In recent days, we‘ve witnessed a chain of truly important international events related to the United States and its victims in different parts of the world.
First, the US House of Representatives approved a bill allowing families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for “sponsoring terrorism“, which will have somewhat far-reaching consequences.
As it has been previously admitted by White House spokesman Josh Ernest, this bill may put the US at “significant risk” since now other countries can adopt a similar law. And even now it’s safe to assume that there’s going to be a long line of those seeking retribution, if we are to remember that in the last decade Washington has invaded numerous sovereign states, killing civilians left and right under the pretext of carrying out a “War on Terror” that was launched by the White House in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.
Another truly important development that must be mentioned here is the fact that Washington will pay compensation to the family of an Italian human rights activist that fell victim to US drone attacks while kept prisoner by Al-Qaeda on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The 37-year-old Giovanni Lo Porto who was an employee of a human rights organization was captured in Pakistan in 2012 and then forced to live in captivity for three years until a US drone strike claimed his life.
Last year, President Obama personally informed the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi about the incident, admitting US guilt and describing the death of the human rights activist as a “tragic mistake.”
By setting a precedent and by introducing a corresponding bill within the US domestic legal system, allowing the families of civilian victims to demand compensation for the deaths of their loved ones during the so-called “fight against terror”, Washington has de facto acknowledged its obligation to pay compensations for those considered “collateral damage” of US military actions.
In fact, the United States has been regularly admitting that it is responsible for hundreds of civilians deaths, though Washington has tried to downplay the actual number of those killed.
The Pentagon claims that even though it has launched more than 11,000 air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the civilian death toll in that period hardly reached 60 individuals. However, if Amnesty International and numerous international experts are to be believed, those claims are simply false. According to Norwegian ABC Nyheter, the small civilian casualty numbers run in sharp contrast to the claims that at least 45,000 ISIS militants were killed by the US Air Force in the Middle East during this same period alone. If the small number of victims is true, it means that for every 200 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria there was a single civilian victim.
Yet, that’s a vastly lower figure than the war in Afghanistan claimed at its height – a rate of one dead civilian for about every 15 strikes – or during six years of counter terrorism strikes in countries including Pakistan and Yemen, where the White House in a recent study found that a civilian died for every four to seven strikes, the Washington Post would note.
If these figures provide even a vague estimation of the amount of “collateral damage” exacted in Syria and Iraq, we can come to the conclusion that US pilots killed from 750 up to 2,750 civilians in the above mentioned period of time.
It’s already been reported that throughout the so-called struggle against ISIS, CENTCOM has been dramatically underplaying the number of civilians killed on numerous occasions. Amnesty International officials say it’s been a common practice in CENTCOM, and that they still routinely reject information families bring them that includes the names of slain civilians and pictures of the aftermath of the strike. The Pentagon will not even provide them with criteria on what they actually would consider as viable evidence.
So now not only can the relatives of the thousands of innocent victims of US military actions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other countries file their claims to obtain compensation similar to that provided to Giovanni Lo Porto, but whole states affected by ruthless American bombing can demand retributions for the cities destroyed, infrastructure leveled to the ground, and for the chaos and the suffering of their people due to US-led aggression. It would be difficult to argue that the families of those affected by American aggression do not deserve at least such compensation. .
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”