FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
November 14, 2019
Laura Carlsen
Mexico’s LeBaron Massacre and the War That Will Not Cease
Joe Emersberger
Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”
Ron Jacobs
Trump’s Drug Deal Goes to Congress: Impeachment, Day One
Paul Edwards
Peak Hubris
Tamara Pearson
US and Corporations Key Factors Behind Most Violent Year Yet in Mexico
Jonah Raskin
Love and Death in the Age of Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Climate Confusion, Angst, and Sleeplessness
W. T. Whitney
To Confront Climate Change Humanity Needs Socialism
John Feffer
Examining Trump World’s Fantastic Claims About Ukraine
Nicky Reid
“What About the Children?” Youth Rights Before Parental Police States
Binoy Kampmark
Incinerating Logic: Bush Fires and Climate Change
John Horning
The Joshua Tree is Us
Andrew Stewart
Noel Ignatiev and the Great Divide
Cesar Chelala
Soap Operas as Teaching Tools
Chelli Stanley
In O’odham Land
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail