Moral Low Ground


US Admits Killing Children in Syria Airstrike

(Photo: Day Donaldson)

(Photo: Day Donaldson)

The commander of the US-led military campaign against Islamic State has admitted an American airstrike killed two Syrian children last November.

The BBC reports Lieutenant General James Terry said on Thursday that a US military investigation concluded the November 5-6 aerial attack, which targeted a bomb-making facility operated by the al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan Group near Harim City, “likely resulted in the deaths of two civilian children at or near one of the targeted locations.”

“We regret the unintentional loss of lives,” said Terry, who led the investigation. He added that there had been no prior indication that children were present in the area of the strike. Two adult civilians were also wounded in the attack.

The general’s acknowledgement marks the first time since the US-led aerial campaign against IS began last August that the United States has admitted killing civilians. Terry stressed that “the coalition continues to take all reasonable measures during the targeting process to mitigate risks to non-combatants and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.”

But the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a group opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, said on Wednesday that 131 civilians, including 42 children, have been killed in coalition airstrikes over the course of the nearly nine-month campaign.

Among the deadliest reported US-led airstrikes of the campaign were a December 28 attack in Al Bab, northwest of Aleppo, that killed at least 50 civilians, including at least seven children, and an April 30 strike in Bir Mahli, Aleppo province, that left 64 civilians, including 31 children, dead.

As shocking as these numbers are, they represent a tiny fraction of the number of innocent men, women and children killed during the four-year Syrian civil war. In January, the United Nations said more than 220,000 people have died during the conflict. Another 1 million have been wounded, and 7.6 million displaced—3.3 million of them now refugees.

Still, claims that the United States takes great care to avoid civilian casualties are scoffed at by critics, who point to a recent study published by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which concluded the US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed more than 1.3 million people. Since the end of World War II, US military forces have killed more innocent foreign civilians than any other power on earth.

Despite the ferocious aerial onslaught against IS, the militant Islamic fundamentalist group continues to make advances in Syria and deep into Iraq. Recent victories in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and Ramadi in Iraq have belied American claims of containment.

After IS forces captured Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and the site of fierce battles between US forces and Iraqi resistance fighters during the 2003-2011 invasion and occupation of Iraq, President Barack Obama called the city’s capture by IS fighters a “tactical setback.”

“I don’t think we’re losing,” Obama said of the anti-IS campaign in an interview with The Atlantic.

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