Trump Just Blew Past Two Deadlines for Reporting How Many Civilians The US Kills

Civilian deaths are skyrocketing—but the White House is refusing to provide numbers.

Smoke rises from Mosul, Iraq, following a US-led coalition airstrike in February 2017. Khalid Mohammed/AP

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

On Tuesday, the same day that 23 civilians were killed in suspected US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria, the Trump administration missed two deadlines for reporting civilian casualties from Ameican military and counterterrorism operations.

“The failure to report on civilian casualties is a failure of accountability on the use of deadly force by this administration,” says Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International’s director of security with human rights. “The public has the right to know when and how military operations have caused civilian casualties, where these operations took place, what weapons were used, and if lethal force was used lawfully.”

Last November, amid headlines that civilian deaths from US airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan had surged, Congress added a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the White House to issue an annual report outlining all military operations that may have killed civilians. The Trump administration has also apparently ignored an executive order issued by President Barrack Obama in 2016 that requires the White House to report on the number of civilians and combatants killed by drone strikes and other counterterrorism activities. Both reports were due on May 1.

Eviatar says Congress added the reporting requirement to the defense bill because “it was clear there was a huge increase in the number of strikes and civilian casualties under the Trump administration, but they were producing very little information about them.” For each incident, the report must include the date, location, the number of civilians and enemy combatants killed, and whether it occurred in a “declared theater of active armed conflict.” 

In 2017, the British watchdog group Airwars tracked 601 confirmed civilian deaths from US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria and more than 3,300 alleged civilian deaths. Last fall, an 18-month investigation by the New York Times Magazine exposed the massive gap between the number of officially acknowledged civilian deaths in the war against ISIS and those documented by the reporters, who found that civilians were killed in 20 percent of coalition airstrikes—a rate more than 30 times higher than that reported by the coalition. 

Official reports routinely underestimate the number of civilians killed in attacks conducted by the United States and its allies. In June 2017, US Central Command reported a total of 484 civilian deaths as a result of US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS since August 2014. However, Airwars put the number at 3,800; it has since revised the number to least 6,200

The Washington Post reports that Trump has not rescinded Obama’s executive order requiring more casualty reporting, though a White House spokesman told the paper that it could be withdrawn. “The executive order that requires the civilian casualty report is under review,” the spokesman said, without saying who is conducting the review or when it might be finished.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate