A US Army soldier sips tea passed out by local residents as his commanding officer and allied troops meet with local villagers on May 26, 2021 near the Turkish border in northeastern Syria. [Photo/Agencies]
The US Central Command on Sunday said that an airstrike that killed civilians in Syria was "legitimate self-defense".
It was responding to a report The New York Times published on Saturday, which accused the United States military of trying to conceal the deaths of dozens of non-combatants in a 2019 airstrike in Syria.
The US Central Command said in its response that an internal investigation found that along with 16 Islamic State fighters, at least four civilians were killed and eight wounded in the strike, while the status of more than 60 other casualties could not be "conclusively" characterized.
This is an attempt to cover up the cover-up.
An investigation by The New York Times found that the death toll was systematically downplayed. "Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified." Including the findings of the Pentagon's inspector general's probe, which were "stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike".
By justifying the killing of 64 women and children in Syria, the US Central Command has taken it upon itself to bring the English language in line with its own values by redefining the word "self-defense".
Ignoring the safeguards supposedly in place to prevent civilian deaths, a special operations unit claimed that it was in danger of being overrun and called for defensive airstrikes, which dropped three bombs into a "large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank".
Behind the Central Command's justifying of the killings is the US military's exploitation of the vacuum of legal authority to rein in its abuses of power.
The US likes to claim that it is "bringing democracy and human rights" to countries when it flexes its muscles. But its military shows that it regards the rights of others to be negligible at best.
The situation is little better for its allies. The US has stationed hundreds of thousands of troops in 374 military bases overseas, which, through an unbridled sense of superiority, habitually cause trouble. In Okinawa, US soldiers have kidnapped, raped and killed local girls as young as 12 years old. In the Republic of Korea, US soldiers committed over 2,000 crimes from 2010 to 2014 alone.
For the US government and military, when it comes to the human rights of other nations' peoples, it is a case of now we see them, now we don't.
In its statement, the US Central Command said that it "takes full responsibility for the unintended loss of life". If that is the case, it should match its words with deeds and let those responsible be accountable for what a US legal officer flagged as "a possible war crime".
The US government and military should act with decency toward all people if they want others to respect them.