In 2016, in response to the Chilcott Report, British media acknowledged the unacceptably high number of civilian deaths inflicted on the population of Iraq. Today, such concerns are no longer expressed.
“Future British governments must make a greater effort to assess the number of civilians being killed and injured during their military operations, the Chilcot report says, after the Iraq war inquiry’s series of damning conclusions about the loss of life following the 2003 invasion,” the Guardian stated at the time.
Although the trend has continued, the mainstream media has lost interest in reporting on civilian casualties today.
According to the report compiled by Sir John Chilcot, some 150 000 Iraqis were killed during the US invasion, but other sources have estimated the number of deaths of non-combatants to be well over one million.
The 2006 Lancet survey calculated fatalities already at 650 000 just three years into the conflict. In fact, the 2007 ORB survey into fifteen of the eighteen governorates in Iraq, established that between 1 million and 1,2 million civilians perished. These alarming numbers do not include deaths after 13 years of sanctions imposed by the UN either.
And since then, the violence unleashed on the country has continued. The bombing of Iraq and Syria has not ended. In fact, over the last four years, Britain has spent over £300 million on weapons, including drones. The cost does not include personnel, wages, equipment, maintenance, fuel, air bases, etc.
Analysis of data conducted by an activist group Reprieve in 2014 concluded that of the 41 men targeted by coalition drone strikes, at least 1 147 innocent civilians were killed simply for being nearby.
The rise in UK air and drone strikes in Syria since September 2018 was revealed recently in the Ministry of Defence’s responses to a Drone Wars UK Freedom of Information request. The number of British strikes in Syria per month rose to its highest ever in December 2018, with 75 strikes.
As the Times reported in 2008, “the weapons are so controversial that MoD weapons and legal experts spent 18 months debating whether British troops could use them without breaking international law”. The so-called “debate” on drones firing thermobaric missiles in Syria, only ended after such weapons were “redefined” as an “enhanced blast missile”.
Overall, the UK launched 244 air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria during 2018, firing 512 munitions. Between 2014 and the end of 2018, the UK has fired more than 4 100 missiles and bombs in a total of 1 925 strikes in Iraq and Syria.
In 2018, for the first time, more UK weapons were fired in Syria than in Iraq – in fact almost 10 times more (464 in Syria, 48 in Iraq). While UK aircraft continue to fly in Iraq, 90 percent of British missions were taking place in Syria.
The MoD insists that its drones are deployed mainly for intelligence and surveillance operations, but Reapers fired more weapons in 2018 than the dedicated strike aircraft, the Tornado, on par with the Typhoons.
Reapers have continued to operate in both Iraq and Syria during 2018. At least 27 percent of UK strikes were carried out by drones during 2018.
Despite ISIS being in tatters, and senior UK commanders acknowledging that ISIS was no longer a credible military force, UK defence officials say that UK strikes will continue after 12 years of continuously launching strikes.