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An Accounting for the Uncounted

“The Uncounted,” a longform piece written in December in the New York Times by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal of ISP, prompted two former officials in the Obama Administration to come forward with a candid reckoning about the shortcomings of U.S. policy on civilian casualties inThe Atlantic:

Every now and again, an article is published about something you know you should know, but don't want to know.

“The Uncounted,”Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal’s groundbreaking piece about the civilians killed in the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State—and the considerable gap between their tally of such deaths and the numbers reported by the Pentagon—is one of them. We cannot speak to the precise data, but their New York Times Magazine piece, and the verified tragedy of the Razzo family at its center, are emblematic of a bigger story that unfortunately rings true.

Basim Razzo was a member of one of the oldest families in Mosul, and the article recounts the night he woke up to find his roof collapsed and home destroyed—the result of an American bomb. Though Razzo himself survived, the attack took from him his wife and daughter, and the story chronicles his investigation into why it occurred. He finds, to his horror, that his house was deliberately targeted; American drones had monitored it for three days before striking, apparently acting on outdated reports that it was an isis command center.  The drone footage failed to confirm those reports. It also failed to refute them. That, apparently, was sufficient for the U.S. military to proceed.