USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications

"O War, Thou Son of Hell!" Grasping the Carnage in Syria

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Thomas W. Smith

Document Type


Publication Date



0275-0392 (print) 1085-794X (online)


It is hard to fathom the violence and upheaval that Syrians have experienced since 2011. Reliable information is a rare commodity in a war zone, and there are myriad ways of framing suffering and defining loss. However clinical or inexact, body counts have become the metric of choice among a cottage industry of humanitarians, political partisans, and self-styled casualty scientists. Though presented matter-of-factly, casualty figures can vary widely depending on who canvasses the data, what is counted, and how estimates are derived. The way in which the dead are categorized and memorialized nevertheless reveals much about how the war is understood by those closest to it. The direct effects of the violence have received the most attention, but the insidious and long-term effects are appalling as well. Not only is this how most Syrians have experienced the war, but seemingly incidental or collateral damage is often deliberate or even strategic in nature.


Johns Hopkins University Press