Politics

Report: US military hid 2019 airstrikes that killed Syrian civilians

An American airstrike that killed mostly civilians in Syria was recently uncovered after being kept under wraps since 2019.

The New York Times published a report this weekend exposing the US military’s 2019 airstrike that killed an estimated 64-80 civilians. The Times investigated the matter for months and found that although the US Command Center said the attack was justified, there may be reason to believe that it wasn’t. The military conducted an independent investigation, but its process was slowed and vital information was concealed.

On March 18, 2019, a 500 pound bomb, followed by two 2,000 pound bombs were dropped on a dirt field, where Syrians sought refuge from the nearby town, Baghuz. The battle against the Islamic State in Syria would be over days later, so these people were some of the last remaining. Shortly after the bombs were dropped, someone messaged on a secure messaging system, “Who dropped that?”, to which another responded, “We just dropped on 50 women and children.”

The Times reported that this airstrike was one of the largest incidents of civilian casualty against the Islamic State, yet hasn’t been reported by the US military. Several of the next steps taken after the airstrike were riddled with rule bending and cover-ups.

Officials reportedly were aware of the death toll soon after the drops. Shortly after, a legal officer claimed that it was a war crime which would need to be investigated. However, throughout the investigation, the proper steps weren’t taken. The number of deaths was minimized, mandatory reports were pushed back, cleaned up, and classified, the strike site was bulldozed, and the higher-ups were unaware of any of the events.

In fact, when the Defense Department had an independent inspector general complete an investigation, his report was scrubbed so that claims of a strike were left out. An evaluator in the inspector general’s office, Gene Tate, said of the situation, “Leadership just seemed so set on burying this. No one wanted anything to do with it.” He added, “It makes you lose faith in the system when people are trying to do what’s right but no one in positions of leadership wants to hear it.” Tate’s criticism of the process led to him being out of a job.

The US Central Command confirmed to the Times that the attack had, in fact, occurred, with 80 people killed. They claimed it was justified since sixteen fighters were killed and only four civilians were killed. Among those claims, the command said they were unsure if all of the 60 killed were civilians, since sometimes women and children participated in attacks.

The chief spokesman for the command, Capt. Bill Urban said, “We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. In this case, we self-reported and investigated the strike according to our own evidence and take full responsibility for the unintended loss of life.”

ARTICLE: RITA VOGT

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: MIDDLE EAST EYE

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