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Why Is the World Not Outraged at Mass Civilian Death in Mosul?
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The catastrophic number of civilian casualties in Mosul is receiving little attention internationally from politicians and journalists. This is in sharp contrast to the outrage expressed worldwide over the bombardment of east Aleppo by Syrian government and Russian forces at the end of 2016.

Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi finance and foreign minister, told me in an interview last week: “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself.”

The real number of dead who are buried under the mounds of rubble in west Mosul is unknown, but their numbers are likely to be in the tens of thousands, rather than the much lower estimates previously given.

People have difficulty understanding why the loss of life in Mosul was so huge. A good neutral explanation of this appears in a meticulous but horrifying report by Amnesty International (AI) called “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul.

It does not give an exact figure for the number of dead, but otherwise it confirms many of the points made by Mr Zebari, notably the appalling damage inflicted by continuing artillery and rocket fire aimed over a five-month period at a confined area jam-packed with civilians who were unable to escape.

However, even this does not quite explain the mass slaughter that took place. Terrible civilian casualties have occurred in many sieges over the centuries, but in one important respect the siege of Mosul is different from the others. Isis, the cruellest and most violent movement in the world, was determined not to give up its human shields.

Even before the attack by Iraqi government forces, aided by the US-led coalition, started on 17 October last year, Isis was herding civilians back into the city and not allowing them to escape to safety. Survivors who made their way to camps for displaced people outside Mosul said they had to run the gauntlet of Isis snipers, booby traps and mines.

Determined to hang on to its hundreds of thousands of human shields, Isis packed them into a smaller and smaller space as pro-government forces advanced. Isis patrols said they would kill anybody who left their houses; they welded shut metal doors to keep them in, and hanged people who tried to escape from electricity pylons and left the bodies to rot.

“Consequently, as IS lost territory during the course of the battle, IS-controlled areas became increasingly crowded with civilians,” says the AI report. “Mosul residents routinely described to Amnesty International how they sheltered in homes with relatives or neighbours in groups of between 15-100.”

It was these groups that became the victims of the massed firepower of pro-government forces. In many streets, every house is destroyed and I could not even enter some badly damaged districts because access was blocked by smashed masonry, craters and burned out cars.

Outside Mosul, people tend to assume that most of this destruction was the result of airstrikes – and much of it was – but Mr Zebari is correct in saying that it was shell and rocket fire from pro-government ground forces, particularly by the Federal Police, that caused the greatest destruction and loss of civilian life.

How this happened is easily explained by a look at the types of ordnance used by pro-government forces: these include 122 mm and 155mm howitzers, but also notoriously inaccurate 122mm Grad rockets and locally made Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs) that might land almost anywhere.

The Grad is a Soviet weapon that dates back fifty years, and consists of 40 rockets mounted in a vehicle which can be fired in volleys over a half minute period. Earlier versions of this weapon had a devastating effect on dug-in German infantry in fortified positions in World War II. Civilians crammed together in fragile houses in west Mosul would stand little chance.

The US-dominated coalition said that it tried to avoid carrying out air strikes where civilians were present, and its planes dropped leaflets telling them to move away from Isis positions. People on the ground in Mosul regarded this as a cruel joke, because they had nowhere else to go to and Isis would shoot them if they tried to run away.

In addition, the Isis system of defence was based on quickly moving its fighters from building to building through holes cut in the walls in the newer parts of Mosul; meanwhile in the Old City, where most houses have cellars, Isis linked these by tunnels so they could fire and retreat before the building they were in was destroyed, most commonly by 500 lb bombs.

“There were very few Daesh [Isis] in our neighbourhood, but they dropped a lot of bombs on them,” Qais, 47, a resident of Mosul al-Jadida district told me. He reckoned that between 600 and 1,000 people in the district had been killed, and he showed me pictures on his phone of a house that had once stood beside his own but had been reduced to a heap of smashed-up bricks.

“There were no Daesh in the house,” he said. “But there were seven members of the Abu Imad family there, of whom five were killed along with two passersby.”

A further reason for the devastation caused by the battle for west Mosul was the outcome of the fighting for east Mosul between 17 October and 24 January. The Iraqi government and the Americans had expected a hard fought but relatively swift victory, perhaps taking about two months to seize the whole of the city (in fact, it took nine months).

The attack on the part to the east of the Tigris River was primarily undertaken by the highly trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), fighting house to house. Air strikes were usually against carefully selected targets, and not called in at will by ground troops at the first sign of resistance.


These tactics of the pro-government forces did not work. True, they eventually captured east Mosul after three months of heavy fighting and at the cost of casualties to the CTS reported as being between 40 and 50 per cent. But they could not afford this scale of losses repeated in west Mosul, where Isis was even more deeply entrenched.

