Trump Administration Caught Lying About Civilian Casualties in Somalia
By declaring parts of the war-torn nation “area[s] of active hostilities,” the White House cleared the way for a drastic increase in air strikes against militant Islamic organization al-Shabaab — we have since carried out over 100 strikes.
Whether he realized it or not, Trump’s decision would also result in more civilian casualties than there were under President Obama’s “near certainty” standard, mandating as much certainty as possible that civilians will not be killed before striking.
A report released this Wednesday by Amnesty International details five air strikes in Lower Shabelle, Somalia that killed 14 civilians and injured eight others. Because this report only focuses on a fraction of U.S. strikes, the true number of civilian casualties is likely exponentially higher.
U.S. Africa Command denied the findings of the report, saying their “assessments are based on post-strike analysis using intelligence methods not available to non-military organizations. Al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia have a history of placing their forces and facilities in and around civilian locations to conceal and shield their activities.”
In an interview on Democracy Now!, Brian Caster, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amensty International defended the report’s accuracy and explained its methodology. According to Caster, “we say that four people died. They say four people died. But they will call those four al-Shabab or al-Shabab affiliate members.”
“And we would, you know, in one case, say, well, one al-Shabab member for sure, but then we would count three civilians, because they were well diggers and a man who worked for the mobile telecommunications company, that they were not actually active al-Shabab participating in hostilities.”
Caster also said that “in the 150 interviews that we did, every single one of them said that they had not spoken to a government official from the U.S. or Somalia. In fact, most of them had spoken to nobody else about this. It was a struggle to find these witnesses and survivors. It’s a struggle to get them to Mogadishu.”
Though they don’t deny that we’re technically at war, U.S. Africa Command currently refuses to use the word war to describe our military intervention in Somalia. AFRICOM commander General Thomas Waldhauser even told Congress that he “wouldn’t characterize that we’re at war. It’s specifically designed for us not to own that.”
Of course, whether or not U.S. military leaders use the word, it doesn’t change the reality. Caster concluded his interview by pointing out that “the people bearing the brunt of the tragedy in the war in Somalia is not [sic] soldiers on either side. It is the civilians, who are trapped on one side — al-Shabab on one side, and airstrikes and other military operations on the other. And they’re really stuck in the middle.”
In light of this report, Trump’s off-hand comment last year describing African nations as “shithole countries,” takes on an even darker meaning. While it was racist and horrible enough in the context of his reluctance to send aid to or accept refugees from these nations, it is just plain evil when you consider that he is personally responsible for the increased loss of innocent lives in Somalia.
With no end in sight for the wars the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger, we can count on our tax dollars continuing to fund war crimes for the foreseeable future.