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History As It Happens

Feb 10, 2022

The civilian toll of America's endless wars in the Greater Middle East is receiving fresh scrutiny. Reports detailing systemic weaknesses in the targeting of suspected militants spurred Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to order the Pentagon to improve its protections for the ordinary people who have died by the thousands in U.S. airstrikes since September 11, 2001. A series of reports by the New York Times documented several cases in which military officials covered up the unintentional slaughter of civilians. These tragedies, which are only sporadically noticed by ordinary Americans in the ongoing global war on terrorism, raise a deeper question: why does the public seem so indifferent to the deaths of others? In this episode, historian John Tirman explains the reasons why Americans have mostly ignored, downplayed, or even justified the deaths of civilians in the nation’s post-WWII conflicts starting with the Korean War, when the U.S. military carpet bombed North Korea, up to and including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.