US ‘war on terror’ leads bloody way in recent deadliest conflicts

May 26, 2023
Old Taliban Tanks and Heavy Weapons on the outskirts of Kabul.

With more than 4.5m killed and millions displaced, American revenge for 9/11 attacks puts Ukraine in the shade for 21st century slaughter.

What’s the deadliest conflict of the 21st century so far? No, it’s not the Ukraine war, not by a long shot. According to a new study by the Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs of Brown University, the wars and conflicts unleashed by the United States in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks have led to the deaths of more than 4.5 million.

The deaths took place mainly in the war zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. But while other parties, states and sub-state actors have been involved, the latest study focuses on locales where “US counterterrorism has played a vital role in at the very least intensifying the violence,” wrote the study’s author Stephanie Savell, who is also co-director of the project.

The study describes the death toll as a “reasonable and conservative estimate”, which means it’s comparable to those in the US wars in Korea and Vietnam. “Some of these people were killed in the fighting, but far more, especially children, have been killed by the reverberating effects of war, such as the spread of disease,” it said. “These latter indirect deaths – estimated at 3.6-3.7 million – and related health problems have resulted from the post-9/11 wars’ destruction of economies, public services, and the environment. Indirect deaths grow in scale over time.”

Their devastating effects continue today, especially given the severe sanctions imposed by Washington on Afghanistan and Syria.

The latest study follows from a previous one by the Costs of War Project in 2021 which tracks the number of people displaced from their homes as a result of the US’ post-9/11 wars.

They amounted to “at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria”, the 2021 report said. “This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.”

Tragically, in the past two decades, whole populations have had their lives upended in the most horrible way. The new report puts it starkly: “[The] post-9/11 wars are implicated in many kinds of deaths. In a place like Afghanistan, the pressing question is whether any death can today be considered unrelated to war. Ultimately, the impacts of the ongoing violence are so vast and complex that they are unquantifiable. [Some] groups, particularly women and children, suffer the brunt of these ongoing impacts.”

It’s worth remembering that fewer than 3,000 people died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, the ostensible reason for the US to launch “the war on terror”. For every 9/11 victim killed, roughly 1,500 others died and more than 12,300 people lost their homes or were otherwise displaced, in other parts of the world.

It’s highly unlikely that those responsible for the war on terror will ever be brought to justice, even though their war crimes and crimes against humanity are obvious for the world to see. In 2020, Washington imposed sanctions on senior officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC), including its then chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her family, after the court announced formal investigations into alleged war crimes committed by the US troops in Afghanistan, with the possibility of making arrests and issuing summons.

A 2016 ICC report found that there was a reasonable ground to believe US military personnel had committed torture at secret detention sites.

After Bensouda was replaced, the new chief prosecutor promptly downgraded the US war crime case and put it on the back burner. Clearly the court, which is (in)famous for prosecuting former African leaders, has been taught a lesson by the US, which has consistently refused to join the court as a signatory nation. This is the country that takes every opportunity to mention its supposed defence of the rules-based international order and freely decides who has violated it and is to be punished.

When ICC judges issued an arrest warrant in March for Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, Washington cheered. The terrible irony did not escape many commentators.


Republished from the South China Morning Post May 19, 2023

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