On Monday, the Pentagon said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered the head of US Central Command to brief him on a 2019 Syria airstrike that killed dozens of women and children.
The order comes after The New York Times published an investigation on the airstrike that revealed the Pentagon had done everything it could to suppress the real death toll. The strike, conducted by US warplanes near the town of Baghuz on March 19, 2019, was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents during Washington’s war against ISIS. About 70 were killed, the vast majority of them women and children.
The report said the military knew the real death toll almost immediately but did everything it could to hide the slaughter. “At nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site,” the report reads.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to discuss the airstrike but claimed that no other military in the world works as hard as the US “to avoid civilian casualties.” But civilian casualties in US airstrikes are incredibly common in US airstrikes, and the Pentagon is notorious for downplaying them.
On August 29th, the US conducted its last known drone strike in Afghanistan. The strike, fired by drone, killed 10 civilians in Kabul, including seven children. The Pentagon initially claimed it killed ISIS-K fighters but was forced to admit it only killed civilians after another report from the Times proved the US targeted an innocent man.
The Pentagon assigned an Air Force inspector general to investigate the August 29th strike, who concluded that the massacre was not the result of “misconduct or negligence” and recommended no disciplinary action. Considering how the military handled the Kabul strike, it’s unlikely there will be any accountability for the 2019 Syria airstrike.
Documents leaked by whistleblower Daniel Hale in 2015 revealed the grim statistics behind US drone warfare. During a five-month period between 2012 and 2013, 90 percent of the people killed by US drones were civilians. Hale was recently sentenced to 45 months in prison for leaking the documents.