President Donald J. Trump’s executive order banning immigration to the United States by people from six Muslim–majority countries has big implications for Syrians, who have no guarantee of survival in their own nation. Syria is unstable, and civilians there suffer at the hands of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, ISIS fighters, rebel groups trying to overthrow Assad’s government, and foreign militaries from the United States, Russia and Turkey. Additionally, the United States upped the ante on April 7, 2017 (Syrian time) with a missile attack on an airfield purportedly used by the Syrian government to drop chemical weapons “on its own citizens.”
The US is the biggest culprit in the chaos caused by bombing in Syria, and that status is growing. By the end of President Barack Obama’s term, there were ten times more air strikes in the so-called “War on Terror” than during the George W. Bush administration (563 to 57). Although Obama came into office with an agenda to make his counterterrorism policies more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the ones pursued by Bush, Obama’s time in office increased the number of civilian casualties by constant airstrikes on the nation.
The use of drone strikes has morally separated the US citizenry from the impact these attacks have had on the population of Syria. There have been 7,710 strikes in Syria, according to the US Department of Defense, and there have been an overall range of 7,000-10,000 civilian fatalities within the borders of Iraq and Syria. This is a major humanitarian issue that has involved the US and Russian military. Recent US attacks against al-Qaeda forces made March 2017 one of the most lethal months for the proclaimed war on the Islamic State.
The nonprofit organization Airwars.org tracks international airstrikes in Libya, Syria, and Iraq and is focusing its limited resources on the US actions. The Obama administration dropped bombs faster than they could be manufactured.
It isn’t hard to find headlines surrounding military actions in Syria and the Middle East, but rarely is the quantitative data on the sheer number of airstrikes or civilian causalities reported in popular news media. In March 2016 alone there were 702 coalition airstrikes–434 in Syria and 268 in Iraq. These airstrikes have led to an estimated 1,000 civilian deaths. Attacks on the Al-Jadidah neighborhood in Mosul, Syria killed an estimated 200 civilians. As of March 2017, this strike was the deadliest since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the Pentagon asserts that rules regarding civilian casualties have not changed. The US is portrayed in the media as the good guys. These strikes began to increase toward the end of the Obama Administration and have carried over at record numbers under the Trump Administration. Syria seems to be the destination for the Pentagon’s attacks and the lack of restrictions concerning civilian engagement is leading to record numbers of death during the United State’s wars in the Middle East.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Civilian Deaths from US-Led Airstrikes Hit Record High under Donald Trump,” Independent, March 25, 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-civilian-deaths-syria-iraq-middle-east-a7649486.html.
Jessica Purkiss and Jack Serle, “Obama’s Covert Drone War in Numbers: Ten Times More Strikes than Bush,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, March 26, 2017, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-01-17/obamas-covert-drone-war-in-numbers-ten-times-more-strikes-than-bush.
“More Than 1,000 Civilians Reportedly Killed by U.S.-Led Airstrikes as Trump Expands War on Terror,” Democracy Now!, March 27, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/27/more_than_1_000_civilians_killed.
Various online documents, “Daily Military Reports,” Airwars.org, ongoing, https://airwars.org/daily-reports/.
Student Researcher: Noah Evans (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)