The United States government has hit back at the suggestion by Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman that a focus on Russian bombing in Syria “diverts” attention away from American “atrocities” in the country.
Asked about the accusation, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday it was wrong to compare American strikes against Isis in Syria to Russian military action - as Russia had displayed a “wanton disregard” for civilian life.
“Having American views and policies criticised and debated in public is not something new to us,” he said.
“I’m not going to respond to every bit of rhetoric from every leader around the world about what they perceive our motives will be.”
However Kirby told a press conference in Washington: “No one has proven more dedicated to trying to find peaceful solution to the civil war in Syria than the USA. In particular Secretary Kerry.”
Kirby said while the US military was “not perfect” and had been responsible for civilian casualties in the past, “no other military in the world takes as much care to be as precise as possible than the US military”.
“Any civilian casualty is a tragedy. One is too many. I am not minimising that at all. Nobody should want to see or cause civilian causalities. Every time we do it we own up to it. We are honest about it. And we work that much harder the next time around not to cause it.
Kirby said the US military did not deliberately attempt to put innocent civilians in harms way.
“What we’ve seen in and around Aleppo specifically with respect to the Syrian regime and Russian military aircraft is a wanton disregard for for the safety and security of civilians and an indiscriminate approach to the bombing which is absolutely not at all in concert in the way we conduct our air operations.”
He added: “When the US military has reason to suspect it made a mistake and caused collateral damage or civilian casualties, we own up to it, we put a press release out about it, we don’t wait for you to ask, we tell you ‘hey we think we might have mad a mistake we’re going to investigate it’.
“Here’s the other thing, when we finish the investigation we put a press release out about that and we’ll have a press conference and we answer questions from you in the media about the mistakes we made and the lessons we learned.”
On Wednesday, a spokesman for Corbyn said:
“The focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities I think sometimes diverts attention from other atrocities that are taking place,” said Corbyn’s aide.
“Independent assessments are that there have been very large scale civilian casualties as a result of the US-led coalition bombing. There are several cases of large numbers of civilian deaths in single attacks.
“And there hasn’t been as so much attention on those atrocities or those casualties. And both the United States and British Governments have been reluctant to accept any independent assessment of what’s taken place as a result of those campaigns.”
The remarks follow calls from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for a mass demonstration directed at the Moscow regime’s embassy in Kensington.
Anti-war activists point out that US airstrikes on a Syrian village in July allegedly killed at least 73 civilians, a majority of them women and children.
Labour MP John Woodcock attack Corbyn’s spokesman for suggesting US and Russian actions in Syria were similar. “By any reasonable measure this is just not true. This absurdity seems like a deliberate provocation, unworthy of our leader and our party,” he tweeted.
Theresa May’s spokeswoman also dismissed Labour’s claim. “We are taking a very different approach to Russia and we are working towards peace, towards finding a solution and towards alleviating the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people,” she said.
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