The US-Led Coalition in Syria and Iraq May Be Severely Underreporting Civilian Deaths

Since 2011, the war in Syria and Iraq has claimed a devastating number of lives. One report estimates that the ongoing conflict has resulted in more than 400,000 casualties, including both civilians and combatants.

Until recently, most of the general public believed that the U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq was responsible for relatively few civilian deaths — but it turns out that the true number might be much larger.

Warfare generally results in the unfortunate loss of civilian life. But when it comes to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, where combat is often conducted in urban areas, these casualties are especially unavoidable. Operations involving U.S.-led coalition forces are no different.

One of the worst incidents occurred in March of 2017, when coalition aircraft carried out a series of massive airstrikes against a residential section of the Iraqi city of Mosul. The official statement claimed that most people in the targeted zones were occupying forces from the Islamic State. In the weeks following the strikes, however, nearly 300 civilian bodies were pulled from ruined homes.

According to military officials, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) has resulted in roughly 850 civilian deaths since it began in 2014. But Airwars, an independent war observation group, contests this count.

Drawing from a range of reports, accounts and other data sources, Airwars estimates that the true number of civilian deaths attributed to OIR and the coalition is well over 6,000. That’s a conservative estimate, however. The true tally could be as high as 9,444.

If the Mosul coalition operation left roughly 300 civilians dead in just one month, then how realistic can the official figure of 850 civilian deaths over three years be?

These statistics are drastically different from those provided to the public by government officials — but why?

In large part, it comes down to how the coalition gathers data. Before officially accepting responsibility for any civilian death, a thorough investigation must be conducted. But these inquiries appear to be a fairly low priority for OIR, as at least half of all civilian deaths that the coalition has been accused of causing have yet to be probed.

This inevitably means the official OIR toll is far lower than it should be, but it would be naive to assume that this is not by design.

Perhaps the most obvious reason for this intentional obfuscation is that it’s an attempt to slow the inevitable, rising opposition to U.S. involvement in Syria and Iraq from Americans. Though a large portion of U.S. citizens still support  missile and air strikes, approval of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups continues to decline.

If it was widely known how many innocent people are perishing thanks to the “good guys,” the disingenuous narrative – the West is in Syria/Iraq purely to stop the notorious Islamic State — might fall apart.

This process also creates opportunity for the coalition to side-step accusations that some of its missions have unnecessarily resulted in civilian deaths – acts could be considered an international war crime. To voluntarily admit culpability might be a threat to the coalition’s continued existence.

And it’s not simply that unavoidable deaths occurred due to U.S.-led coalition efforts; in its haste to end its intervention in the conflict, the coalition is operating in a haphazard manner — at the cost of thousands of innocent civilian lives.

At this point, the U.S.-led coalition needs to realize that hiding behind inaccurate civilian casualty number is not an acceptable strategy. If we are to truly be the force to liberate communities from the brutality of the Islamic State, we must hold ourselves to an exceptionally high standard — especially when it comes to the collateral loss of innocent life.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

82 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A1 months ago

Awful.

SEND
John P
John P2 months ago

Hell on Earth...

SEND
DAVID f
Dave fleming2 months ago

TFS

SEND
DAVID f
Dave fleming2 months ago

THANKS

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

SEND
John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
John J
John J2 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

Poor people...

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND