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Inaugural Ellsberg Lecture: The Human Toll of America's Air Wars

Event Information


UMass Amherst Student Ballroom

Date & Time

Nov 8, 2022 | 7:00 pm

Event Website


Visit the Feinberg Series Website to Read More and Register

In recent American wars, the United States traded many of its troops on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft, high flying drones, and precision weapons, often directed by controllers thousands of miles away. Successive U.S. administrations have boasted America’s air wars are the “most precise” in the history of warfare, replete with pledges of transparency and accountability. Investigative reporter Azmat Khan set out to test those claims on the ground in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and within confidential troves of documents she obtained through years-long lawsuits against the Department of Defense. In this lecture, Khan will detail the culmination of her findings and the pattern of impunity within this new way of war. 

This is the first annual Ellsberg Lecture, co-sponsored this year by the Feinberg Series and the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy. The Ellsberg Initiative was inspired by the acquisition of the papers of Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, by the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives at UMass. The Initiative’s mission is to promote public awareness, scholarship, and activism on the overlapping causes that define Ellsberg’s legacy: peace, anti-imperialism, democracy, truth-telling, nuclear disarmament, and social and environmental justice.

This event will be live in the UMass Student Union Ballroom and on Zoom. A recording will be available on the Feinberg Series website and the History Department's YouTube and Soundcloud. Spanish interpretation and closed captioning will be available.

Azmat Khan is a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter whose work grapples with the human costs of war. She is a writer for the New York Times Magazine, a Carnegie Fellow, and the Birch Assistant Professor at Columbia Journalism School, where she also leads the Li Center for Global Journalism. Khan is writing a book for Random House investigating America’s air wars.

Her multi-part series in the New York Times, “The Civilian Casualty Files,” was awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. The project was the culmination of more than five years of Khan’s reporting, including ground investigation at the sites of more than 100 civilian casualty incidents in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, more than 1,300 formerly secret military records she obtained in a legal battle with the Pentagon, and scores of interviews with military and local sources.

She received an MSt. from Oxford University, which she attended as a Clarendon Scholar, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. She has also studied at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

Location Information

The UMass Amherst Student Union (41 Campus Center Way) is a short distance from the Campus Parking Garage (1 Campus Center Way, off of Commonwealth Ave, $1.75/hour). See map for free parking. Bus Schedule | Campus Map with Venue and Parking Indicated | Directions to the Student Union | Accessible Parking

The Feinberg Series

The 2022-2023 Feinberg Series is exploring histories of U.S. imperialism and anti-imperialist resistance. It is presented by the UMass Amherst Department of History in collaboration with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and DemocracyThe Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass Amherst history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg ’67 and associates. The series is co-sponsored by more than 3 dozen community and university partners. Visit the Feinberg Series webpage for more information about the series.