January 02, 2022

Imperial Army has killed Scores of Civilians in the Middle East

B Arjun

THE civilian casualty files(CCF), published by The New York Times in December 2020 has once again exposed that the US has no regard for rule-based order. Its trigger-happy imperial military force pays scant regard to the norms of warfighting with absolute contempt for human life.

The CCF, a major investigative account based on confidential Pentagon documents, is a heart-churning report of civilian casualties caused by the US in its hands-off air war in the middle east.

It reveals that Pentagons aerial bombardment in Iraq and Syria killed thousands of civilians, including children, and the military has systematically covered this up. The entire story reeks of the American militarys recklessness in combat zones.

The story of war crimes by the US military has been uncovered by Azmat Khan, an assistant professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She gathered information by filing lawsuits against the department of defense and US Central Command, demanding the release of the documents. She has made her case through months of meticulous research.

Times has culled the story from 1,311 official reports produced by the US military on civilian casualties caused due to airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between September 2014 and January 2018.

Khans brilliant work on the horrifying realities shows that the precision-guided munitions, which the Pentagon often flaunts, have no impact on preventing collateral killings in a conflict.

Refuting the Pentagons data which claims that children were killed or injured in 27 per cent of airstrikes, Khans investigations through painstaking visits to the killing sites and numerous interviews shows us that the number was 62 per cent.

The estimates of civilian casualties and damage reporting presented by the Pentagon in its fight against ISIS are absolutely misplaced. It is clear that the US has killed far more civilians than they declare. For example, in April 2016, the Pentagon reported killing 25,000 ISIS fighters and only 21 civilians.

The US air campaign in the Middle East grew rapidly in the final years of former president Barack Obama's administration, as public support waned for the seemingly endless ground wars. Were conducting the most precise air campaign in history,” president Barack Obama had boldly claimed in 2016.

The CCF has exposed the myth of accurate killing with modern weapons. America has lied to the world and its own people claiming that it can defeat enemies not just with the minimal toll in American lives but also with a virtually non-existent toll in innocent life.

US politicians have often used drones and other unmanned aircraft to avoid a body bag count that has the potential to end US occupations due to growing domestic opposition. But they have always ignored the devastating human cost these air assaults impose on civilians. The Pentagon consistently avoids accountability for the hideous atrocities caused by its 'precision' remote-control warfare.”

The Times story further points out that the US military indulged in the deliberate killing of children by dropping bombs in places despite seeing children in their cameras.  For example, in July 2016, US airstrikes ostensibly targeted ISIS, killed more than 120 farmers in Tokhar village in northern Syria. And as expected the US military report on the gruesome murder of innocent civilians is just brushed aside the killings as military necessity.  

Another example of gross arrogance was a November 2015 attack in Ramadi, Iraq after a man was seen dragging "an unknown heavy object" into a Daesh position. The "object," a review found, was a child, who died in the strike.

The worst is that the US military reports on civilian deaths are a complete cover-up, a humbug. They mention no evidence of negligence or wrongdoing”. The general pattern in hundreds of official reports is that there is neither any recommendation for disciplinary action nor for compensation for the survivors. 

According to Khan, What emerges from the more than 5,400 pages of records is an institutional acceptance of an inevitable collateral toll. In the logic of the military, a strike, however deadly to civilians, is acceptable as long as it has been properly decided and approved—the proportionality of military gain to civilian danger weighed—in accordance with the chain of command.”

According to the Times, the US military focused on identifying targets, and not on collecting information needed to prevent civilian deaths.

The US military uses a calculus of murder by which they assess how many civilians they are willing to kill for any particular target. Many US military personnel are arguing that ISIS terrorists are the main culprit for civilian killings because they use human shields and commandeer civilian facilities like hospitals or mosques for military purposes.

Every military that conducts its operations under the ambit of universally acknowledged law of armed conflict needs to understand that the use of civilian facilities or human shields does not convert any given that can be annihilated at will. The military leadership often seeks refuge in the argument that in a war-like situation it is extremely difficult to plan for and take precautions needed to avoid killing or harming civilians. But it is shocking to see, through the Times investigation, how many basic precautions were simply ignored while selecting a target itself.

On the other hand, antiwar groups opposed to US drone attacks are urging the government to investigate the US militarys systematic cover-up of civilian casualties caused by its drone-dependent air wars.

Wars and insurgencies will continue to consume the civilian population till the time rules of engagement are strictly followed and erring soldiers and their commanders are severely punished for violations.

The allegations of civilian casualties are never consistently investigated and imperial military leaders have chosen impunity.

If there was any lingering sense that the Pentagon's claims of US forces avoiding civilian casualties with "surgical strikes" and precision-guided munitions should be taken at face value, this comprehensive investigation in the New York Times has blown it to smithereens.

The problem is not so much about the type of weapon system - manned or unmanned - used to kill civilians, it has more to do with military leadership and its intent to cause harm to achieve its narrow political objectives.

The irony is Washington, the single biggest violator of human rights in the world is its biggest votary and generator of homilies on the virtues of rule-based world order.