Responding to news that 230 civilians in Mosul had been killed by an airstrike, US Army Col. Joe Scrocca — a spokesman for the US-led coalition — said the military is investigating “what if any role a coalition strike may have had in that area.” The airstrike occurred last Friday, just 2 days after the US killed 33 civilians with an airstrike that hit a school in Raqqa & about a week after more than 40 were killed when a mosque was hit. All of us, of course, can take comfort in the fact that these are being “investigated,” too. More than 300 people killed — not soldiers, not terrorists, not ISIS fighters — “just” people.
The “Liberation” of Mosul
Collateral Damage noun
[ kuh-lat-er-uh-l dam-ij ] 1. The cost of “freedom,” paid mostly by dark-skinned people in countries outside of Europe and North America.
While the London terror attack that claimed 4 lives dominated headlines, a guy named Saleh Jamal was helping to excavate the bodies of 10 children from the rubble of what used to be a West Mosul neighborhood. Meanwhile, the US-led military coalition — currently the only group known to be dropping bombs out of the sky onto Mosul — continued its quest to discover who was responsible. Although US investigators have apparently not ruled out the possibility that a secret ( or invisible…? ) air-force is being hidden nearby, at least one Iraqi official had the nerve to say it was an airstrike ordered by the US-led coalition.
Do Dead Muslims Have Names?
Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes — those are the names of the people who were killed in the London terror attack. I know because the names are listed by their pictures in the articles. I also know the injured & killed included 12 Britons, 3 French kids, 2 Romanians, 4 South Koreans, 2 Greeks, 1 German, 1 Pole, 1 Irish person, 1 Chinese person, 1 Italian, & 1 US citizen. The names of the 2 Romanians are Andreea Cristea & Andrei Burnaz — both survived. Burnaz, whose foot was broken in the attack, was about to propose to Cristea, who fell into the Thames River.
What are the names of the 200 people buried beneath the rubble in Mosul? The articles do not mention them because it is not important to know what name Suha Khalid Gharab called her 1-year old “relative” by — nor is it important for you to know the 19 names of her other relatives allegedly killed by an unknown, airstrike-like event. The names of “32 relatives” of “another man” — who also allegedly perished in the mysterious attack from above — are also not important for us to know. Some were almost certainly named Muhammad and it’s likely there was an Omar or two — a few Abdullahs & Fatimas, perhaps.
English speakers would find it hard to pronounce the other ones, anyway.
What We Know About People Killed by US Airstrikes
The anthropological research of Robin Dunbar suggests that the average human being’s social circle — the faces & names that you can truly keep track of — is about 150 people. Out of those 150, there is a group of around 50 acquaintances — these are the ones you might invite to a party or a holiday dinner. There is also a sympathy-group — about 15 people you know well — and, finally, an intimate group of about 5 who are your best friends & closest family. Now —
303 × 150 = 45,450
303 × 50 = 15,150
303 × 15 = 4,545
303 × 5 = 1,515
You may never hear the names of the 303 people beneath the rubble in Mosul, Raqqa, or Aleppo but — thanks to anthropology & some math — you can know there are probably 45,450 people who do know their names. You can be sure that there are about 15,150 people who will no longer see them around or at a family dinner, 4,545 people who were their good friends, played games with them, & stayed up to gaze at the stars with them — and you can be sure that about 1,515 people just had pieces of their hearts ripped out of their chests that they can never get back.
And, finally, you can be damned sure that, whether we forget their names or not or never even get to hear them, there are thousands out there who will remember them for the rest of their lives — and the US military is making more every day. Remember that.
P.S. As I finished this article, I received word that the US central command has — one week afterward — finally taken responsibility for the airstrike. Alhamdulillah.