'Incredible Journalism Too Late' Actual Iraqi Deaths by US Coalition Exposed Years Later

Published November 19th, 2017 - 03:36 GMT
An airstrike hits West Mosul (AFP)
An airstrike hits West Mosul (AFP)

The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition killed Iraqi civilians at a rate 31 times greater than it acknowledges, a New York Times investigation has found.

While official figures indicate that only one in 157 airstrikes caused a civilian fatality, the report published Thursday claims as many as one in five resulted in civilian death.

So why, presuming the second figure is the more correct one, was the coalition allowed to get away with lying?

The high numbers of civilians dying have sometimes been reported in international media. For instance, coalition airstrikes on the Jadidah district of Mosul which killed “up to 200 civilians” on March 17 gained coverage.

The Guardian reported on March 25 that the coalition had “launched a formal investigation into reports of civilian casualties.”

According to Airwars, an NGO which monitors civilian casualties, that probe found that a U.S. strike had killed between 105 and 141 civilians. Locals, meanwhile, gave estimates as high as 600 dead.

Still, despite the initial outrage, there was no follow up by the press. The results of that investigation were not published or interrogated by mainstream outlets.

The reason for this, the New York Time report suggests, is that most of the coalition’s process for analyzing civilian deaths “is hidden” meaning that “its thoroughness is difficult to evaluate independently.”




Another reason that the coalition has not been held accountable by the media is that local reporting is weaker than elsewhere. Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told the New York Times that his organization “may be significantly underreporting deaths in Iraq” as a result.

Still, despite this weakness, Airwars itself has claimed that 3,000 Iraqi civilians have died in coalition airstrikes since 2014. That is, six times as many as the 466 civilian deaths the coalition has publicly acknowledged.

In fact, the New York Times investigation found "a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all."

In reaction to reports of civilian deaths as a result of the March 17 strike, U.S. Central Command released a statement saying: “Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties”

It continued by blaming "ISIS’s inhuman tactics terrorising civilians, using human shields and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighbourhoods.”

The New York Times report, however, disputed coalition claims that casualties were hard to avoid because ISIS was embedded within the civilian population. That investigation found that “in about half of the strikes that killed civilians [there was] no discernible ISIS target nearby.”

“In the eyes of the coalition, its diligence on these matters points to a dispiriting truth about war” the report says. “Supreme precision can reduce civilian casualties to a very small number, but that number will never reach zero.”

Perhaps the same mentality is why the media did not ask more questions before now. Civilian casualties of U.S. wars are seen as inevitable - and the loss of Iraqi lives is no longer news.

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