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Mosul Residents Count Cost of Massive Airstrike Campaign Against Isis
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“There were very few Daesh [Isis fighters] in our neighbourhood, but they dropped a lot of bombs on them,” says Qais, 47, a resident of the al-Jadida district of Mosul. “We reckon that the airstrikes here killed between 600 and 1,000 people.”

He shows pictures on his phone of a house that had stood beside his own before it was hit by a bomb or missile that had reduced it to a heap of smashed-up bricks. “There were no Daesh in the house,” says Qais. But there were seven members of the Abu Imad family living there, of whom five were killed along with two passers-by.

People in west Mosul say that the intensity of the bombardment from the air was out of all proportion to the number of Isis fighters on the ground. Saad Amr, a volunteer medic, worked in both east and west Mosul during the nine-month siege. He says that “the airstrikes on east Mosul were fewer but more accurate, while on the west there were far more of them, but they were haphazard.”

Nobody knows how many civilians died in Mosul because many of the bodies are still buried under the rubble in 47 degrees heat. Asked to estimate how many people had been killed in his home district of al-Thawra, Saad Amr said: “we don’t know because houses were often full of an unknown number of displaced people from other parts of the city.”

Some districts are so badly damaged that it is impossible to reach them. We heard that there had been heavy airstrikes on the districts of Zanjily and Sahba and, from a distance, we could see broken roofs with floors hanging down like concrete flaps. But we could not get there in a car because the streets leading to them were choked with broke masonry and burned out cars.

Local people accuse the US-led coalition of massive overuse of force, though they agree that Isis forced people into houses in combat zones and murdered them if they tried to flee. The sighting of a single sniper on a roof, would lead to a whole building being destroyed along with the families inside them. A sign that Isis was not present in any numbers is that, while there are bombed out buildings in every street, there are surprisingly few bullet holes in the walls from automatic rifles or machine guns. In cities like Homs in Syria today or Beirut during the civil war, wherever there had been street fighting of any intensity, walls were always pock-marked with bullet holes.

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The accusations of Mosul residents interviewed by The Independent are backed-up by an Amnesty International report called At Any Price: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul. It says that civilians were subjected “to a terrifying barrage of fire from weapons that should never be used in densely populated civilian areas.” AI researchers interviewed 151 west Mosul residents, experts and analysts, and documented 45 attacks in total, which killed at least 426 civilians and injured more than 100. This was only a sample of thousands of air attacks on the city, some of which are still going on. Throughout the day in Mosul there has been the periodic thump of more bombs landing in the corner of the Old City still held by Isis.

Even where bombs hit their targets, they were often more likely to kill civilians than Isis fighters. For example, AI says that “on 17 March 2017 a US airstrike on the Mosul al-Jadida neighbourhood killed at least 105 civilians in order to neutralise two Isis snipers. Regardless of whether – as the US Department of Defense has maintained — secondary explosions occurred, it should have been clear to those responsible that the risk posed to civilians by using a 500lb bomb was clearly excessive in relation to anticipated military advantage.” This is the only such incident Mosul to be investigated by the US military, although the US say they always take precautions to reduce civilian casualties.

The Isis defended Mosul for nine months instead of the two months expected by the US military by adopting special tactics. Isis commanders relied heavily on snipers who would move swiftly from house to house. The three Iraqi government elite combat units, the Counter-Terrorism Service, Emergency Response Division and the Federal Police, that bore the brunt of the battle, had too few troops to fight house to house. When faced with resistance, they invariable called in air attacks.

The consequence of this was explained to AIby Mohamed from al-Tenak neighbourhood in west Mosul: “The strikes targeted the Isis snipers. A strike would destroy an entire house of two storeys.”

Civilian loss of life was so horrific in west Mosul because Isis was merciless in using civilians as human shields. Thousands were herded from their villages in the outskirts into the combat zones and shot or hanged if they tried to escape. Metal doors were welded shut and other exits booby trapped. Those who were caught escaping were hanged from electricity pylons. As Iraqi government forces advanced and Isis retreated, the civilians were squeezed into a smaller area where a single bomb would kill the large numbers of people crammed together.

Isis will be even further weakened after the loss of Mosul if fresh reports turn out to be true that its leader Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi was killed earlier in the year. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that it has “confirmed information” that he is dead as the Russia’s Defence Ministry had claimed in June. It said that it might have killed him when one of its airstrikes hit a gathering of Isis commanders on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa.