When the assault on west Mosul began on 19 February, the pro-government forces were therefore using artillery, rockets and airpower much more freely. And in addition to the CTS, they fielded the Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, both of which were far less well-trained and deemed more sectarian than the CTS. As they in turn suffered heavy casualties, they lost all restraint in use of their firepower.

Why has there not been more outcry over the destruction of west Mosul? There should be no question about the massive civilian loss of life, even if there are differences over the exact numbers of the dead.

The biggest reason for the lack of outrage is that Isis was seen as a uniquely evil movement that had to be defeated – whatever the cost in dead bodies to the people of Mosul.

It is an understandable argument, but one that in the past has meant Iraq never finds peace.

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

    A more plausible explanation: the vile jooie controlled “media” perceives the carnage and ongoing destruction of the ME as being great for the Izzies……so it downplays the mass murder of civilians.

  2. It is obvious that the propaganda power structure is on board with the destruction of Mosul, while the structure is arrayed against the Syrian government and in favour of the yankee axis.

  3. “Why has there not been more outcry over the destruction of west Mosul?”

    Because there isn’t a huge, well-funded propaganda campaign whose useful idiots include children’s charities, MPs and most mainstream media, as there was for Aleppo? ‘No-fly-zone now’ was almost the only headline on BBC for a couple of months in late 2015.

    (And if the death toll was really 40,000 that makes it greater than the 20-30,000 (and those are ‘opposition’ figures) in four years of fighting in Aleppo.)

  4. MEexpert says:

    Why Is the World Not Outraged at Mass Civilian Death in Mosul?

    Patrick Cockburn is obviously a Kurd sympathiser. All his articles on Iraq are always pro Kurd. His source of information is always a Kurd and so the saga goes on. The people of Mosul were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either they get killed by ISIS as the case has been since 2014 or they get killed while they are liberated. In both cases the culprit is ISIS. Mr. Cockburn does not suggest an out from this dilema. Perhaps he knows of a way to differentiate between ISIS and the civilians. Also, why no interviews with the Federal police representatives or the Shia militias or the US forces?

    Mr. Cockburn, why not some articles about thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen? Why not some outrage for the lack of international coverage of this atrocity?

    Since the MSM media in the US and UK will not cover them, how about you be bold enough and cover the following:

    1. Shias in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia are being killed or put in prisons without trials. Please bring their plight in the open and inform the public.

    2. Almost identical situation in Bahrain. In addition, the Bahraini government is stripping the shias of bahraini citizenship and sending them into exile. I don’t see any coverage in MSM or the UK Telegraph.

    3. Last month several people were killed by bomb blasts in Parachinar, Pakistan. Not a peep out of you or the MSM. Not long before that similar massacre in Quetta, Pakistan. These people are being killed by the Saudi/Wahhabi funded terrorists groups all over Pakistan.

    I guess, I can understand your reluctance since there are no Kurdish sources in these countries to give you information.

  5. Randal says:

    Why has there not been more outcry over the destruction of west Mosul?

    Because people are hypocrites.

    The kind of hypocrites who shed hypocritical tears over photographs of babies supposedly slaughtered by their enemies, but order the slaughter of babies themselves when in their view the end justifies the means.

    Secondarily, because the media serve the interests of those who own them and who staff them.

    The biggest reason for the lack of outrage is that Isis was seen as a uniquely evil movement that had to be defeated – whatever the cost in dead bodies to the people of Mosul.

    It is an understandable argument, but one that in the past has meant Iraq never finds peace.

    It’s exactly the same argument, of course, that is used to justify all the terrorism that is condemned so apocalyptically by those in the US sphere who justify the slaughter in Mosul in this way – necessity and the end justifies the means.

    Imagine what would have been the US sphere media response to the slaughter in Mosul if it had been carried out by someone not allied with the US sphere. But we don’t have to imagine – we can read all the outraged calls for intervention in the western media over the Syrian reconquest of the part of Aleppo that had fallen into terrorist hands, or the cynical anti-Russian propaganda over the retaking of Grozny in 1999-2000.

    • Agree: reiner Tor
  6. fnn says:

    The MSM-CIA line is that it only matters if the Russians did it. In case you haven’t noticed, the Russians are the new Nazis.

  7. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    There’s not as much coverage of this as there is of other bloody events. The average person has to have it dangled it front of them every morning for it to sink in. Another thing is that the average American has no clue whatsoever as to who is what in the ME; it’s all one blur. Americans can’t tell an Iranian from an Arab or what a Shia is as compared to a Sunni. They don’t even know where Iraq or Syria are. Americans have to be told who and what they’re supposed to care about. It’s a big job to get your average American to stop taking selfies for one minute and turn away from their social media to give a flip about anyone else, especially unknown people thousands of miles away. American policy is based on the stupidity and manipulability of the majority.

