By OGN Research Staff and Bilal Abdul Kareem
An eight-year-old girl is sniped in the neck and left to bleed to death. Nearby, a pregnant woman and her unborn child also die after the mother is shot in the stomach. Just three victims of a total of 30 civilians, mostly women and children, massacred in a botched Navy SEAL raid in Al Ghayil, Yemen. However White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a different take on the raid wherein he said the assault “was a very, very well thought out and executed effort”.
In Syria, 50 more suffer a similar fate following the US bombing of a religious service in Al Jina while mainly women and children refugees perish during the destruction of a school house shelter in Mansoura.
In Mosul, over 100 more civilians are burned and crushed under heavy US coalition bombardment despite assurances of safety from the allied Iraqi government.
As fatalities are calculated and their corresponding bodies accumulate, the gruesome framework of an alarming trend in current US military actions emerges. In a span of mere months, beleaguered civilians in war-ravaged Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have witnessed an unprecedented escalation of indiscriminate killings by the US and coalition forces, bearing in mind this escalation is in addition to an already deadly situation.
While some focus on the apparent increased callousness to the civilian deaths in past and recent US military operations (citing the ever-mounting occurrences of non-combatant deaths catalogued by groups such as Airwars), fewer still analyze civilian fatalities resulting from the actions of non-state actors.
Of special interest are the numbers of civilian deaths attributed to groups the US and allied forces classify as ‘terrorist.’ Of the gravest concern to international monitoring institutions in areas of conflict, is the disregard for the sanctity of civilian lives.
In Syria there are a number of military forces from around the world, chief among them are the US, Russia, and Iran. Each of these respective governments have cited that the reason for their intervention is to ‘protect the people from terrorists’. However upon examination of the actual number of civilians killed by these respective, there is a clear disparity in terms of their stated goals and actions on the ground.
We examined statistics compiled from various sources, chiefly those of Airwars and the Syrian Network for Human Rights, previously cited by both the United Nations and US government for statistical data regarding the Syrian conflict. The sample focuses specifically on the reported incidents of civilian deaths attributed to violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors between January 2016 and April of 2017. The sample period was determined by the period in which mutually corroborating data was reported by both government and NGOs.
The data showed that in the sampled period, civilian deaths attributed to Russian military action totaled 6,230 while those attributed to the US were 1,286. The Syrian Arab Republic is reported to be accountable for the killing of 9,865 of civilians while 1,289 deaths occurred as a result of indefinite attribution or as a result of Turkish, Jordanian, or Lebanese military personnel. Kurdish militia and paramilitary groups are reported to have killed 165 civilians. Rebel opposition groups were cited as having caused the deaths of 1,086 civilians while ISIL was said to have killed 1,913 civilians and the alleged Al Qaida (AQ) affiliate, Jabha Fateh Sham (JFS), formerly Jabha Al Nusra (JN), is reported to be responsible for 23 civilian causalities.
Interestingly, in the 16 months sampled, the highest number of civilian deaths were attributed to the Syrian regime while the fewest civilian casualties belonged to JFS, a US sanctioned terrorist group. US-backed Kurdish groups were attributed to have killed almost seven times more civilians than alleged AQ affiliates in Syria while Russian interference in the conflict has killed more than three times as many civilians as both ISIL and JFS combined.
The statistics make clear that state actors in the Syrian conflict such as the US, Russia, and the Syrian Regime, have consistently produced higher numbers of civilian deaths than alleged terrorists groups.
Remarkably, the actual numbers run counter to the prevailing narrative of the ‘War on Terror.’ The presumption that the bulk of violence, fatalities, and resultant suffering on civilian populations are the result of rebel, opposition, or ‘terrorist’ operations is not supported by data. The disconcerting truth is that heavily funded, organized, and technologically advanced armies of powerful and sovereign nations cause far more damage and greater loss of civilian life than the ‘terrorists’ they have vowed to fight. In light of such revelations, it is particularly crucial that we re-examine the dominating rhetoric about the Syrian conflict and accurately address it in a humanitarian manner.
If we look at the data from January to April of this year alone in Syria, the numbers are staggering: 1,129 civilians were killed by the Syrian Arab Army and 395 by their Russian allies coupled with the US’s 481 equals a total of 2,005. The death toll of civilians caused by ISIS is 403, while the Al Qaida death toll numbers in at only 5.
Since 2011 to March of 2017 According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights
92.2% (190,723) of civilian deaths in Syria were caused by the Syrian Arab Army and 2% (4,102) by their Russian helpers (bearing in mind that Russia entered the conflict militarily in 2015). 1.6% (3,352) of total civilians were killed by ISIS during that time period and 0.02% (379) were killed by Nusra (JFS). The US led coalition who entered the conflict in mid 2014 accounted for 0.5% (945) of civilians killed.
Counting the dead in a war zone is hardly an exact science, however even with a generous margin for error the numbers simply do not support the narrative that ‘anti-terror’ forces (ie Russia, US, and Syria) are protecting the people from terrorists. It can possibly be said that they are protecting their individual interests rather than fighting terror, however that narrative is rarely used because it neither helps them garner international support nor gain a moral license to carry out the massacres that all have witnessed.
Anything short of a total review of who is and who isn’t a terrorist will only result in a continued spike in violence, leaving everyone on the losing side.