On May 26, 2017, a slew of airstrikes killed up to 106 civilians in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, including forty two children, according to Al Jazeera. Led by the United States and sixty-eight coalition members, these strikes are part of the ongoing “War on Terror” against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Quoting reporter Patty Culhane, Al Jazeera noted that these aerial attacks “may relate to the so-called December Directive—a memo sent by Barack Obama before the end of his presidency changing the command structure enabling commanders on the ground to bypass the Pentagon and order airstrikes, while also easing the restrictions on when they could fire.” In maintaining this directive, President Donald Trump has ensured a disastrously high civilian death toll in Syria.
Earlier last month, between May 14 and 15, coalition strikes in both Deir Ezzor and Raqqa killed at least eighty-two civilians, twenty-three of whom were farmers. The monitoring group, Airwars, reports that over 700 civilians have been killed by airstrikes in the month of May alone, while hundreds of others have been injured. The Syrian Network for Human Rights claims that a total of 964 civilians have been killed in Syria last month. According to a report by Foreign Policy, the United States is actively seeking to hide its culpability for these deaths:
As the result of a deal struck among the coalition partners, civilian casualty incidents included in monthly reporting will not be tied to specific countries. That means the United States will in the future no longer confirm its own responsibility for specific civilian casualty incidents either — a move toward greater secrecy that could deprive victims’ families of any avenue to seek justice or compensation for these deaths.
Civilians in Syria are trapped between a rock and a hard place. If not from coalition strikes, they are dying at the hands of President Bashar Al-Assad and his various allies, or being executed at the hands of ISIS. Increased airstrikes are even resulting in higher retaliatory attacks by ISIS against civilians believed to be colluding with the United States and its allies. One day after the May 14 coalition strikes in Deir Ezzor, for example, members of ISIS “reportedly cut the throats of eight men at the site of the attack, accusing them of providing coordinates for the air strikes,” according to Al Jazeera.
Amid all of this, many are wondering why antiwar groups are failing to either draw attention to the exceptional horrors civilians are facing, or mobilizing against the ongoing aerial war the United States and its allies are unleashing on Syria. As Syrian bodies continue to pile up in horrifyingly large numbers, it is hard to forget that the only major effort undertaken by the antiwar movement in the United States was to coordinate widespread “emergency protests” in response to Trump’s April airstrikes on one of Assad’s bases.
In its abysmal moral failure, the lackadaisical antiwar movement joins the United States and its various allies in paying lip service to the need for a peaceful solution in Syria, as it sits back and watches the country’s pulverization.