The Civilian Cost of Our War With ISIS

July 20th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

A coalition bombing raid in Northern Syria on Tuesday has proven to be one of the deadliest for civilians in the United States' war against ISIS.

The death toll still remains in dispute. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights posted to its website that 56 people died in the air strikes near Manbij, included 11 children. According to the Telegraph, there were 60 victims, including eight different families who were fleeing the ISIS-held city. The Telegraph reports that the civilians may have been mistaken for terrorists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the U.S. led coalition in Syria has killed more than 100 civilians near Manbij since June.

In a statement on its website, Amnesty International called for an investigation in to the air strikes.

"There must be a prompt, independent and transparent investigation to determine what happened, who was responsible, and how to avoid further needless loss of civilian life," said interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program Magdalena Mughrabi. "Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation."

Although these air strikes are aimed at ISIS, they're only legal because of a resolution from 15 years ago to fight Al Qaeda.

Sept. 11, 2001.

President Barack Obama relies on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution as grounds to carry out air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Congress approved the resolution after the 9/11 terror attacks in order to take military action against "those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

The Obama administration argues the resolution allows action against the Islamic State because the group sprang from Al Qaeda in Iraq.

But some argue that the Obama administration has stretched the boundaries of the AUMF, given that ISIS didn't exist at the time of 9/11, and are now actively opposed to Al Qaeda.

Peter Beinart wrote for the Atlantic in May of 2015:

ISIS cannot be such an organization since it did not exist on September 11, 2001. If you read the September 14, 2001 resolution as granting the President authority to attack ISIS, you’re conceding that any president can wage war anywhere as long as he says he’s fighting terrorism.

"U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle"

In February, Obama asked for updated authorization from Congress for air strikes on the Islamic State.


"Now, make no mistake, this is a difficult mission and it will remain difficult for some time," he said in a press conference, according to CNN. "Our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive and ISIL is going to lose."

However his proposed plan would not have repealed the 2001 resolution, and as of yet no vote has been taken. For now, the 2001 AUMF is still alive, and is resulting in air strikes that sometimes miss their mark.

Some people on Twitter are outraged at the reports of civilians killed by air strikes in Syria.

ATTN: reached out to McGill Air Force Base and received a statement from media officer Air Force Capt. Michelle M. Rollins. She said that the military is aware of the reports and is investigating them.

"We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties near Manbij, Syria, recently. As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident, including information provided by third parties, such as the proximity of the location to Combined Joint Task Force airstrikes, and any other relevant information presented. If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, we will then determine the next appropriate step. We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict."

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