Western Coalition Claims Regarding ISIS Death-Toll Are Obviously False

The title says it all. Today, France claimed that the Western-backed coalition in Syria has killed 22,000 "jihadists" since mid-2014. This number is extremely impressive. If we take September 22nd 2014 to be the first day of the campaign, we've been bombing for about 16 months or roughly 480 days. This means that the coalition is claiming to have killed around 46 ISIS fighters per day. Since we've conducted about 3,200 airstrikes (about 6.6 a day) this means almost 7 militants are killed in the average airstrike. 

On its face, the number is feasible I suppose. However, other numbers regarding the Western airstrikes in Syria show it to be fairly absurd. First, the estimate contradicts others by enormous amounts. In October 2015, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) estimated that 3,650 people, including civilians, had been killed by coalition airstrikes. Perhaps Western airstrikes have become much more efficient since October. Deducting the October estimate from the current estimate (even though many in the October estimate were civilians) leaves us with 18,350 fighters killed in roughly 90 days, meaning that the Western coalition would have killed an average of 204 fighters per day or 30 per airstrike. That's ridiculous.

To put that number in perspective, the high end of the most reliable figures for Iraqi combatant deaths in the first month of the 2003 US invasion hover at around 10,800 or about 270 per day. That's 270 combatants killed per day in a "shock and awe" bombing campaign combined with a full-scale ground invasion. Claiming to have killed at a similar rate in a limited bombing campaign is nonsense. 

The numbers become even more unbelievable when compared to the number of alleged civilian casualties. In December, the Pentagon said that there had been 6 confirmed (yes, 6) civilian casualties resulting from coalition airstrikes. So according to the Pentagon, the ratio of combatants to civilians killed in coalition airstrikes is somewhere around 22,000:6. Again, the government's estimate of civilian deaths differs enormously from other estimates. SOHR estimates that around 300 civilians have been killed, while Airwars places their count at around 500. IBS reported an incident in which 50 or more civilians were killed in a single US airstrike, obviously at odds with the happy "only the bad guys are dying (and boy are they dying!) in this war" story we are hearing from the Pentagon.   

Western governments are obviously being untruthful here. It's an unsurprising pattern. It's likely that civilian deaths are being counted as combatant deaths, just as they are in the drone wars, just as they were in Vietnam. Governments lie. What's more distressing is that much of the media is simply parroting these claims. It's one thing to report what the government is saying, it is another thing to report it uncritically, especially when there is evidence to the contrary.