14 Years of Censored News Coverage Denies Americans Context to Understand ISIL Attacks

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Fourteen years ago, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States government initiated its “war on terror,” with the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001, which expanded into Pakistan, and of Iraq in 2003. The conventional methodology of American politics emphasizes American financial, strategic, and human costs. Since then, the corporate media has occasionally acknowledged the 6,800 American soldiers, and the 7,000 contractors who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, corporate media and the American government have consistently ignored Iraqi and Afghani deaths, which exceed one million. Without acknowledging this modern “reign of terror,” the western public has no context to understand the current attacks lead by the Islamic State in Syria and Levant (ISIL).

Civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are about ten times greater than the number the British-based Iraq Body Count (IBC) reports. IBC statistics are not reliable because they are chiefly collected from media reports written in English. Considering the majority of Iraqi media sources are written in Arabic, IBC coverage excludes a high percentage of civilian deaths. The US corporate media, including CNN and Fox News, relies on IBC numbers.

A study authored by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, along with the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Physicians for Global Survival, “conservatively, estimates that at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan from direct and indirect consequences of the U.S. ‘war on terrorism’,” wrote Al Jazeera’s Lauren Carasik. Moreover, over one million lives were lost in Iraq alone, about 5 percent of the country’s population. The report also describes the three million “internally displaced” Iraqis and approximately 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

The under-reporting of the human toll of the US “war on terror” has led to an uninformed American public. A poll conducted in 2007 discovered that Americans estimate the Iraqi death toll at 10,000. A 2011 from researchers at the University of Maryland found that 38 percent of Americans still believe that the US received strong confirmation that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al-Qaeda, which is blatantly false. This is relevant because taxpayers believe that the wars that the government used billions of their dollars for were successful.

Almost fourteen years after the initial invasion of Afghanistan, neither the US government nor corporate media supply statistics on casualties and deaths among enemy combatants and civilians. At the end of 2014, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that the year 2014 saw the highest rate of civilian deaths and injuries in the five years the organization has kept statistics. Furthermore, Iraq is facing a public health crisis due to chemical and incendiary weapons, depleted uranium, and burn pits. A correlation between the use of weapons and the rates of disease in Iraq indicates unmatched spikes in birth defects, infant mortality, and pediatric cancer. Dr. Chris Busby, a chemist from the University of Ulster, said the studies in Iraq revealed “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.” Furthermore, a report by health experts from the US, Canada, and Iraq exposed that 500,000 Iraqi deaths were from indirect causes of war, such as failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication and other systems which continue to impact the population today.

The million or so casualties of war are crucial to understanding the rise of ISIL, which took root as American forces withdrew from an unstable Iraq in 2011. The US invasion of and subsequent partial retreat from Iraq has stimulated violent sectarian conflicts that have escalated within the past few months.

An expert on the Middle East, former CIA officer Graham Fuller stated that “the United States is one of the key creators of [ISIL]” even though the US did not plan its formation. The starting point of this organization was to protest the US invasion of Iraq. Back then it was supported by many non-Islamist Sunnis as well because of their opposition to Iraq’s occupation. Even today, ISIL is supported by many Sunnis who feel isolated by the Shiite government in Baghdad, a government that the United States put into power.

The corporate media continues to document the violent actions of ISIL, disregarding the innocent hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Syria who have died or continue to live in terror.  Corporate media continues to censor over a million civilian casualties because to do so would reveal the brutal policies of the United States and its allies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan.


“Iraq: The Human Cost,” MIT Center for International Studies, no date, http://web.mit.edu/humancostiraq/.

Lauren Carasik, “Americans Have Yet to Grasp the Horrific Magnitude of the ‘War on Terror’,” Al Jazeera America, April 10, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/4/americans-have-yet-to-grasp-the-horrific-magnitude-of-the-war-on-terror.html.

“Study: U.S. Wars Have Left Over 1 Million Dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.” Democracy Now! March 25, 2015, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/25/headlines/study_us_wars_have_left_over_1_million_dead_in_iraq_afghanistan_pakistan.

Sarah Lazare, “Body Count Report Reveals At Least 1.3 Million Lives Lost to US-Led War on Terror,” Common Dreams, March 26, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/26/body-count-report-reveals-least-13-million-lives-lost-us-led-war-terror.

Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith, “Monthly Drone Report: Total Drone Strikes under Obama in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen Now 491 after September Attacks,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, October 5, 2015, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2015/10/05/monthly-drone-report-total-drone-strikes-under-obama-in-pakistan-somalia-and-yemen-now-491-after-september-attacks/.

Student Researcher: Arva Hassonjee (Syracuse University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jeffrey Simmons and Ellen Fallon (Syracuse University)