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Are civilians killed in US attacks human beings or simply statistics?

President of the United States Joe Biden in Maryland, US on 4 February 2022 [Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency]
President of the United States Joe Biden in Maryland, US on 4 February 2022 [Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency]

US President Joe Biden announced last Thursday that the leader of Daesh, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi, 45, had been killed. Al-Qurayshi led the terrorist group for over two years, and was killed by the US military.

Speaking proudly at the White House, Biden said that the operation to kill the Daesh leader in Idlib near the Syrian-Turkish border was "successful". US forces, he insisted, had rid the world of a "major threat".

Standing in the Roosevelt Room, the US president added that the "horrible terrorist leader is no more thanks to the bravery of our troops." He reminded us all that the US had also killed Al-Qurayshi's predecessor, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2019.

Biden did not, though, let us know how many civilians were killed in this "successful" operation. For Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, the mission was also successful because, "There were no US casualties." He too ignored the non-American casualties. When reports revealed that civilians had been killed during the operation, Kirby claimed that a suicide bomb triggered by the Daesh leader killed at least three civilians.

In fact, thirteen civilians were killed, according to the White Helmets, the Syrian civil defence first responders who operate in rebel-held areas of Syria. Of the thirteen people who were killed in the US raid in Idlib, explained the organisation, six were children and four were women. Civilian casualties were confirmed by other groups, including the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

READ: Footage shows kidnapped Syrian boy, 6, being beaten 

In his remarks on the incident, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin applauded the raid and reiterated that Daesh was responsible for the deaths of civilians during the operation. "We know that Al-Qurayshi and others at his compound directly caused the deaths of women and children…" Nevertheless, he kept the door half open to avoid possible embarrassment if anyone conducted an investigation into the civilian deaths. "But, given the complexity of this mission, we will take a look at the possibility our actions may also have resulted in harm to innocent people."

ABC News reported a US official as claiming that the civilian casualties were not the result of US military gunfire, but occurred when the target of the raid detonated an explosive device at the beginning of the operation.

On Thursday, an Associated Press journalist visited Atmeh area in Idlib, where the operation took place. He spoke with residents, who said that the US Special Forces used helicopters, and that they heard explosions and machine-gun fire. A number of explosions, not just one caused by a "suicide bomb" allegedly detonated by Al-Qurayshi.

Joe Biden hinted that he knew about the civilian casualties, but he did not care because they were not Americans. "This operation is testament to America's reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they try to hide anywhere in the world," he said. The US was determined to carry out the attack, regardless of possible civilian casualties.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, because America has never been concerned about civilians being killed as it takes action against "terrorist threats". It is worth remembering at this point that Reuters reported former US President Donald Trump's allegation that his predecessor Barak Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton basically created Daesh. How credible is such a claim? Well, can there be smoke without fire?

Former President of the United States Barack Obama in Newark, US on 23 October 2021 [Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency ]

Former President of the United States Barack Obama in Newark, US on 23 October 2021 [Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency ]

According to Al Jazeera, senior adviser Annie Shiel at the US-based Centre for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), said: "The US military's initial version of events is often incomplete, misleading, or wrong – especially when it comes to civilian casualties… President Biden has been quick to hail this as a categorical success despite the tragic deaths of civilians, including children… At the same time, he has yet to publicly address any of the very significant structural failures of US civilian harm policies and practices reported in the past few months. Where is the public recognition of, and reckoning with, the legacy of harm from the past two decades of US operations?"

READ: Minors remain in Syria prison attacked by Daesh

The US policy appears to be that all people who are not Americans, be they civilians or not, are either simply statistics or do not even deserve to fall into that category and are hidden or discounted altogether.

An investigation by the New York Times in December based on a number of confidential Pentagon documents, concluded that US air wars in the Middle East have been marked by "deeply flawed intelligence" and "faulty targeting" that has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians over the past decade.

New York Times correspondents Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt found that, "The United States' air war against [Daesh] seems to have been particularly brutal on innocent civilians in Syria." They reported that "a top-secret unit of the US military was allowed to pick targets for drone attacks and bombing runs with little oversight, and that as the conflict wore on, it increasingly sidestepped rules to protect non-combatants, ordering air strikes that killed farmers in their fields, children in the street and families fleeing combat."

Opening their investigation, Philipps and Schmitt gave details of a particularly horrific bombing in 2019, which appears to have killed as many as 70 women and children. Despite complaints from others in the military and the CIA, they reported that the attacks have been largely unacknowledged by the military, and no one has been disciplined for the civilian deaths.

A report updated in 2021 by Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University said that more than 387,000 civilians have been killed in US wars since 2001. That is a shocking statistic.

Anadolu reported Syrians who survived the US military operation in Idlib as saying that the US soldiers told them to leave their homes "or die". The survivors' narrative about the operation differs from the one announced by the US military.

It seems that the US does not care about civilian casualties as long as it is able to crown itself as the protector of global democracy, with other governments seeking its support and hosting its military bases — the US has 750 bases in at least 80 countries — in the race to bow down before the White House. Are those civilians killed by the US human beings are simply statistics?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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