Deep in ISIL territory, a coalition airstrike dropped bombs on a school in Raqqa. There are conflicting reports, but groups on the ground say that over 30 people are dead. The school housed internally displaced Syrians. These were reportedly civilian casualties. You probably didn’t notice, because it happened on the same day as the attack in London, so the world was busy watching that.
Keep in mind, that even though I say we looked more toward London, I do not diminish the tragedy there at all. In fact, all senseless loss of life is tragic and abhorrent. However, the small waves this air raid caused seem to be doing something that is happening more frequently with the Trump administration in power, people are outraged at something that should have outraged them 15+ years ago.
Civilian Casualties Have been High, and the US doesn’t play by the Rules
The United States is not and never has been a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), though we signed the treaty without ever ratifying it. The ICC is an international court set up specifically to bring justice against war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. There is a good reason we aren’t a part of the court.
In Abu Graibh, people were tortured and humiliated, feces rubbed in their faces, and someone was beaten to death. The pictures are gruesome.
The United States bombed a hospital in Kunduz. Hospitals are supposed to be protected by the Geneva Convention. Which means, it is a war crime to bomb a hospital, though the Pentagon just shrugged their shoulders and said it wasn’t a war crime.
The very concept of a war crime is a bit ridiculous at the root of it. It is as if there’s some pretense that war itself isn’t a crime against humanity. It is also as if people also got together and decided on a set of rules to kill each other in a civilized manner. But, the fact still remains that the US continues to hold itself above the law and conducts activities with very little transparency.
The War on Terror has Complicated Matters
Terrorist organizations don’t typically have a bunch of troops running around in uniforms so that we can tell them apart from everyone else. Furthermore, they will typically intermingle with civilians in their territory, which further complicates efforts to kill a target and cause limited civilian casualties. While we have to fight against extremism and the death it causes, looking at it like a normal enemy will only cause more death, and more death will fuel the fire for more extremism. There is an answer, and I don’t know what it is, but the method we have taken seems not to be it.
As I am writing this, more reports surface that support an increased disregard for civilian casualties as reports surface that a coalition air strike killed more than 200 civilians in Mosul. As is often the case, details are still murky, and the US is still investigating. But this news comes in a three incident spree covering the bombing of a Mosque, the raid in Yemen where we lost a SEAL and 30 civilians were reportedly killed, and now this most recent strike in Mosul.
The War on Terror has always been a bloody one in which the civilians in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan paid a high price. In the wake of 9/11, the new normal is that the US can act unilaterally anywhere it pleases, and the President can authorize strikes completely independent of Congressional Approval.
This recent spate of attacks seems to be yet another fulfilled campaign promise from Trump, as he talked on the campaign trail of killing, not just the terrorists, but also their families. He also promised to, “bomb the shit out of them.” That promise, as well, seems to be coming to fruition.
It seems that the rules of targeting and approval of a strike may have been significantly loosened.
The Whole Picture Should be Taken In
The perpetrator of a London attack was born in the UK and radicalized right there at home. This is the trend in terrorism here in the US as well. Even the foreign-born who turn to terror do so after living here for many years. The same can be said of many other types of mass killers of late.
What is to be done about the problems that come with the changing face of war? The threats we face now are not from nations as much as they are groups and syndicates. War between states is being waged in cyberspace and it seems that the trend toward that will continue.
How can we find a way to separate the civilians from the actual terrorists and still fight against extremism? It’s a difficult question, but a vital one. A steady hand is needed, and sooner or later, heavy civilian casualties always come back to haunt a powerful country.
Now more than ever, we need to be more vigilant toward the foreign policy and military actions of our government.