Monitoring groups have put the civilian death toll from US-led coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014 at 3,000, whereas the Pentagon has only recently acknowledged 352 deaths. The discrepancy in statistics has once again revived debates on whether the US is misrepresenting the facts on the wars in the two Middle Eastern Arab countries. Journalist and political commentator, Marwa Osman, and, founder of the American Institute for Foreign Policy, Michael Lane, have shared their viewpoints on the issue with Press TV.
Michael Lane maintains that since different monitoring groups use different methods in different locations, such discrepancy is natural, especially in a chaotic situation like the one in Syria.
“The coalition has admitted to 352 [civilian deaths], but those are only the confirmed ones. I think everybody would agree, even the coalition, that that is a rock-bottom number and the true number is likely higher than that,” Lane said, explaining that the official tally only includes the verified figures.
There are of course difficulties in observation, access to the battlefield, interviews with eyewitnesses, he said, adding that if the coalition had those opportunities unfettered, the number would undoubtedly go up.
The Washington-based analyst further drew a comparison between the number of casualties from US and Russian airstrikes in Syria, and alleged that Russia has even killed more civilians than terrorist groups fighting in the country, such as Daesh.
“I think what we need to do is to put this in perspective. You had close to half a million people killed in this civil war since the beginning of it and we are talking about a number between 400 and 3,000 civilian casualties unintended.”
“When you take a look at what the coalition airstrikes have done with over 20,000 separate sorties that even resulted in 40,000 separate engagements, you are looking at numbers that indicate really less than one quarter of one percent of the engagements have resulted in civilian casualties,” Lane argued, adding that this is a safety record for coalition forces.
“Compare to that what the Russian air campaign did between 2015 and 2016,” he continued. “The allegations were that they had killed more civilians in their air campaign in nine months than ISIS [Daesh] had killed since its existence.”
Meanwhile, Marwa Osman, the other panelist on the show, pinned the blame for the discrepancy in statistics on both the US and Iraqi governments, saying that they do not allow independent journalists and reporters to go to the liberated areas, such as Mosul, to have a first-hand observation of the civilian casualties there.
She further reiterated that Washington and its allies are trying to portray the wars in Syria and Iraq as “civil wars” in a bid to evade the responsibility of civilian deaths caused by their airstrikes.
“What civil war are we talking about? Who created ISIS [Daesh]? Who gave these terrorist groups weapon? Who is funding them? How did they come to being? Because of your country’s 2003 invasion [of Iraq] sir,” Osman said, addressing Michael Lane.