Rejecting the Pentagon’s investigations of his involvement and covering them up… Demanding Congress to investigate a massacre that killed dozens of Syrians

Washington- After The New York Times published an investigation about a US air strike that killed 80 people – including 64 Syrian civilians – on March 18, 2019 in the village of Baghouz in Deir ez-Zor governorate (eastern Syria) – most of them are women. Children – US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the start of an investigation by the Pentagon into the accident.

The investigation – which will be led by the head of the Land Forces Command, General Michael X Garrett – will include an examination of the strike carried out by a mysterious and secret special operations unit called “Task Force 9”, as well as how it was dealt with. General of the Ministry of Defense.

General Garrett will have 90 days to review investigations that have already been conducted, and further investigate civilian casualty reports, whether there have been any laws-of-war violations or record-keeping errors, and whether any recommendations from previous reviews have been implemented.

A military vehicle of SDF fighters marching alongside students in the village of Baghouz, two years after the massacre in the village (French)

After the failure to cover up the massacre

The start of the investigation comes after the New York Times revealed a few days ago that the Pentagon tried to keep the blow and losses under wraps, and failed to open a serious investigation, despite asking internal questions from some officials.

A Pentagon military lawyer had warned that the aerial attack that killed Syrian civilians was a “potential war crime,” but Defense Department officials took steps to conceal the strike and its impact.

The new inquiry will look at civilian casualties, review the documentation and reporting process for such strikes, consider whether anyone should be held accountable for the deaths, and determine whether the strike violated the laws of war.

The Pentagon has not yet indicated why Defense Secretary Austin has yet to order an investigation into the massacre.

details of the massacre

The New York Times reported that the airstrike took place as the United States was wrapping up its fight against ISIS in Syria, as a US drone was searching for the group’s fighters, tracking some of them in a riverside area “where they were sheltering with women and children.”

After two bombs were thrown into the crowd, a military analyst in a chat on a secured line asked, “Who dropped that?” According to two sources who spoke to the newspaper, another person said, “We just dropped bombs on 50 women and children.” The Pentagon did not acknowledge the raid until after the publication of the Times report.

The US Central Command (which oversees military operations in the Middle East) said the strikes were carried out defensively after the SDF said it came under heavy fire from ISIS fighters and requested aid, adding that the area was believed to be empty of civilians.

“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent it, in which case we have reported and investigated the strike on our own evidence, and take full responsibility for the unintended loss of life,” Central Command spokesman Bill Urban said.

مذبحة الباغوز Baghuz في سوريا عام 2019 - الفرنسية A man stands looking at twisted metal wreckage left behind by heavy fighting, in the village of Baghouz in Syria's northern Deir Ezzor province, on March 24, 2021 where two years ago, the Islamic State Group (IS) made their last stand before being defeated. - In March 2019, after Kurdish fighters and the US-led coalition declared the IS proto-state defeated, Baghouz looked like a churned up wasteland, its roads were dotted with destroyed homes. Now, residents have started to renovate battered buildings. Children have also returned to school and a handful of businesses have reopened. But twisted metal wreckage continues to litter the floor, several homes remain abandoned and IS insignia can still be spotted on walls across the village. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)A citizen inspects the effects of the bombing that killed dozens of residents of his village in the American war against ISIS in 2019 (French)

The culprit and the verdict

Some experts believe that the death toll was underestimated, reports of the attack delayed, and re-edited, then US-led coalition forces inspected the site of the explosion, and senior commanders were not informed, and they believed that the investigation should not be left to the Pentagon.

And the former head of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby, tweeted mocking the Pentagon’s start of its investigation into the massacre, and said, “The Pentagon chief orders a new investigation into the American air raid that killed dozens in Syria! How can the perpetrator be the same investigator?”

While Young Americans for Freedom tweeted, “Just a reminder that in 2019 a US drone strike killed more than 60 Syrian civilians, then covered it up, the Pentagon just started investigating because they were exposed! Watch out, these people are criminals.” “.

An American record of fatal errors

Sarah Holwinsky and Leah Hebron, two officials at Human Rights Watch in the American capital, considered that the Pentagon cannot be left to investigate a crime he committed, and demanded that Congress intervene to investigate the Pentagon’s failure, and its killing of civilians instead of protecting them.

This massacre is reminiscent of dozens of drone attacks on civilian targets since the start of America’s war on “terrorism” following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Among the recent famous attacks, which took place last August in the Afghan capital, which resulted in the killing of 10 civilians, including 7 children.

These massacres are located thousands of miles from American soil, but they belong to a single pattern since the start of this type of operation 20 years ago.

Given the high cost of continued failure, Holwinsky and Hebron argue that there is an urgent need for an independent investigation to fix the wrongdoing that is costing innocent lives.

مذبحة الباغوز Baghuz في سوريا عام 2019 - الأوروبية epa07461253 Smoke clouds rise from the village of Baghuz, Syria, 24 March 2019. The US-backed Kurdish-Arab 'Syria democratic forces' (SDF) have announced the military victory over Islamic State (IS) group on 23 March 2019, following a four-year battle against the group that took control over a third of Syria and Iraq. EPA-EFE/Ahmed MardnliClouds of smoke rose from the village of Baghouz after a 4-year battle against ISIS (European)

Looking forward to achieving Congress

Long before the Kabul and Baghuz incidents, defense ministers repeatedly praised the efforts of US forces to limit civilian harm, and they reiterate that no army works as hard to avoid civilian casualties as the US military.

The Congressional Research Service reports that there is some truth to this, given the number of exercises, studies, operating procedures, and tactical directives focused on minimizing civilian harm, but at the same time, civilian casualties from US attacks continue.

Various reports indicate that what is most worrisome is that the Pentagon fails to exercise oversight after clearly problematic strikes that result in civilian casualties.

In the case of the Syrian massacre, a military lawyer immediately reported potential violations of international humanitarian law when reviewing footage documenting the Baghouz strikes in 2019, at a time when many tried to cover up what happened.

The undercover spun a narrative that included false records of fake attacks to make it appear legal, and yet the Pentagon’s top brass didn’t act.

When the same military attorney later submitted a report to the Air Force Inspector General, an investigation team substantiated the complaint, but the leadership turned a blind eye, and when a member of the investigation team continued to raise concerns, he was fired.

The House Armed Services Committee has already announced an investigation, with the Senate Armed Services Committee calling for a similar move immediately.

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