[pjw] INFO: The true costs of the "liberation" of Mosul (Bennis/Nation 6/21)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Tue Jul 11 14:44:38 EDT 2017
Below is an analysis written by Phyllis Bennis late in June, a few weeks
before yesterday's declaration that Mosul had been "liberated,"
exploring President Trump's policy of bombing ISIS regardless of
costs to civilian lives. Even more mainstream media such as Public Radio
International acknowledge that (a) the Iraqi army and US-led coalition
destroyed the city to "save" it, and (b) this doesn't mean, by any means,
and end to ISIS or the ongoing fighting.
What they're not talking about of course is how this helps perpetuate the
US occupation of Iraq, which never really ended but could see a green
light for endless future involvement to rebuild and stabilize that
Echoes of Viet Nam and "burning down the village to save it"?
I was planning to go through all the emails we've collected in the last
few months reporting civilian casualties caused by US bombs in Mosul but
think it would be too time consuming and depressing, suffice it to say
everyone noticed the uptick in civilian deaths but nobody seems to be
talking about war crimes. (Though the International Criminal Court
recently postponed looking into US war crimes in Afghanistan at the behest
of the Afghan government:
Don't forget that Portland Peaceful Response is out every Friday at 5 PM
at SW Broadway and Yamhill for a rally/march for peace and justice.
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
Trump's Policy Is Clear: Civilian Casualties Don't Matter in the War on
Multiple air strikes on cities and the use of white phosphorus-- a
probable war crime-- guarantee a growing death toll.
By Phyllis Bennis
June 21, 2017
Recent news reports describe a massive increase in civilian casualties
at the hands of the US military or US allies. In Mosul, Iraq, hundreds
of residents have been killed as US forces join Iraqi troops in the
last stage of their assault on the ISIS-held city. In Yemen, the United
States is increasing its direct involvement in the Saudi-led air war
being waged against the poorest country in the Arab world, as the UN
and other aid workers struggle against mass famine and a looming
cholera epidemic on top of the thousands already killed and millions
displaced. And in Raqqa, Syria, US air strikes and white-phosphorus
munitions have led to what the UN calls "a staggering loss of life," as
Washington provides backup to Kurdish and Arab forces now besieging the
These attacks, and the skyrocketing civilian casualties that result
from them, have two things in common: direct US involvement, a result
of the recent escalation in Washington's direct role in the 16-year-old
Global War on Terror; and an absolute disdain for the civilian lives
being destroyed in these wars.
Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis claimed in sworn
congressional testimony that
there has been no change to our rules of engagement and there has
been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid
innocent civilian casualties, despite needing to go into populated
areas to break ISIS hold on their self-described caliphate, despite
ISIS purposely endangering innocent lives by refusing to allow
civilians to evacuate. And we continue all possible efforts to
protect the innocent.
And yet, the already high casualty figures continue to mount. When the
top UN official on the Syria war described the "staggering loss of
life," he was specifically condemning the impact of US and allied air
strikes against Raqqa, not simply bemoaning the war in general. He also
discussed the 160,000 people driven out of their homes by US air
strikes. An estimated 200,000 more civilians--families, children, old
people--are still trapped in Raqqa, and according to the AirWars
monitoring group in London, "Rarely a day goes by now when we don't see
three or four civilian casualty incidents attributed to coalition air
strikes around Raqqa.... All of the local monitoring groups are now
reporting that the coalition is killing more civilians than Russia on a
There is no question that ISIS, which proclaimed Raqqa as the "capital"
of its so-called caliphate in 2014, is responsible for horrific
atrocities against the civilian population; recent reports indicate
that civilians have been killed trying to escape the besieged city. But
Trump's recent policy shift-- described as an approach aimed at the
"annihilation" of ISIS-- guarantees that civilian casualties at the
hands of US troops, gunners, and drone and warplane pilots will
continue to mount as they attack ISIS fighters holed up with
civilians in the crowded, desperate city.
Mattis argues that the US military is using "all possible efforts to
protect the innocent." But that argument collapses when the ostensible
protection comes in the form of massive curtains of white-phosphorus
bombs dropped in civilian areas. White phosphorus is a deadly chemical
weapon that burns through skin, muscle, and bone and responds to no
treatment. Using white phosphorus is almost always a war crime; the
only exception may be its use to screen troop movements on the
battlefield. But those troops can be shielded within tanks or armored
personnel carriers; vulnerable civilians have no such protection.
