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Letter: Civilians Killed by U.S. Strikes

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To the Editor:

Re “American Strikes Killed Nearly 500 Civilians in ’17” (news article, June 2):

The Pentagon’s account of civilians killed by American military action is unreliable. One reason, alluded to in the article, is the blackout on civilian casualty figures for countries in which the United States conducts strikes in secret. And there are many.

While the Trump administration lists seven countries in which the United States has used or is using military force, Special Operations Command has admitted that halfway through 2017, its forces had already been deployed to 137 countries.

Another reason, rarely mentioned, is in the definition of the word “civilian.” The Pentagon seems to use the term to mean “whomever we didn’t intend to kill” rather than “what the law requires.”

This excludes people it wrongly intended to kill because of bad intelligence, false presumptions of combatant status and, most egregiously, because the United States wrongly applies law-of-war rules for killing in places where the United States is not at war.


The writer is a visiting professor at Cardozo Law School.


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