From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America’s foreign policy — that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found — and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.
The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civilians from US airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa province when the U.S. targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded a week earlier by the US destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump’s first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALs, in which 30 Yemenis were killed; among the children killed was an 8-year-old American girl (whose 16-year-old American brother was killed by a drone under Obama).
In sum: Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the US in Iraq and Syria — already quite high under Obama — has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.
What’s particularly notable is that the number of airstrikes actually decreased in March (with a week left), even as civilian deaths rose — strongly suggesting that the US military has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama.
This escalation of bombing and civilian deaths, combined with thedeployment by Trump of 500 ground troops into Syria beyond the troops Obama already deployed there, has received remarkably little media attention. This is in part due to the standard indifference in US discourse to US killing of civilians compared to the language used when its enemies kill people (compare the very muted and euphemistic tones used to report on Trump’s escalations in Iraq and Syria to the frequent invocation of genocide and war crimes to denounce Russian killing of Syrian civilians). And part of this lack of media attention is due to the Democrats’ ongoing hunt for Russian infiltration of Washington, which leaves little room for other matters.
But what is becoming clear is that Trump is attempting to liberate the US military from the minimal constraints it observed in order to avoid massive civilian casualties. And this should surprise nobody: Trump explicitly and repeatedly vowed to do exactly this during the campaign.
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