americans accept the flag as some unity factor they are born with, like a living thing. And therefore rarely if ever question it. If it constantly pops up, always in the media and TV, you get hooked to not question the norm. The flag equates with the military. And that is huge in the usa. So one ends up being overwhelmed and numb to question something so huge. Something like this covid plandemic creeps in as a fog to even more numb thought to want to look at usa military bombing statistics and civilian deaths. If it’s far off it can be forgotten about. Like journalist Assange being jailed endlessly. More people need to have eyes opened. But education seems to be contracting in the usa. Seems very unfortunate. Unless that is the dark plan.

  5. The U.S. has ruined the world, devastating our only home’s environment, and all for profit for a few to steal other countries’resources, including the human variety.

  6. Can you spell G E N O C I D E of Muslims?

    According to a French book “Bin Laden, La Verite Interdite” (Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth), the United States had decided to invade Afghanistan in the interest of profits, long before September 2001. In February 1998, congress discussed ways to deal with Afghanistan to enable a US –held oil pipeline. Jane’s Defense Newsletter dated March 2001 revealed that an invasion of Afghanistan was being planned. July 2001 the planned invasion was reported by George Arney of the BBC. “Times of India” stated in June 2001 that the US government told India that there would be an invasion of Afghanistan in October of that year. But the US media insisted that the 9-11 terrorist attack instigated US invasion of Afghanistan and the Taliban regime.

    The twin towers had no flag bearing responsibility. The right legitimate thing to do would have been to prove who the culprits were, and to bring them to justice. The US blamed Afghanistan, and attacked innocent people, showed no evidence of anybody’s guilt, and endeavored to install a puppet government. Then they did likewise with Iraq.

    After much futile and senseless destruction, the death toll of Arabs fanned the flame of Islamic radicalism and anti-imperialism. Bush’s “war on terrorism” and the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan in particular were strategically successful in giving new life to Islamic radicalism and made violent resistance popular among Arabs, playing into the elite’s plan of genocide of Arab peoples. The US, after all, has to defend itself.

    Whether it was an afterthought that developed over the years, or had been planned previously, I am not sure, but the United States had further devious designs to use Afghanistan for more of its evil purposes.

    The leaders of Afghanistan; the Taliban, had banned its people from producing opium, and under their rule, Afghanistan produced 3% of the world’s opium. Upon the United States taking power in 2010, it soon leaped to producing 90% of the world’s opium. Perceiving the poverty of the Afghan farmers, being such magnanimous benefactors, the US government loaned those farmers the necessary capital and means to grow poppies. For a fee, US military guard the poppy fields, while the farmers labor to earn a meager income, and the smugglers reap wild profits (as do the dealers), importing most of the opium used by Americans and many other nations. Since 2010, Afghanistan has been steadily exporting 13 million pounds of opium annually.

    Kahn, Michael Lewis. ANGRY LOUD AND CLEAR TRUTH SECOND IMPROVED EDITION: THE GROWTH AND MECHANISMS OF THE ROMERICAN EMPIRE (pp. 147-148). Kindle Edition.

  7. One picture is worth a thousand corpses. Oh, that mindless country:

    Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian village at midnight; cuff, blindfold, assault 80 year old Omar Abdul-Majid As’ad; then leave his dead body on the ground and leave…
    Reposted from IMEMC

    Palestinian medical sources have confirmed, on Wednesday at dawn, that an elderly man was killed after Israeli soldiers detained and repeatedly assaulted him near Ramallah, in the central part of the occupied West Bank.

    The sources said the man has been identified as Omar Abdul-Majid As’ad, 80, from Jaljulia village, north of Ramallah. [His name is also written as Omar Abdalmajeed Asaad and Omar Abdulmajeed Asad.]

    The Mayor of Jaljulia, Fuad Motea’, said the soldiers invaded the village and abducted Omar, before constantly assaulting him in an under-construction home, before leaving him on the ground.

    Motea’ also added that the elderly man was detained by the soldiers in the al-Ein area in Jaljulia before he was cuffed, blindfolded, and assaulted by the soldiers.

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