According to a U.N. Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating violations of international war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, the intensification of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition has led to a “staggering loss of civilian life,” the Guardian reports.
The U.N. war crimes investigators found that since the acceleration of airstrikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa commenced last week, 300 civilians have already died. This statistic arguably makes Bashar al-Assad pale in comparison; Assad’s regime reportedly kills approximately 20-50 people in any given week.
“We note in particular that the intensification of air strikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry told the human rights council in Geneva.
According to Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the independent panel, the figure of 300 is based only on deaths caused by airstrikes. Therefore, the figure of civilian deaths caused by troops on the ground may ultimately higher.
As the Guardian also notes, speculation that the coalition has been using white phosphorous has already drawn strong condemnation.
Not surprisingly, this operation was conducted with full knowledge that there would be mass suffering for the civilian population. At the end of May of this year, Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis announced that the U.S. would be switching to so-called “annihilation tactics” against ISIS, stating:
“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa, we are not going to allow them to do so…We are going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”
According to Mattis, civilian deaths “are a fact of life in this sort of situation.” However, Mattis did add that the U.S. military would “do everything humanly possible consistent with military necessity, taking many chances to avoid civilian casualties at all costs.”
Mattis’ announcement that the U.S. would annihilate ISIS (and massacre civilians by the hundreds) is still somewhat dubious, considering video footage appears to have emerged of ISIS fighters fleeing the conflict in Raqqa safely despite the hundreds of bombs and white phosphorous loaded munitions U.S.-backed forces have been dropping over the city. It has been speculated that in reality, these ISIS fighters are being granted safe passage to put added pressure on the Syrian government, a longtime adversary of the United States.
Further, using a dangerous element like white phosphorous and burying over 300 civilians after approximately a week of fighting seems, on the face of it, to be nothing short of a blatant war crime. The Commission of Inquiry and the mainstream media may not use the term “war crime” outright, but that is surely an inference one can draw from their calculations.
If anything, it would appear the U.S. is annihilating civilians — and not much else.