“We have confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank who is Syrian, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” said Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the British-based group. The source did not say when or how Baghdadi had died.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS 
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  1. Varenik says:

    I guess there weren’t too many hospitals and bakeries. Otherwise it would have been all over the news, eh ?

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    • Replies: @unit472
    No western reporters 'embedded' with the Iraqi government forces. Too dangerous as capture would mean beheading, crucifixion or being burned alive.
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  2. unit472 says:
    @Varenik
    I guess there weren't too many hospitals and bakeries. Otherwise it would have been all over the news, eh ?

    No western reporters ‘embedded’ with the Iraqi government forces. Too dangerous as capture would mean beheading, crucifixion or being burned alive.

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  3. The US military fired lots of WP 155m rounds over Mosul to burn out the insurgents, and whoever else was below. This tactic is controversial, yet pretty to watch from afar. These videos can be found on the internet, but never appear in the US media because it looks indiscriminate. We all know the Trump family goes bonkers when a baby might be killed.

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  4. Sam 1234 says:

    The decision to sacrifice many civilians in killing one sniper, as a “necessity” could perhaps be rationalized only if this was certain to finally eliminate Isis, which it certainly cannot. It can only remove them temporarily from population centers.

    The decision to proceed in this manner to generate a report of success in Mosul begins to look like the body-count “successes” of the Vietnam war. It appears certain to result only in a protracted insurgency, the originally successful strategy of these groups.

    The decision contradicts the large-scale boost in Isis et al recruitment caused by indiscriminate attacks with heavy civilian casualties. It seems likely that a sniper killed by an urban attack causes enough deaths of innocents to recruit another sniper.

    Note that the daily US mass media reporting of civilian casualties in Aleppo (Russia backed) contradict the minimal reporting of ten times the civilian casualties in Mosul (US backed), as was predicted.

    Note also that Iraq has apparently not improved in denial of autonomy to Sunni groups there, and that its continuance of this early US policy (in rendering all former Iraq mil/govt personnel jobless for years) created the Sunni discontent that built Isis. Note that these government policies of discrimination are what cause insurgencies, and thereby cause terrorism. The whole practice of denouncing “terrorism” the technology of insurgency is therefore utterly meaningless.

    The decisions to bomb civilians are very consistent with the decisions to deny the autonomy that led to insurgency.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Excellent points!

    Mr. Cockburn mentioned in his previous article a few signs that the Iraqi government has learned some of the lessons from its previous disaster of trying to administer Sunni Arab territory by having Shia militias lord it over them. Hopefully - with some forgiveness and reconciliation - this chapter will be one of the last before Iraq is stable again. Of course some kind of political solution needs to be also figured out with the Sunni Kurds who have gotten very used to decentralized autonomy.

    Peace.

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  5. Talha says:
    @Sam 1234
    The decision to sacrifice many civilians in killing one sniper, as a "necessity" could perhaps be rationalized only if this was certain to finally eliminate Isis, which it certainly cannot. It can only remove them temporarily from population centers.

    The decision to proceed in this manner to generate a report of success in Mosul begins to look like the body-count "successes" of the Vietnam war. It appears certain to result only in a protracted insurgency, the originally successful strategy of these groups.

    The decision contradicts the large-scale boost in Isis et al recruitment caused by indiscriminate attacks with heavy civilian casualties. It seems likely that a sniper killed by an urban attack causes enough deaths of innocents to recruit another sniper.

    Note that the daily US mass media reporting of civilian casualties in Aleppo (Russia backed) contradict the minimal reporting of ten times the civilian casualties in Mosul (US backed), as was predicted.

    Note also that Iraq has apparently not improved in denial of autonomy to Sunni groups there, and that its continuance of this early US policy (in rendering all former Iraq mil/govt personnel jobless for years) created the Sunni discontent that built Isis. Note that these government policies of discrimination are what cause insurgencies, and thereby cause terrorism. The whole practice of denouncing "terrorism" the technology of insurgency is therefore utterly meaningless.

    The decisions to bomb civilians are very consistent with the decisions to deny the autonomy that led to insurgency.

    Excellent points!

    Mr. Cockburn mentioned in his previous article a few signs that the Iraqi government has learned some of the lessons from its previous disaster of trying to administer Sunni Arab territory by having Shia militias lord it over them. Hopefully – with some forgiveness and reconciliation – this chapter will be one of the last before Iraq is stable again. Of course some kind of political solution needs to be also figured out with the Sunni Kurds who have gotten very used to decentralized autonomy.

