The truth is military authorities have no idea how many civilians have been killed by Australian bombs in the rubble-strewn streets of Iraq.
The latest news, that the Defence Department has officially admitted that Australia may have been implicated in the deaths of up to 18 civilians in the ISIS-occupied Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017, is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, experts say.
Defenders of the aerial bombing campaign would point to the atrocities under ISIS that were everyday events, from beheadings and rape to mass executions, sometimes for “offences” as trivial as being caught with cigarettes.
It is a lesser evil deployed against a far greater one, they would say.
Still, looked at from the tranquility of peaceful Australia, the number of strikes and sheer tonnage are jaw-dropping.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was responsible for dropping 669 bombs on Iraq and Syria between September, 2014, when he announced he was taking Australia back into the Iraq War, and September 2015, when he was turfed from office.
The number of bomb drops began to increase immediately after Malcolm Turnbull seized power. The bombs are estimated to range in size between 500 and 2000 lbs with a blast radius which can take out a city block.
By April of 2017 Turnbull had been responsible for dropping 1256 bombs.
In May of 2017 the bombing increased still further, with 119 bomb drops on Iraq, a further 106 bombs in June and 104 in July. By the end of the year, the claim was that Islamic State had been defeated.
The Defence Department has consistently refused to release any detailed estimates of casualties, civilian or military.
The Coalition of which Australia is a part officially acknowledges only 1190 civilian deaths from a total of 32,397 bomb drops between 2014 and 2018.
Numerous other commentators number civilian deaths in the hundreds of thousands.
Amnesty International has accused Australia of being involved in war crimes through launching barrages of indiscriminate, disproportionate and otherwise unlawful attacks, and failing to provide adequate warnings.
Former senior Australian ambassador Richard Broinowski, also believes Australia’s involvement in Iraq to be unlawful and told The New Daily the public is being kept in the dark. He says the latest admissions by the Defence Department are “highly suspicious”.
“We have had a one-year inquiry over one incident on 13 June, 2017,” he said.
“There have been hundreds of other sorties and bomb drops. What about the others? Why only this one?
“There must have been other collateral damage. Bombing from the air has been proven to be highly ineffective as far back as WW2.
“It is an inhumane way of conducting war.”
Dr Clarke Jones, a terror expert with Australian National University, who did his doctoral thesis on the consequences of military action in civilian areas, told The New Daily aerial bombing was bound to kill civilians.
“There comes a time when traditional military methods are not effective,” he said. “There is an old saying, you can’t kill a fly with a sledgehammer. You end up alienating the people you need to work with.”
He reiterated that Iraq had essentially been a secret war kept from the Australian public, with the impact of killing innocent civilians creating hostility in the targeted country and images of maimed and dying children having negative propaganda impacts.
“It has a knock-on effect for security in Australia. Muslim communities see the atrocities committed on Muslims overseas.”
Clive Williams, Adjunct Professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, has always claimed it was foolish for Australia to get involved in Iraq in the first place.
In WW1, 90 percent of casualties were military, but since then the figures have reversed, with 90 percent of casualties in modern warfare being civilians.
Professor Williams told The New Daily: “The reality is nobody knows the number of civilian casualties. That is the dilemma of urban warfare. It is inevitable a lot of civilians are going to get killed.”