THE destructive US interventions and regime-change missions, particularly in the Muslim world, over the last few decades have long been criticised for turning functional states into failed ones. However, in the zeal to bring ‘democracy’ to these states and eliminate terrorists, the US campaigns have also resulted in high civilian death tolls, even as the world’s most powerful military machine has deployed highly sophisticated drones and precision bombs.
A thorough investigative report by The New York Times has revealed that the deaths of non-combatants in Syria and Iraq have been routine, and other than expressing regret, the US military has done little to stop the killing of innocent people, including women and children. One attack in northern Syria in 2016, which was supposed to target IS terrorists, ended up killing 120 villagers. In another such flawed operation, the US military thought it was targeting a car bomb in Mosul, Iraq. A family of four perished in the tragedy.
Many such examples have been cited by the NYT report, including the incident in August in which the US targeted a car in Kabul, killing 10 civilians. US military officials have said those responsible for the attack will not be punished. Pakistan has also experienced the destructive effects of the US drone war in its tribal belt. Meanwhile in Yemen, the US-supported Saudi-led air war has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties. When the Centcom spokesperson was approached for comment by the NYT, he said “mistakes do happen”, adding that the US military was working “diligently to avoid such harm”.
The fact is that whether it is boots on the ground, or drones and daisy cutters raining destruction from the sky, American military overreach has resulted in unacceptable deaths of innocent people. Unfortunately, there are no indications that the US intends to change course where such military operations are concerned. Rather than bringing stability to the world and countering militancy, such deadly military adventurism only helps fuel extremism and anti-American feelings around the globe.
When the US kills innocent people in the name of taking out terrorists, it will hardly win hearts and minds. Instead of playing the global policeman, the US needs to work with the international community and use more intelligent counterterrorism methods and abandon the regime-change mantra for good, while those responsible for civilian deaths need to be punished, and the families of the victims compensated for their loss.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021