At the end of last year, the Pentagon published secret documents on the activities of the US Air Force in the Middle East since 2014. More than 1,300 reports contain detailed information about civilian casualties, the causes of a significant number of failures and plans for the future use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the Middle East region.
According to the American monitoring agency, over the past 20 years, the United States has carried out more than 93,000 airstrikes — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as a result of which 22,679 to 48,308 civilians have been killed. According to the “Costs of War” project of Brown University, the total number of civilians killed as a result of direct violence in the wars unleashed by the United States after September 11 ranges from 364,000 to 387,000 people.
On July 19, 2016, the US special forces, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), bombed an object that, in their opinion, was a terrorist base. They opened fire on the settlement of Tokhara in northern Syria, where civilians who migrated as a result of the fighting lived. Later, the officers of the US Armed Forces released a report in which they reported the successful destruction of 85 fighters of Islamist groups. In fact, American servicemen attacked residential buildings that were hundreds of kilometers from the front line. The population of the village consisted of farmers, their families and other civilians who sought refuge from the endless American bombing and shelling. According to various estimates, 56 to 212 civilians were killed that day, and many families with young children were destroyed.
In early 2017, in Iraq, an American military aircraft struck a car that stopped at an intersection in the Wadi Hajar area of Western Mosul. According to American officers at the time, the transport was packed with explosives and was heading to the location of the US military. In fact, there was a man named Majid Mahmoud Ahmed, his wife and their two children in the car, who were fleeing from the fighting nearby. They and three other civilians were killed in the explosion.
In November 2015, after noticing how an unknown person was dragging a “heavy object” to a “defensive combat position” of militants, American forces opened fire from a UAV at a building in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Immediately after the incident, US officials published a report and stated that “a small man involved in the activities of extremist groups” died as a result of the attack. Later, as a result of the examination, it became known that the “small man” was a local child who lived nearby.
It is noteworthy that no one from the American political or military leadership has been held accountable for these and many other US crimes in the Middle East using unmanned aircraft. These violations would have remained unknown if, in December 2021, the Pentagon had not published more than 1,300 reports on the activities of the US Air Force since 2014. After analyzing the data, it becomes obvious that the real state of affairs contrasts with how the US presence in the Middle East represents the American government. The documents also show that the loud statements of the generals of the US Air Force that they are investigating every single incident with the use of force against civilians or infrastructure are not true. In fact, full-fledged reports of violations are isolated, none of the published protocols concluded that disciplinary penalties or other measures were taken against American soldiers involved in civilian casualties. In total, less than ten financial compensations were paid to the relatives of the victims of the American strikes, and those who survived and received disabilities are forced to pay for expensive treatment out of their own pockets.
In January 2021, two Yemeni families filed a petition against the US government over the use of drones by the United States in connection with the deaths of 34 relatives, including nine children, between 2013 and 2018. The Al-Ameri and Al-Taisi families have appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, demanding that the US government take immediate measures to prevent further civilian casualties and limit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. As of June 2022, the request has not received an official response from the US government.
Often, American UAV operators had no idea who they were opening fire on. In order for a US soldier to fire a missile from an unmanned aerial vehicle at a person in the Middle East, he does not need justification — if a person holds a weapon in his hands, which is a fairly common case in this region, he was immediately recognized as an enemy. An investigation conducted by the US Veterans Association showed that during the American campaign of 2019 in the Afghan province of Helmand, fire was opened on people “who used radios or at least touched them.”
Secret documents showed that during the five months of Operation Haymaking — the American campaign in 2011 and 2013 directed against the leaders of the banned Al-Qaeda and Taliban along the Afghan-Pakistani border — more than 200 people were killed as a result of airstrikes aimed at eliminating 35 targets. In other words, almost nine out of ten people killed during these “pinpoint” strikes were not targets of the US Air Force.
It is obvious that there are no points in the plans of the American military leadership for the occupation of the Middle East region that would somehow regulate the number of civilian casualties. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are forced to state that the long-term aggressive foreign policy of the United States has already led to millions of civilian casualties around the globe, and in the foreseeable future the number of victims of American aggression is likely to become unprecedented high. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the US military and the almost complete lack of accountability allows the top military leadership to justify the criminal actions of their subordinates, as a result of which thousands of residents of the Middle East annually become victims of endless shelling. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on international organizations and the UN to develop resolutions regulating the use of drones in combat conditions and prohibiting their use in civilian areas.