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The leader of a Syrian opposition group warns that the recent killing of dozens of civilians by the U.S.-led coalition would "prove to be a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations." (Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/Getty Images)

Amid Media Blackout, Syrian Opposition Begs US-Led Coalition to Stop Bombings

Reports find US-led coalition has killed over 100 civilians since June, but mainstream media keeps many in dark about West's role in stoking Syrian war

Nika Knight

As the number of civilians killed by U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria since June rises to above 100, the head of opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is asking the U.S. to suspend the coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) while the deaths are investigated.

On Monday and Tuesday, dozens of civilians—including many children—were reportedly killed by U.S.-led airstrikes in what observers called the "worst week" for civilian deaths at the hands of the coalition.

Rebel groups have given civilians 48 hours to evacuate the northern city of Manbij, where 56 civilians were killed by the coalition on Tuesday, in a last-ditch effort to avoid further casualties, according to the Telegraph.

The Pentagon's internal news service, Stars and Stripes, reported Tuesday that the Department of Defense is investigating the killings. In the Daily Beast, however, Charles Davis reports:

The CENTCOM-supported SDF, meanwhile, has dismissed reports of mass casualties in Manbij as "fabricated news" circulated by groups who "support terrorism," according to a statement obtained by the Kurdish media network Rudaw.

Independent monitors and anti-ISIS activists on the ground, by contrast, insist that air support for the SDF has killed hundreds of innocents.

[...] According to Airwars, [a local monitoring group,] the civilian death count from U.S.-led airstrikes in the area up to at least 190 since May 31.

Local activists claim the number is at least 368, and an activist with the Free Manbij Media Center told the Daily Beast the death toll on July 19 alone was "more than 150 people, mostly women and children" who were "killed while in their homes."

Members of a group previously funded and armed by the U.S. filmed themselves beheading a child in a grisly video that circulated widely on Wednesday, provoking further condemnation of the Obama administration's approach to the Syrian conflict.

In a statement released late Wednesday, the head of the SNC warned the U.S. "that the killing of civilians by the U.S.-led air campaign would 'prove to be a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations,'" the Telegraph reports.

Indeed, critics of U.S. foreign policy have long made the same point. As Murtaza Hussain, journalist at The Intercept, recently commented on Twitter:

Yet many in the West remain ignorant of the role it plays in stoking the Syrian conflict—in large part, critics say, as a result of paltry media coverage.

As Adam Johnson wrote Thursday for media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):

A coalition airstrike reported on Tuesday that killed at least 85 civilians—one more than died in the Nice attack in France last week—wasn’t featured at all on the front pages of two of the top US national newspapers, the New York Times and LA Times, and only merited brief blurbs on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, with the actual stories buried on pages A-16 and A-15, respectively.

[...] By contrast, the Nice attack garnered multiple front-page stories in the New York Times and LA Times, as well as significantly more than 20-word blurbs in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

According to Airwars, Johnson adds, "the total number of civilian deaths since the beginning of airstrikes in September 2014 has been 190. To increase this number by almost 50 percent in a matter of days would indeed be a radical departure from the normal course of events—rendering it more than newsworthy."

Meanwhile, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein drew connections between U.S. foreign policy in Syria and terrorist attacks in the West in a press release Thursday: "What will a potential President Clinton or Trump do as the War on Terror continues to 'come home' to San Bernardino, Beirut, Paris, Istanbul, and Nice?" Stein asked.

"ISIS—a direct outgrowth of the Clinton-supported U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq—is a force that feeds on the outrage of people on the receiving end of our disastrous, belligerent approach to foreign policy and national security," Stein added. "Clinton's destruction of Libya added to the chaos by unleashing vast stockpiles of Libyan weapons that then became available to ISIS[...] Groups like ISIS cannot be stopped by more violence."


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