US report on civilian casualties in Iraq & Syria: ‘Figures plucked out of thin air’

Dan Glazebrook
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and 'austerity'. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
US report on civilian casualties in Iraq & Syria: ‘Figures plucked out of thin air’
US officials are trying to massively minimize the real civilian death toll in Iraq and Syria resulting from the American-led coalition’s air strikes, political writer and journalist Dan Glazebrook told RT.

Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) admitted in a report on Monday that the US-led coalition has “unintentionally” killed at least 188 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014 when the airstrikes against Islamic State began.

RT: There seem to have been mixed messages about civilian casualties coming from US officials over the last few months. Why is that?

Dan Glazebrook: I think it is damage limitation, isn’t it? I think everyone realizes that the idea that there are no civilian casualties, when they are launching these major, major bombing campaigns across Iraq and Syria, it is just completely unbelievable. What they are trying to do is put out some figures that frankly seem to be plucked out of thin air and massively minimize the real civilian casualty death toll in order to show: “Ok, we’re admitting the reality – there are some civilian casualties. But look, there are not many – certainly nothing compared to what the Russians are doing,” or whatever, which is complete nonsense.

Amnesty International last year released a report where they identified over 300 civilian deaths just in Syria alone. And only 11 US coalition airstrikes, of which CENTCOM, the US Army command operating in the region, admitted only one. So if this is standard – that they will admit only one out of every three hundreds civilian deaths, then the true figure we’re looking at is very horrible and grisly indeed.

RT: Do you think anyone will be held accountable for the civilian deaths?

DG: That only depends on the balance of power in the world. As long as the US is the world’s superpower – that position is declining daily, but it is still obviously the dominant power in the world. While that continues to be the case, it will veto any Security Council resolutions attempting to hold it to account. It will be very difficult to hold them accountable. Remember the attack on… I think it was a Kunduz hospital in Afghanistan, 2015, where for up to an hour, I think, US forces repeatedly bombed and bombed this Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan, while the doctors were desperately on the phone begging them to stop. Dozens and dozens of people were killed in that attack, and there was no accountability. There was an investigation that said: “Yeah, we made some mistakes.” But no one is to be punished. That was the end of the matter. Any attempts by the UN to do any further probing were vetoed. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the power situation in the world today.

RT: A representative from Amnesty International told us the US government isn’t doing enough to prevent civilian deaths. Is that a fair assessment, or is collateral damage just a sad fact of war?

DG: There is an extent to which civilian casualties are an inevitable consequence of war. I think the attempts by Britain and America to always try and portray their wars as clean wars, smart wars with surgical strikes, where no one except the bad guys get killed – that narrative needs to be challenged. War always kills the innocent: children, civilians, and so on.

At the same time, it is true what the Amnesty is saying – the US is not doing all they can to minimize civilian casualties. For example, there was an attack – December 2015, Syrian village of Al-Khan, where 40 civilians were killed – half of them children. The YPG who were on the ground at that time, the Kurdish militia, who were supposedly allies of the US, said that they told the US that there were civilians in this area, and warned them specifically that the civilians were there and they shouldn’t launch a strike. But the US obviously just ignored that warning. 

So all the claims we hear from the US administration – that they do everything to minimize civilian casualties, and so on, is nonsense frankly. In just one month, in the bombing of Mosul, an estimated 600 civilians were killed. This was the exact same time as we were hearing nonstop demonization of the Russian and Syrian war effort in Aleppo, where the casualty rate was very similar. The difference is that the battle of Aleppo resulted in a strategic victory for the government, which has brought the war in Syria one major step closer to an end, and brought peace much closer to Syria, and actually brought peace finally to the people of Aleppo. Whereas, what has the US bombing campaign and the 600 civilians dead in Mosul achieved? Nothing!

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