FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

‘Take Out Their Families’: Trump Fulfills Criminal Campaign Promise as Hundreds Die in Latest US-Led Syria Strikes

While campaigning for president in late 2015, Donald Trump promised a bloody escalation of the US-led war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, vowing to “bomb the shit out of” IS militants and “take out their families.” Targeting terrorists’ wives, children and other relatives is a war crime under international law, but Trump doubled down on his promise and since taking office has presided over a dramatic increase in civilian deaths in six of the seven countries subjected to America’s open-ended war against terrorism. This increase has been most acute in Iraq and, most recently, in Syria, where hundreds of innocent civilians have died in US-led air strikes in recent months.

Although US and coalition forces are not deliberately targeting civilians, many — if not most — of those killed in the latest strikes have been women and children. According to local and international media and human rights monitor groups, at least 271 and possibly more than twice as many civilians have been killed in nearly 900 US-confirmed air strikes in Deir Ezzor province in October and November. The vast majority of these raids have been carried out by American warplanes; British, French, Dutch and other coalition members have also participated.

The UK-based monitor group Airwars and local and international media outlets report many victims of these recent bombings have been wives, children and other relatives of IS fighters. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported 32 IS family members, including 12 women and 13 children, died in a November 11 strike on Al Shaafa, while an attack on Al Kashma that same day killed at least 35 civilians, mostly women and children, according to Step News Agency and other outlets. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) and local media reported that a November 15 attack on Al Boubardan killed 18 members of a single family, including 14 children and three women.

SOHR, Amnesty International and other monitor groups and media reported 36 relatives of IS fighters, including 17 children and 12 women, died in November 17 strikes east of Hajin. Free Deir Ezzor Radio later reported the civilian death toll from the attack had risen to 53. That same day, Airwars and local media said at least 12 and as many as 24 civilians were killed in another strike on Hajin.

Trump was apparently serious when he said in December 2015 that he wanted to kill IS fighters’ innocent relatives. At the height of the race for the Republican presidential nomination he said:

“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

Shortly after taking office, Trump began loosening the military’s rules of engagement that were meant to protect innocent life. According to a Washington Post report, the president was unimpressed by the development of special CIA drone munitions designed to limit civilian casualties, and when watching video of a previous drone strike in which the agency delayed attack until the targeted militant walked away from a house with his family inside the president asked, “Why did you wait?”

The deliberate or indiscriminate killing of civilians is a war crime under Protocol Iof the Geneva Conventions and other international law including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In May 2017, Defense Secretary James Mattis — a retired Marine Corps general who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” during the atrocity-laden 2004 battle of Fallujah, Iraq — announced that the United States was shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation” in the fight against IS. Mattis dismissed concerns about what such an escalation would mean for innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” he asserted. Mattis’ announcement came just weeks after what was perhaps the deadliest single US air strike in terms of civilian lives lost since the Vietnam war, an attack on the Jadida neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq that reportedly killed nearly 300 people.

US military and government officials claim to take great care to avoid harming innocent people. However, the US has been criticized not only for the alarming number of civilian casualties its forces have caused but also for undercounting and failing to investigate incidents in which civilians are killed and wounded. While Syrian government forces are responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths during that country’s seven-year civil war, Airwars estimates at least 6,716 and as many as 10,268 Syrian and Iraqi civilians are likely to have died in more than 30,000 US-led air strikes since former president Barack Obama launched Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-IS campaign, in June 2014. Russian air strikes have killed as many as 8,000 Syrian civilians, with Turkish bombing adding as many as 1,200 civilian deaths to the grisly toll, according to SOHR.

In the wider, unending 17-year US-led war on terror, the death toll is far higher. A recently-released report by Brown University’s Costs of War project estimates that the war has claimed more than half a million people — both combatants and civilians — in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. In 2015, the US medical advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility released a study claiming a “conservative” figure of 1.3 million direct or indirect war deaths in those three countries, with the study’s authors adding that the real figure could “be in excess of 2 million.”

More articles by:

Brett Wilkins is editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
Nicky Reid
Trannies with Guns: Because Enough is Enough!
James Haught
Baby Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark
David Yearsley
Brecht in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail