Get In Line: Investigate U.S. Atrocities First

Before the International Criminal Court confronts the criminal outrages currently being committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine, there are scores of alleged U.S. war crimes to be investigated.

CP published part of this list of headlines in 2012, but in view of continuing U.S. wars and the outpouring of legitimate, agonized of grief for civilian victims of Russia’s illegal war, an updated compilation is in order.

The U.S. military has a long record of apparent atrocities during its attacks and its unprovoked wars of aggression or occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Like Russia in Ukraine today, the crimes include bombing hospitals, desecrating corpses, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, attacking allied troops, torturing and executing prisoners, and using banned cluster bombs.

But unlike todays’ wall-to-wall news coverage of Russia’s onslaught, the U.S. media mostly withdrew from reporting on U.S. military occupations and still chooses not to present many photos or film of alleged U.S. crimes. Like news censorship inside Russia, our media’s blind eye helps maintain U.S. public support for its wars-of-choice, so protests have been raised mostly by victims, survivors, human rights groups, anti-war coalitions, and international law advocates.

The most notorious and well-documented U.S. crimes have involved its torture of prisoners. “It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” concluded the nonpartisan 11-member panel of the Constitution Project in 2013. The group’s 577-page report found that President George W. Bush and others bore ultimate responsibility for it.[1]

While bombing Libya in March 2011, U.S. forces refused to aid a group of 72 migrants adrift in the Mediterranean. Only nine people on board survived. The refusal was condemned as criminal by the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog.[2]

On Feb. 12, 2010, in an atrocity kept secret until March 13, U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan killed a teenage girl, a pregnant mother of 10, a pregnant mother of six, a police officer and his brother, and were accused of trying to cover-up the killings by digging bullets out of the victims’ bodies, washing the wounds with alcohol and lying to superior officers.[3]

U.S. jets bombed and rocketed an allied Pakistani military base for two hours Nov. 26, 2011, killing 26 members of a force called the Frontier Corps and wounding dozens more.[4]

During the war in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, U.S. pilots deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade May 7, 1999 using five GPS-guided bombs. President Bill Clinton, CIA director George Tenet, and Defense Secretary William Cohen all claimed it was a mistake.[5]

On April 23, 1999, the U.S. rocketed the central state broadcasting corporation in Belgrade, destroying the building, killing 16 civilian employees and wounding 16. Human rights groups around the world said the attack was a war crime.[6]

In spite of international treaty law banning cluster bombs, the Unites States has used them widely its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia.[7]

The headlines below highlight U.S. conduct in the world, and provide an outline for prosecutors in The Hague to begin investigations.

Headlines allege U.S. war crime spree

“How the U.S. Hid an Airstrike That Killed Dozens of Civilians in Syria,” New York Times, Nov. 13, 2019

“U.S. Drone Kills 30 Civilians, Afghans say, Target Was ISIS,” New York Times, Sept. 20, 2019

“U.S. Airstrikes and Raids Killed 120 Civilians in 2018, Pentagon Says,” New York Times, May 3, 2019

“U.S. and Afghan Forces Killed More Civilians in Early 2019 Than Taliban did, U.N. Finds,” New York Times, April 25, 2019

“For Afghan Civilians, 2018 Was the Deadliest in a Decade” (“Among the dead last year were 927 children” the United Nations report found), New York Times, Feb. 25, 2019

“U.S. Airstrikes Said to Kill at Least 10 Afghan Civilians,” New York Times, Feb. 11, 2019

“American Airstrikes Kill Civilians, Including Children, Afghans Charge,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2019

“Decorated Navy SEAL Is Accused of War Crimes in Iraq,” New York Times, Nov. 15, 2018

“Report: 3,301 civilians killed in US-led strikes in Syria since 2014,” Duluth News Tribune, Sept. 24, 2018

“Study: US killed 500 civilians,” Minneapolis StarTribune, June 3, 2018 (“Pentagon may be grossly undercounting.”)

“More Afghan Civilians are Victims of Targeted Attacks, UN Says,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 2018

“Afghan Pedophiles Get Pass from US Military, Report Says,” New York Times, January 24, 2018

“‘Killed, Shovel in Hand’: Afghan Farmers are the Latest Victims of a Chaotic War,” New York Times, March 19, 2018

“American Airstrikes in Afghanistan Stir Debate Over Who Was Killed,” New York Times, Nov. 11, 2017

“US Airstrikes kill at least 13 civilians,” Minneapolis StarTribune, Nov. 5, 2017

“Airstrike Kills at Least 25 at Street Market in Yemen,” New York Times, Nov. 2, 2017

“Civilian deaths from US-led strikes on Isis surge under Trump administration” (“Airwars, a UK-based watchdog group, estimates the civilian death toll from coalition airstrikes at over 3,800.”), The Guardian, June 6, 2017

“11 Afghans Killed in US Airstrike,” New York Times, Aug. 31, 2017

“3 Children Among Dead in a Raid In Somalia,” New York Times, Aug. 26, 2017

“Afghans Say US Strike Hit Civilians,” New York Times, Aug. 12, 2017

“Civilian deaths a windfall for militants’ propaganda,” AP/Minneapolis StarTribune, April 2, 2017

“US Airstrike ‘Probably Had a Role’ in Mosul Civilian Deaths, Commander Concedes,” New York Times, March 29, 2017

