U.S. acknowledges civilian casualties as death toll keeps rising

U.S. Marines conduct a security patrol through the abandoned village of Now Zad in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 12, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pete Thibodeau

The Pentagon’s recent admission that more U.S. troops are deployed to war zones than previously disclosed has caused some controversy. But another consistently underestimated number — that of civilian casualties of America’s wars — has received less attention, even as the death toll continues to mount seemingly without interruption.

On Friday the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State extremist group (a.k.a. ISIS) in Iraq and Syria confirmed another 61 civilian deaths, bringing the official total to 685 since 2014. Independent estimates, however, such as that of the non-profit group Airwars.org, put the number of civilians killed in that conflict much higher, at more than 5,200. Airwars got to that number after weeding out more than 15,000 additional allegations of civilian casualties.

“In the latest coalition report, officials only acknowledge two incidents since June 6, in the Raqqa area, which killed four people,” notes Kimberley Dozier for the Daily Beast. “The report said the U.S. military investigations team is working through another 455 reports of possible civilian casualties from Airwars and other [non-governmental organizations], however.”

The problem of civilians caught in the crossfire isn’t limited to the fight against ISIS. The U.S. is reportedly investigating allegations that one of its air strikes this week in Afghanistan killed at least 11 civilians, along with two Taliban commanders. In Somalia, meanwhile, a community is outraged after a joint U.S.-Somali raid allegedly killed 10 civilians last week. Those killed reportedly included children.

The U.S. is presently preparing for another 4,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, after 16 years — and tens of thousands of civilian casualties — in that country. President Trump appears to be following through on his promise to “bomb the shit out of” America’s enemies, as civilian deaths overall in America’s various conflicts have reportedly “skyrocketed,” having “roughly doubled” in frequency since he took office.

Many Americans remain alarmingly ignorant of the rest of the world. Given the nature of some of the United Sates’ activities abroad, it makes sense that they’d prefer not to think about them. For the sake of their country’s image and standing in international affairs, though, if nothing else, they should try to pressure those in power to take a less brutal approach.



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