Dec. 31, 2017
“The Uncounted,” a longform piece written in December in the New York Times by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal of ISP, was included in Longreads’ “Best of Investigative Reporting:"
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the taste of blood, surrounded by rubble. Your bedroom roof has been blasted off, your home has been demolished, and your brother’s home next door has been demolished too. Your wife, daughter, brother, and nephew are dead, wiped out in an airstrike. Later, after a months-long hospital stay, imagine finding an aerial video of the explosion on the American military’s YouTube channel. Your home in a residential neighborhood of Mosul was mistaken for a car-bomb factory. This is the story of Basim Razzo, and in “The Uncounted,” journalists Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal explore how often mistakes like this occur and what happens next.
Over 18 months, Khan and Gopal visited 150 airstrike sites across northern Iraq, interviewing “hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials.” They found that one in five coalition airstrikes killed at least one civilian—“a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.” It’s a deeply troubling finding, all the more memorable because we see how this mistake comes to define a surviving victim. Khan and Gopal tell Razzo’s story with almost Tolstoyan humanity and breadth, taking readers on a sweeping journey that covers personal evolutions with geopolitical consequences: How Mosul gravitated toward extremism, how Razzo’s views of the United States changed after his family members became casualties of an American war, and how America’s views toward condolence payments shifted after being forced to confront particular mistakes.