“US strike reportedly killed 30 Syrians,” New York Times & Minneapolis StarTribune, March 23, 2017

“US military says fight with Taliban killed 33 civilians,” Minneapolis StarTribune, Jan. 13, 2017

“US-led strikes in Iraq, Syria have killed at least 188 civilians, military says,” Duluth NewsTribune, Jan. 3, 2017

“US admits its airstrikes likely killed Afghan civilians.” Washington Post & Minneapolis StarTribune, Nov. 6, 2016

“US Drones Hit Civilians, U.N. Says,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2016

“Residents Say US Strike Killed Civilians” (killed at least 15 civilians), Wall Street Journal, Sept. 29, 2016

“Pentagon: Errors led to hospital strike,” (“which killed 42 people”), New York Time & Minneapolis StarTribune, May 1, 2016

“A Moral Debt for Bombing a Hospital” (“killing 42 innocent people”), editorial, New York Times, April 30, 2016

“Airstrike on Afghan hospital stirs fury,” New York Times, & Minneapolis StarTribune; and “19 die in apparent US airstrike on Afghan hospital,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 2015

“Afghanistan Says NATO Airstrike in East Killed Civilians,” New York Times, April 16, 2014

“U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes,” New York Times, April 16, 2013

“US marine pleads guilty to urinating on corpse of Taliban fighter in Afghanistan,” The Guardian, Jan. 16, 2013

“US troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2012

“Drones at Issue… Raids Disrupt Militants, but Civilian Deaths Stir Outrage,” New York Times, March 18, 2012

“G.I. Kills 16 Afghans, Including 9 Children In Attacks on Homes,” New York Times, March 12, 2012

“NATO Admits Airstrike Killed 8 Young Afghans, but Contends They Were Armed,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012

“Informer Misled NATO in Airstrike That Killed 8 Civilians, Afghans Say” (“seven shepherd boys under 14”), New York Times, Feb. 10, 2012

“Video [of Marines urinating on dead fighters] Inflames a Delicate Moment for US in Afghanistan,” New York Times, Jan. 12, 2012

“Commission alleges US detainee abuse,” Minneapolis StarTribune, Jan. 8, 2012

“Six Children Are Killed by NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan,” New York Times, Nov. 25, 2011

“American Soldier Is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport,” New York Times, Nov. 11, 2011

“US Drone Strike Kills Brother of a Taliban Commander,” New York Times, Oct. 28, 2011

“G.I. Killed Afghan Journalist, NATO Says,” New York Times, Sept. 9, 2011

“Cable Implicates Americans in Deaths of Iraqi Civilians,” New York Times, Sept. 2, 2011

“Civilians Die in a Raid by Americans and Iraqis,” New York Times, Aug. 7, 2011

“NATO Strikes Libyan State TV Transmitters,” New York Times, July 31, 2011

“NATO admits raid probably killed nine in Tripoli,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 20, 2011

“US Expands Its Drone War to Take On Somali Militants,” New York Times, July 2, 2011

“NATO airstrike blamed in 14 civilian deaths,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 30, 2011

“Libya Effort Is Called Violation of War Act,” New York Times, May 26, 2011

“Raid on Wrong House Kills Afghan Girl, 12,” New York Times, May 12, 2011

“Yemen: 2 Killed in Missile Strike,” AP, May 5, 2011

“NATO Accused of Going Too Far With Libya Strikes,” New York Times, May 2, 2011

“Disposal of Bin Laden’s remains violated Islamic principles, clerics say,” AP, May 2, 2011

“Photos of atrocities seen as threat to Afghan relations,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 22, 2011

“Missiles Kill 26 in Pakistan” (“most of them civilians”), New York Times, March 18, 2011

“Afghans Say NATO Troops Killed 8 Civilians in Raid,” New York Times, Aug. 24, 2010

“‘A dozen or more’ Afghan civilians were killed during a nighttime raid Aug. 5, 2010 in eastern Afghanistan, NATO’s officers said.” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6, 2010

“Afghans Say Attack Killed 52 Civilians; NATO Differs,” New York Times, July 27, 2010

“Afghans Die in Bombing, As Toll Rises for Civilians,” New York Times, May 3, 2010

“Marines Used ‘Excessive Force’ in Afghan Civilian Deaths,” Washington Post, April 14, 2007

See you in court.


1. “U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes,” New York Times, April 16, 2013

2. “NATO Failed to Aid a Boat of Migrants Off Libya Last Year, Rights Group Says,” New York Times, March 30, 2012

3. Times of London, Mar. 13, 2010; & “US Admits Role in February Killing of Afghan Women,” New York Times, April 4, 2010

4. “NATO Strikes Kill Pakistani Forces, Raising Tensions,” New York Times, Nov. 27, 2011

5. The Guardian, “NATO bombed Chinese deliberately: Nato hit embassy on purpose,” Oct 16, 1999,

6. Amnesty Int’l, “NATO/Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: ‘Collateral damage’ or Unlawful Killings? Violations of the Laws of War by NATO During Operation Allied Force,” June 6, 2000, p. 40

7. Human Rights Watch, “US Using Cluster munitions in Iraq,” April 1, 2003,; The Lancet, “Pressure groups condemn US use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan”, Nov. 3, 2001,; UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, “Cluster bombs were used by NATO forces during the bombing campaign,”

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.