In Raqqa, as well as in Mosul, where the United States also dropped
white phosphorus, use of the chemical bombs may well qualify as a war
crime. According to Amnesty International,
The use of white phosphorus munitions by the US-led coalition
gravely endangers the lives of thousands of civilians trapped in and
around al-Raqqa city, and may amount to a war crime under these
circumstancesÉ. The use of white phosphorus in densely-populated
areas poses an unacceptably high risk to civilians and would almost
invariably amount to indiscriminate attacks.
Beyond the use of white phosphorus, the United States is ramping up its
direct involvement in wars across the region. In Syria, the Pentagon is
now officially arming the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units). The
United States depends on their prowess in the offensive against Raqqa,
but the move is further antagonizing Turkey, which views the YPG as
terrorists. And a US warplane downed a Syrian government plane just
days ago, significantly ratcheting up the tensions between the United
States and SyriaÕs key backers, Iran and Russia. While Russia's
response so far has been cautious, Moscow has stated that it will treat
any US or allied planes in certain parts of Syria as a legitimate
The US claim is that of "self-defense"-- that the Syrian warplane
threatened US-backed rebel forces attacking ISIS-held areas. But the
United States has no legal right to be in Syria-- not under
international law, and not even under US domestic law. Asserting the
right to shoot down any plane supposedly threatening US troops
anywhere in the world, regardless of the legality of those troops'
presence, is not a legitimate claim. Things could deteriorate very
quickly, and the icy cold war between the United States and Russia
could heat up very rapidly if more of these provocations take place.
And we should not forget Yemen, where the United States is now
threatening to escalate its direct involvement. More than 10,000 people
have already been killed in the civil war, and thousands more are dying
from the consequences of the Saudi-imposed blockade of the
import-dependent country's ports, preventing virtually all food and
vital medicines from getting in. American planes and pilots have been
providing in-air refueling for Saudi bombers, allowing them to attack
with greater efficiency, and Washington is now planning to participate
in a major military assault that would destroy the country's main port
of Hodeidah, further crippling the country. America is supposedly
involved because the Houthi rebels, who have challenged the
Saudi-backed Yemeni government for years, have received some support
from Iran. So for Washington, backing the Saudi war in Yemen has
everything to do with challenging Tehran's role as a regional power.
The fact that more Yemenis will die is not important.
In Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, the United States dropped a
23,000-pound explosive behemoth, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used
in combat, on a cave complex thought to be used by the local branch of
ISIS. The use of the "Mother of All Bombs" there was far from the last
salvo of that seemingly endless war; Trump has now given his favorite
(at least for the moment) general, Defense Secretary Mattis, the power
to raise troop levels across the region. In Afghanistan, it looks like
at least 4,000 more US troops will be sent, despite the acknowledged
lack of any strategy to actually change the lethal stalemate.
We should note that sending more troops to Afghanistan without a
strategy is nothing new. Just weeks after President Obama's
inauguration in 2009, he announced plans for a major review of
Afghanistan strategy. But first, he said, we'll send 17,000 more troops
to help out against the Taliban. Then we'll have a strategy discussion.
Months later, the decision was to send another 30,000 troops, for a
total "surge" of 47,000. But the troops came first, then the strategy.
Now, eight years later, the Taliban still control almost one-third of
Afghanistan's territory; ISIS is in the mix, at least on a small scale;
and Trump still has no strategy. But heÕs allowing his commanders to
send more troops.
This broadly applied effort to "annihilate" ISIS is apparently based on
what Mattis described as "a tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of
safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their
strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS." He claimed that surrounding
ISIS-controlled locations would allow the United States and its allies
to "carry out the annihilation campaign so we don't simply transplant
this problem from one location to another." And if civilians get in the
way? Well, we'll try to be careful, but you know, going after ISIS
comes first. Civilians are an afterthought.
The global war on terror has failed, is still failing, and will
continue to fail. There is no military solution to terrorism. All the
tactical shifts, from "shoving" to "annihilation" of ISIS, are not
going to work. More troops and bigger bombs and white phosphorus are
not going to work. There are only political, diplomatic, economic, and
humanitarian solutions. The military ones just keep killing more
civilians, while allowing terrorists to flourish.
Phyllis Bennis, director of the Institute for Policy
Studies' New Internationalism Project, is the author of Understanding
ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer.
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