Thousands of previously hidden Pentagon documents show that the U.S. air wars in the Middle East have been marked by “deeply flawed intelligence” and have killed thousands of civilians, many of them children, according to a shocking new report in The New York Times Saturday afternoon.
The 5-year Times investigation received more than 1,300 reports examining airstrikes in Iraq and Syria from September 2014 to January 2018, more than 5,400 pages in all. None of these records show any findings of wrongdoing on the actions of the U.S. military.
The Times reporting confirms many of the previous reports by whistleblowers Daniel Hale, Chelsea Manning and others. On July 27, 2021, whistleblower Hale was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison for exposing the true civilian toll of the U.S. drone program. “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said at his sentencing.
From the Times report:
The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.
The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.
The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away. President Barack Obama called it “the most precise air campaign in history.”
We are making public hundreds of the Pentagon’s confidential assessments of reports of civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes. The documents lay bare how flawed intelligence has killed thousands of innocent civilians, many of them children. https://t.co/D1vE9aEDYh
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 18, 2021
Dr. Assal Rad, Senior Research Fellow at the National Iranian American Council reacted via Twitter:
“Daniel Hale, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning have all been jailed for trying to reveal the same thing. We’ve known US airstrikes have been killing civilians all this time, but the war crimes go on bc we jail the whistleblowers instead of the war criminals.”
Daniel Hale, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning have all been jailed for trying to reveal the same thing. We’ve known US airstrikes have been killing civilians all this time, but the war crimes go on bc we jail the whistleblowers instead of the war criminals. https://t.co/JUvJP2bh2C
— Assal Rad (@AssalRad) December 18, 2021
— unR̶A̶D̶A̶C̶K̶ted (@JesselynRadack) December 18, 2021
Still, it would be nice if the Times used its massive platform to say more about the campaign to #FreeDanielHale. After all, Hale was the first person to reveal how military intelligence results in airstrikes killing thousands of innocent civilians. https://t.co/imeED4mpBc
— CODEPINK (@codepink) December 18, 2021
I’m absolutely not gonna discourage any NYT reporting that exposes the Pentagon. Still it’s pretty gross that this framing acts like Daniel Hale didn’t expose the nature of airstrikes years ago, at great cost to his freedom. #FreeDanielHale https://t.co/z2KiQGIX46
— Sam Carliner #FreeAssange (@saminthecan) December 18, 2021
But at least we won the wars… I mean, we, eh, we almost won? Right?
Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Airstrikes https://t.co/NkERjopS65
— Richard Garcia (@rrennelgarcia) December 18, 2021