FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones

While the United States was transfixed by the Republican National Convention, wire reports of an American airstrike killing dozens of Syrian civilians began pouring in. The low estimate from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) identifying the death of 56 civilians, including 11 children, leaves US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) reports of the same strikes as targeting “ISIL tactical positions” in Manbij, and indeed, its entire system of accountability for civilian deaths, comically questionable.

Locals in the area reported even higher death counts of 160 and as many as 212, fanning the flames calling for an investigation into the deaths. The consequences have become severe as the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) called for a moratorium on US airstrikes until the deaths are investigated as the killing of civilians could “prove to be a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.”

However, the current system makes the SNC’s request tactically unfeasible: recent press releases from US-CENTCOM show that investigations’ results are typically released two to seven months after the investigated incidents—long after they have faded from public consciousness.

Even when CENTCOM finally responds, numbers are likely to diverge significantly: by August 2015, the SOHR estimated that 181 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes while US-CENTCOM reported the death of only two.

The same incongruities have been observed in the Obama administration’s recent fact-sheets on total civilian deaths due to drone strikes outside of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Early July, it said that such operations had killed between 64 and 116 civilians and over 2,500 combatants. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, along with other sources, has reported much higher numbers: it estimated that in Pakistan alone, between 257 and 634 civilians, including 66 to 78 children, were killed by 2009.

To be fair, the US government has surveillance capabilities that far exceed those of any one nongovernmental organization. The fog of war makes it impossible to trust any single source as one that might speak truth to power and hold our military accountable for strategically counterproductive strikes on civilian deaths. The same SOHR cited here has been guilty of labeling incidents of Kurds torturing and evicting Sunni civilians on a mass scale as “isolated incidents”, despite the confinement of thousands to “security zones” reported by the Human Rights Watch.

But because President’s report does not even break its numbers down by time, let alone by specific incidents, it is impossible to identify any potential reasons for the disagreements between third parties and the government and improve both sides’ methodologies.

Given the entirely classified and ambiguous criteria for determining investigations’ results, the results of CENTCOM’s and POTUS’s previous studies leave our military’s estimates bordering on the absurd. It cannot claim to be conducting the“most precise (aerial assault) in history” when Syrians are looking to US-backed forces thinking “they were coming to finish ISIS, but it seems they are finishing us first.” Real leadership in the in the war on terror demands accountability for the world after ISIS and Al-Qaeda, but it seems like no politician or policy-maker is interested in planning for a Syrian society beyond today’s war.

More articles by:
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail