Anger Over Civilian Deaths Undermines US Wars in Iraq, Syria

Pentagon Efforts to Tout 'Victories' Coming at Growing Cost

The Pentagon is as eager as ever to portray any and all military gains in Iraq and Syria as dramatic victories, but the attempts to do so are ringing increasingly hollow in recent weeks, as they come alongside massive civilian death tolls in US airstrikes in both countries.

US officials have been eager to complain that ISIS and al-Qaeda are the ones “drumming up” resentment over the death tolls, but the reality is that the US has killed several hundred civilian bystanders in just the last few weeks, and no amount of Pentagon equivocating was going to make that not a big deal.

The military “victories” coming alongside these huge death tolls are, by contrast, relatively minor, with only small amounts of territory gained in Mosul in recent weeks, and a few villages in Syria’s Raqqa Province. The Mosul gains are particularly short-lived, as Iraq has publicly paused their offensive in Mosul because of the civilian deaths.

To make matters worse, the seeming US ambivalence over the large civilian toll, trying to pass it off as “human sheilds” or the US just attacking places that Iraq ordered attacked, are painting them in a particularly negative light, one which may linger throughout the open-ended military operations in Iraq and Syria.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.