In a wholly unfamiliar world, excessive bureaucracy would equate meticulous record-keeping, particularly when applied to human life; but — because self-interest apparently precludes the need for accurate assessment in the ongoing War on Terror — the total number of civilians killed in multiple undeclared U.S. wars exceeds official tallies by the thousands.
Iraq and Syria, alone, readily evince astonishingly pompous underestimations of resultant civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes ostensively targeting Daesh (the Islamic State), as independent watchdog group, Airwars, now documents more than 4,300 killings of innocent civilians in the two war-weary nations — fully ten times less than the U.S. Central Command total of 484 non-combatants slayed as of June 2017.
“Two weeks ago,” the New York Times reported June 19, “the American military finally acknowledged what nongovernmental monitoring groups had claimed for months: The United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State since August 2014 has been killing Iraqi and Syrian civilians at astounding rates in the four months since President Trump assumed office. The result has been a ‘staggering loss of civilian life,’ as the head of the United Nations’ independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian civil war said last week.”
Iraq declared itself free from the grips of Daesh about a week ago, just as the U.S. ramps up its presence in one of its longest stints of military involvement in history; and deployment to Syria — notwithstanding news from the G20 conference of a tentative ceasefire agreement there with Moscow — has seen a similar buildup in support of the coalition.
While the Pentagon continues to claim efficacy in bombing campaigns aimed at decimating the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, the sheer number of civilians otherwise uninvolved in the conflict killed by airstrikes leaves ample room to question laudable intent versus tangible results.
“Residents and displaced people have sheltered for months in crowded houses, with ISIS sometimes using them as human shields, so any strikes — including the choice of weapons — should take these conditions into account,” Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, explained in June. “As Iraqi and coalition forces press forward with the west Mosul offensive, they should make sure that civilian casualties are kept to a minimum.”
Now under the guidance of President Trump, the U.S. military harbors no more a penchant for caution with civilian life than it did under his predecessor — yet, neither successive ruler of the putative Free World seems poised to mandate changes in the way the Pentagon carries out strikes.
As a spectacular example, the feckless U.S. apparently chose to drop a 500-pound bomb on a building whose rooftop was occupied by two Daesh snipers — but, locals castigated the strike for dismissing as many as 36 civilians situated inside at the time.
“Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm whether the seven Iraqi forces or coalition attacks it documented were air or ground-launched, or identify the munitions. The locations were under ISIS control. ISIS fighters were present in or next to the homes destroyed right before or at the same time in three of the attacks, within 50 meters in two incidents, and were not in close proximity in two others, survivors and witnesses said.
“At least two incidents with no clear military target in the vicinity that killed at least 13 civilians may have been unlawful. The remaining attacks may have caused disproportionate civilian harm in comparison to the military advantage gained, in violation of international humanitarian law.”
Of course, military training must be conducive to dehumanization — after all, who would fight the tactical war, with its inexcusable loss of life, were it not for the soldiers and pilots making the actual killings. As 36-year-old Lt. Commander Scott “Butters” Welles, an F/A-18 pilot based on the George H.W. Bush, told Yahoo News,
“We are certainly aware of what is discussed and presented as popular opinion of what’s going on, but frankly we don’t get too tied up because we’re doing what’s been asked of us.”
It has been asked repetitively of antiwar activists most notably since the tumultuous entanglement in Vietnam how to best go about ending the planet’s multitudinous wars; but thus far — considering the reduction of lives to commodities — elusive would have best described the answer.
But, maybe — just maybe — the key to ending U.S. involvement in conflicts pertaining not one iota to national defense lies in humanizing the tick marks notched in the Pentagon’s apparently endless belt.