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." 
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."  McClellan said that Bush has "begun another round of speeches  aimed at rousing support for the war."
The White House denied "any political motive in the timing," the Associated Press reported March 17, 2006.
"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."
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.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Bush administration opportunism
- Bush administration propaganda and disinformation
- Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (formerly "new Iraqi army")
- New Iraq
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- post-war Iraq
- war propaganda
- 16 Photos: "Operation Swarmer," Associated Press (Newsday).
Articles & Commentary
- "Iraqi Security Forces, Coalition Launch 'Operation Swarmer'," American Forces Press Service, March 16, 2006.
- "Operation Swarmer begins; Iraqi parliament seated," Multi-National Force-Iraq, March 16, 2006; updated March 17, 2006.
- Melonyce McAfee, "Shock and Swarm," Slate, March 16, 2006.
- Keith Garvin, "'Operation Swarmer' Hopes to Halt Insurgency. 101st Airborne Calls It Largest Air Assault Since Iraq War Began," ABC News, March 16, 2006.
- Brian Whitaker and Suzanne Goldberg, "US launches biggest Iraq air assault since 2003. Troops target Samarra to combat threat of civil war. Operation Swarmer likely to last for several days," The Guardian (UK), March 16, 2006.
- "U.S. leads huge airborne assault. Largest invasion since 2003," Associated Press (Winnipeg Sun (Canada)), March 16, 2006.
- "Bush is in Iraq in Operation Swarmer??" News Hounds, March 16, 2006.
- "U.S., Iraqi troops continue their sweep," Associated Press (USA Today), March 17, 2006.
- Press Release: "Cache Discovered in Soccer Field, Five Detained During Joint Search Operation," U.S. Central Command, March 17, 2006.
- Michael Gorgy, "US presses assaults on guerrillas," Reuters, March 17, 2006.
- "Day two of US-led Iraq offensive," BBC, March 17, 2006.
- "Iraq assault 'could last for several days'," The Scotsman, March 17, 2006.
- Nic Robertson, "Iraqis, U.S. work in tandem for assault," CNN, March 17, 2006.
- Matthew B. Stannard, "Sending a message. Operation is meant to show that Iraq is taking charge in fighting terror, experts say," San Francisco Chronicle, March 17, 2006.
- Matt Brown, Transcript: "US targets insurgents in major Iraq operation," Lateline / Australian Broadcast Network, March 17, 2006.
- Jim Muir, "How US assault grabbed global attention," BBC, March 17, 2006.
- Brian Bennett and Al Jallam, "On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled. Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing," TIME, March 17, 2006.
- Tom Brune, "Rep. Israel slams Samarra assault," Newsday, March 17, 2006.
- Christopher Allbritton, "Operation Overblown," uruknet, March 17, 2006.
- "'Operation Swarmer' Underwhelming So Far," News Hounds, March 17, 2006.
- "Three Years Late And A Dollar Short on Iraq," Center for American Progress (AlterNet), March 17, 2006.
- Adam Brookes, "Iraqi troop control 'to spread'," BBC, March 17, 2006.
- "U.S.-Iraqi assault grabs insurgents, weapons. Commander denies politics involved in timing of operation," CNN, March 18, 2006.
- Mark Chulov, "US swarms the skies in Iraq offensive," The Australian, March 18, 2006.
- "US presses on with Operation Swarmer," Daily Times (Pakistan), March 18, 2006.
- "Iraq operation fails to find insurgents," ABC News (Australia), March 18, 2006.