Global paradox: ‘US involved in military conflicts as actor & referee at same time’

Global paradox: ‘US involved in military conflicts as actor & referee at same time’
The United States is very quick to say when civilian deaths occur, 'Gosh, that is unfortunate. We didn’t mean to do that, but it is collateral damage,' former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT.

The US-led coalition in Syria has confirmed to RT that it has conducted airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor province.

At least 106 civilians have been reported killed in the strikes that took place this Thursday and Friday.

RT: The coalition has only confirmed the strikes, not the deaths. But we’ve seen incidents before where they confirmed that but nothing changed. What should be done for the US to reconsider its approach to civilians?

Jim Jatras: Let’s remember, Deir ez-Zor is an area controlled by the Syrian government that is virtually surrounded by ISIS. When I first heard about the strike, my first thought was: was this another incident where we 'mistakenly' hit the Syrian Army forces instead of hitting the ISIS forces? It appears that is not the case; this strike occurred in a town called Mayadeen, which did inflict civilian casualties. There have been mixed reports that I have seen, whether these were people who are fleeing from ISIS or whether in some cases these were ISIS family members – in particular one apartment building where some of the foreign families, including Moroccans, who are fighting with ISIS against the Syrian government are housed. We have to find out exactly where the strike was, who got hit, and what the target was that they were intending to hit with the strike occurred. 

RT: Previously, the coalition in Iraq tried to blame Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) for the civilian deaths in a strike in Mosul. Why is the intelligence so bad?

JJ: It is a question of the intelligence, it is also a question of the type of weapon used, how good is the targeting. They may have the correct intelligence, but the targeting of the weapon on the target identified by the intelligence may not be as good as they hope it is. So, there are a lot of details that have to come out here. We have the paradox that the US is always in a position of being both a participant and also the referee. We are very quick to say when civilian deaths occur. “Gosh, that is unfortunate. We didn’t mean to do that, but it is collateral damage, what can we do?” You can take it for what it is worth. 

RT: In Syria, contrary to the situation in Iraq, the US-led coalition wasn’t invited. So, how should these air campaigns which sometimes result in civilian casualties be perceived? Is this an invasion?

JJ: That is an interesting point because in the case of Mosul, we are fighting with the agreement of the internationally recognized government in Baghdad, just as the Russian Air Force is doing in Syria, on behalf of the internationally recognized government in Damascus. Nobody has invited us legally to conduct any bombing strikes in Syria. And it would be worse, in some ways, if we had been targeting Syrian government forces, which would have been a direct act of aggression again Syria, which, unfortunately, we have committed in the past. That does not appear to be the case here where it seems that we were targeting ISIS, but the people we hit were not fighters, but rather, it seems, civilians and perhaps even family members.    

RT: The international community remained silent when the US-led coalition previously confirmed civilian casualties from its air campaigns. Why do you think it’s more vocal when it comes to deaths caused, or apparently caused, by Assad’s army?

JJ: And that is exactly what it is – a contradiction. When the Syrian Army or, let’s keep in mind, the Russian Air Force, was fighting to recover eastern Aleppo, when civilian deaths occurred there, we were the first to say, “that was deliberate, that is a war crime, this is a job for The Hague.” We cut them no slack on the fact that this is a very messy business to recover populated areas from terrorist groups and sometimes mistakes happen – even with the best intelligence, the best technical precision on carrying out strikes. Now, I’m not saying we had the best intelligence or the best technical execution in Deir ez-Zor. I hope it was better than it looked, but we really won’t know until the details come in.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.