    Peace.

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  6. The US is good at blowing up stuff. Rebuilding, not so much. Cultural change, not so much.

    What if there are non-violent ways to achieve objectives, including elimination of ISIS, that are more effective than force and threats of violence?

    What if we just do not see these alternatives because our cultural assumptions default to violence and “enforcement” whenever we perceive a challenge?

    Cultures differ. The Chinese, for example, take a generational view and are far more patient than those of us who grew up imbibing the assumptions of Western Culture. The Chinese also are a people whose culture has survived millennia.

    Having squandered our patrimony on Military adventures we would not be capable of a Marshall Plan for Iraq even it the idea were to cross our minds.

    Assume force no longer is an option. Are we able to imagine alternative solutions?

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey FreeOregon,

    Are we able to imagine alternative solutions?
     
    Excellent points! One of the reasons I love reading UNZ - people thinking out of the box!

    Now, for sure, if Iraq hadn't fallen apart, there would likely be no Daesh - so the first lesson is; DO NOT rip apart relatively stable countries in the ME and give these groups a wild-west base from which to operate.

    But given that the group had shown up, my personal feeling was to try to cordon them off into their region almost like a medieval siege - and tightly control anything coming in or out.

    Groups like Daesh are naturally extremist and schismatic - they are very prone to splintering; just as it was a split from Al-Qaeda which was a split from the global network run by the late Shaykh Azzam (ra). Eventually, the group, being incubated internally will have power clashes within itself. You let this happen. When it has fractured enough - then you come in for the kill.

    One of the relatively recent successes that many people don't know about was the dialogue between the extremist group, Gam-a'ah Islamiyah and the scholars of Al-Azhar which finally had a break through and resulted in them denouncing terrorism. This has been translated into English:
    https://www.amazon.com/Initiative-Stop-Violence-Renunciation-Translation/dp/0300196776

    Peace.
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  7. I don’t understand why we keep getting involved in their problems.

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  8. Talha says:
    @FreeOregon
    The US is good at blowing up stuff. Rebuilding, not so much. Cultural change, not so much.

    What if there are non-violent ways to achieve objectives, including elimination of ISIS, that are more effective than force and threats of violence?

    What if we just do not see these alternatives because our cultural assumptions default to violence and "enforcement" whenever we perceive a challenge?

    Cultures differ. The Chinese, for example, take a generational view and are far more patient than those of us who grew up imbibing the assumptions of Western Culture. The Chinese also are a people whose culture has survived millennia.

    Having squandered our patrimony on Military adventures we would not be capable of a Marshall Plan for Iraq even it the idea were to cross our minds.

    Assume force no longer is an option. Are we able to imagine alternative solutions?

    Hey FreeOregon,

    Are we able to imagine alternative solutions?

    Excellent points! One of the reasons I love reading UNZ – people thinking out of the box!

    Now, for sure, if Iraq hadn’t fallen apart, there would likely be no Daesh – so the first lesson is; DO NOT rip apart relatively stable countries in the ME and give these groups a wild-west base from which to operate.

    But given that the group had shown up, my personal feeling was to try to cordon them off into their region almost like a medieval siege – and tightly control anything coming in or out.

    Groups like Daesh are naturally extremist and schismatic – they are very prone to splintering; just as it was a split from Al-Qaeda which was a split from the global network run by the late Shaykh Azzam (ra). Eventually, the group, being incubated internally will have power clashes within itself. You let this happen. When it has fractured enough – then you come in for the kill.

    One of the relatively recent successes that many people don’t know about was the dialogue between the extremist group, Gam-a’ah Islamiyah and the scholars of Al-Azhar which finally had a break through and resulted in them denouncing terrorism. This has been translated into English:

    https://www.amazon.com/Initiative-Stop-Violence-Renunciation-Translation/dp/0300196776

    Peace.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  9. A culture bears much responsibility for the criminals and terrorists it spawns.
    That said, we should mop up the remaining ISIS and beat feet out of country, covering our exit with a thick layer of muntions.

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  10. ISIS or Daesh is an ideology, not an army.

    The seat of that ideology is Saudi Arabia. So fortunately, we’re best friends with the people who can generate fresh fighters.

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