You probably read somewhere that Barack Obama dropped a remarkable 26,171 bombs in 2016. Not bad for a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
But this figure — impressive as it may be — is 100% pure, unfiltered fake news.
Truth is, we have no idea how many bombs the U.S. military has dropped on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan over the last year.
The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.
In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll.
Our guess: They probably didn’t tally up these strikes because they weren’t targeting “the Islamic State”, “al-Qaida” or “the Taliban”.
This whole episode reminds us of a simple, if uncomfortable, reality: There’s not a whole lot we can do to verify government-provided data about government activities. Take, for example, the official casualty list from Obama’s drone program. Washington claims that drones are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that civilian casualties are rare. Thanks to a brave whistleblower, who we assume is tied to a concrete block at the bottom of a river right now, we know that nearly 90% of people killed in drone strikes are not the “intended” target. And considering how awful a job the U.S. military/CIA des at choosing whom to drone — is he brown? Does he have enough fingers to hold a rifle? Fire! — that’s saying a lot.
So it’s not just that hundreds (okay, let’s be honest: thousands) of people have likely been killed in attacks that have never been made public, it’s that even when the military discloses appalling figures, such as 26,171 bombs dropped in a single year, they’re still lying to us.
How would you described this level of evil? If you answered, “weird”, then maybe you should consider a career in the U.S. military!
U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activity in all three war zones, indicated it is unable to determine how far back the Army’s numbers have been excluded from these airpower summaries. Officials there would not address several detailed questions submitted by Military Times, and they were unable to provide a full listing of annual airstrikes conducted by each of the Defense Department’s four military services.
“It is really weird. We don’t track the number of strikes from Apaches, for example” said a U.S. military official with knowledge of CENTCOM’s data collection and reporting practices.
Yeah. Really “weird”. Well said, sir.