A New York Times report exposing the US military for killing 70 Syrian civilians, in 2019, does not show a case of “bad apples”, but rather highlights a popular trend in a military industrial complex fixated on bringing death and destruction to the Middle East.
On March 18, 2019, the ‘New York Times’ revealed that a special ground operations unit, called ‘Ground Force 9’, ordered strikes in Baghouz, Syria, which killed anywhere between 50 to 80 people. The special operations unit reportedly did not need the usual authorization to launch the strikes they did, which came from F-15E fighter jets. The first airstrike that was launched dropped a 500 pound bomb on a group of primarily women and children. Shortly after, they fired a second. They then fired a third 2,000 pound bomb that was dropped on the crowd ensuring the deaths of the survivors.
According to the NYT, the US Air force command centre in Qatar reported the incident up the chain of command, urging an investigation, but there was reportedly so much stalling that no information was relayed. The first comments on the incident sought to justify the strike, claiming only a small number of civilians had been killed during an attack on targets belonging to Daesh. Ultimately, all attempts to try and open up a fair investigation into the incident, which the military supposedly knew killed around 70 civilians, were buried.
But this story, although very important, is not where the problem with the US military’s lawlessness begins. Firstly, this is not an isolated incident of civilians being massacred; in that same year  in Afghanistan alone, the US military killed at least 700 Afghan civilians with just its drone strikes. It is also not limited to the Trump administration, similar massacres occurred during the presidency of Barack Obama during bombing campaigns said to have been targeting Daesh combatants inside both Iraq and Syria — resulting in countless atrocities.
Under current President Joe Biden, alarming cases of civilian massacres with no accountability are already open and available for our examination, the most infamous of which is the drone strike carried out earlier this August in Kabul. The drone strike targeted and killed 10 Afghan civilians, including 7 children, and after countless attempts at justifying the legality of the actions taken against an innocent group of civilians, the US finally admitted that there was no information which could prove that a terrorist target was in the area of their strike. Instead of just owing up to their alleged “mistake”, US officials argued that the strike had caused “collateral damage” and that they had intelligence that a Daesh threat from the location was imminent.
Now, after admitting to not having any intelligence confirming a Daesh target was present, what do they state on the issue? Well they simply say that it was a “high stress” situation and there was a “mistake” made. Subsequently, the US military refuses to prosecute anyone for the massacre that it carried out. Another scary element to the US military’s lawlessness, is the fact that high stakes strikes are now carried out without any approval from higher ups, bypassing the President even. In July, the US military carried out an airstrike in Somalia, against the Al-Shabaab group, without the traditional Presidential approval needed. This now means that the US military establishment, which gave a pseudo-legal argument as to why they did it, can carry out attacks on foreign countries in which they are not currently authorized to wage war — not even notifying the commander in chief of their actions prior to striking.
In the case of the New York Times report on the 2019 strike, it seems that the article struck a nerve in Washington and quickly forced the US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, to issue a statement. “Where we see we’re not doing things as well as we could, we should adjust”, says Austin, who also offered the usual statement about regretting the loss of all civilian life. Yet the “adjustment” seems not to be coming. Instead, the US military are out to justify their 2019 strike as legitimate, adding to the coverup and allowing those responsible to avoid being brought to justice.
Gene Tate, an evaluator who worked on the case of the airstrikes in Baghouz, attempting to get to the bottom of it, told the NYT that he was forced out of his job and that everyone in the leadership seemed like they wished to bury it. US Central Command later came out denying the claims.
US military spokesperson Cpt. Bill Urban then told the BBC that US troops had been assured no civilians were on site where the strikes were ordered. In a manner indicative of how little regard the US military seems to have for what people think of their actions, let alone the civilians killed, he said that they could not “conclusively characterize the status of more than 60 other casualties”, on top of 16 they say are fighters and four they admit are civilians. Laughably, the US military claim that in the over 1,000 strikes carried out in 2019 in Syria, only 22 civilians were killed. If they now backtrack on their originally stated civilian death toll in this strike, owing up to what was reported by the NYT, then that statistic is entirely debunked and blows a larger hole in the US military’s credibility.
There is also the issue that the US government was never authorized by congress to occupy a third of Syrian territory, or even enter the war on the ground. In fact, most Americans have no idea that the US, in Syria, is currently at war, let alone that it controls 90% of the country’s oil resources and loots its most fertile agricultural lands at a time when Syrians are suffering in poverty.
The US military has long thrown aside the issue of law and morality. It has only sought to get around its own rules in order to avoid prosecution when it understands that its actions could mean accountability. In an illegal war, without congressional approval, without public support, without the knowledge of the President, or even following the standard protocols in place, the US government covers up its crimes and still somehow gets away with claiming it is about freedom and liberty. In all honesty, the Daesh militants that arose out of their detention centers, have just about the same level of humanity as those running the US military. A sad reality, as most US troops join truly believing that they are doing the right thing and fighting to keep their country safe, when in fact they are used as a force of terror to allow looting, raping, pillaging and illegal regime change operations.