by Anand Gopal
For four months in 2017, an American-led coalition in Syria dropped some ten thousand bombs on Raqqa, the densely populated capital of the Islamic State. Nearly eighty per cent of the city, which has a population of three hundred thousand, was destroyed. I visited shortly after ISIS relinquished control, and found the scale of the devastation difficult to comprehend: the skeletal silhouettes of collapsed apartment buildings, the charred schools, the gaping craters. Clotheslines were webbed between stray standing pillars, evidence that survivors were somehow living among the ruins. Nobody knows how many thousands of residents died, or how many are now homeless or confined to a wheelchair. What is certain is that the decimation of Raqqa is unlike anything seen in an American conflict since the Second World War.
As then, this battle was waged against an enemy bent on overthrowing an entire order, in an apparently nihilistic putsch against reason itself. But Raqqa was no Normandy. Although many Syrians fought valiantly against ISIS and lost their lives, the U.S., apart from a few hundred Special Forces on the ground, relied on overwhelming airpower, prosecuting the entire war from a safe distance. Not a single American died. The U.S. still occasionally conducts conventional ground battles, as in Falluja, Iraq, where, in 2004, troops engaged in fierce firefights with insurgents. But the battle for Raqqa—a war fought from cavernous control rooms thousands of miles away, or from aircraft thousands of feet in the sky—is the true face of modern American combat.
Read the whole story at The New Yorker: America’s War on Syrian Civilians | The New Yorker