A New Standard for Evidence of Civilian Harm?
In October 2019, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed during a U.S. military raid on his compound in Syria. Former President Donald Trump called the raid “impeccable,” and the Defense Department said that no civilians were harmed in the operation.
But reporting from NPR determined that two civilians were killed and a third lost his arm from U.S. airstrikes. The Defense Department disagreed and dismissed NPR’s claims as “not credible” based in part on a lack of metadata in images that NPR and Airwars, a watchdog group that monitors the civilian impact of military actions, provided.
Until now, the U.S. military appears to have never required metadata for images to be considered as evidence. If this new standard continues, it will be much harder for researchers and journalists to collect and submit evidence of civilian harm in U.S. military operations, which erodes accountability when harm occurs.
Joining the show to discuss the Baghdadi raid and the U.S. response to claims of civilian harm are Airwars Director Emily Tripp and Conflict Researcher Anna Zahn.
- Emily Tripp (@Emily_4319)
- Anna Zahn
- Paras Shah (@pshah518)
- Anna’s Just Security article on the al-Baghdadi raid
- NPR’s reporting on Syrian casualties in the raid (also in Arabic)
- Just Security’s coverage of civilian harm
- Just Security’s coverage of the Department of Defense’s Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP)
- Music: “The Parade” by “Hey Pluto!” from Uppbeat: https://uppbeat.io/t/hey-pluto/the-parade (License code: 36B6ODD7Y6ODZ3BX)
- Music: “Abide” by “Arend” from Uppbeat: https://uppbeat.io/t/arend/abide (License code: OSHRWBZJ90OZARBA)