  8. Simple answer to your headline question:

    Outrage fatigue.

    Particularly in Islamic lands. Saddam Hussein, various ayatollahs in Iran, Hafez al Assad in Syria, various mobs in lands from Libya to Pakistan, have been killing one another in very large numbers for many years. The nerve endings for atrocity are all burned out.

    It’ll be different when there are more atrocities committed on American soil by the Religion of Peace Which Must Not Be Named.

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @KA
    , @KA
  9. Most people are sheep.

    Even in moral outrage, they have to be told what to be outraged at.

    Also, where is anti-war movement anywhere?

  10. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @The Grate Deign

    n a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies yesterday, CIA director John Brennan made a startling admission: The Islamic State was “decimated” under George W. Bush and had just “700-or-so adherents left” following the surge in Iraq. Said Brennan:

    [ISIS] was, you know, pretty much decimated when US forces were there in Iraq. It had maybe 700-or-so adherents left. And then it grew quite a bit in the last several years, when it split then from al-Qaida in Syria, and set up its own organization.

    And in an August 8, 2014 interview with CNN, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken declared that:

    Unlike core al Qaeda, right now, their [ISIS’] focus is not on attacking the US homeland or attacking our interests here in the United States or abroad. It’s focused intently on trying to create a caliphate now in Iraq.

    Never heard of IS under Bushjr unless he was busy creating it under the radar.

    Your argument of fatigue doesnt hold much water America has been sanctioning left and right every country, has been attacking one or another country very 10 months since 1800
    and has been bombing left and right that can move .
    There is no fatigue there. There is no tiredness there.

    Sometime they will examine a lead pencil before allowing or disallowing that pencil to end up in an Iraq school.

    No fatigue there Neither are American tired of it , because they vote the same guys or his latest replacement ( placeholder)

  11. Mit says:

    Iraqi Government. Selected and approved by US Deep State
    ISIS. Selected and approved by US Deep state
    Essentially the story is: One Deep State entity Vs another Deep State entity.
    Massacre ensures.
    No outcry in Deep State Controlled Media.
    Something very fishy about this narrative.

  12. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    {Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi finance and foreign minister, told me in an interview last week: “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself.”}

    Fuck Zebari and those who interview this US clown and asset.

    Hoshyar Zebari is a Kurd and allied with the mass murderers. When the Kurds are killing indigenous people, Christian, Arabs, Turkman, this Kurdish US informant hide the kurdish terrorists working for the mass murderers. He is a traitor so the ’embedded journalist”.

    Fuck off from Iraq. Th mass murderers, US-Israel-Britain should fuck off now.

  13. KA says:
    @The Grate Deign

    “Definitions of terrorism are notoriously hard to pin down. Attorneys working for the US government tried to formulate a suitable working definition at one stage, and had to give up because, no matter which way they framed them, every definition they came up with applied to policies and actions of the US government. “
    Ben Debney  International Relations at Deakin University, Burwood, Melbourne

    Nation built on Judea Christian values has been trying hard to sell its goodwill , honesty,selflessness ,and yearnings for greater good for years with Bible in one hand and grenade in another . But always been told by bankers and profiteers that he is not doing a good job with the Bible as much as he has been with grenade .

    So the grenade is the 1st plan that peeks out of the drawer .

  14. KA says:
    @The Grate Deign

    raq Pakistan Turkey or Syria or Libya – they don’t start killing each other out off nothing.

    They are bamboozled in doing so. When they don’t, they are attacked by the beautiful nation based on Judeo Christian values

    Even Turkey in this Syria mess was pushed to get involved Now it is trying to get out.


    “Such a threat must be primarily military in nature. At present there are three relatively hostile elements around Syria’s borders: Israel, Iraq and Turkey. Consideration must be given to orchestrating a credible military threat against Syria in order to induce at least some moderate change in its policies.
    This paper proposes serious examination of the use of all three states – acting independently – to exert the necessary threat. Use of any one state in isolation cannot create such a credible threat.

    “The strategy proposed here by the CIA is virtually identical to the one being discussed by deep state establishment think tanks like the Brookings Institution today. For instance, in the Brookings document “Middle East Memo #21: Saving Syria: Assessing Options For Regime Change,” it says,
    Turkey’s participation would be vital for success, and Washington would have to encourage the Turks to play a more helpful role than they have so far. While Ankara has lost all patience with Damascus, it has taken few concrete steps that would increase the pressure on Asad (and thereby antagonize Tehran). Turkish policy toward the Syrian opposition has actually worked at cross-purposes with American efforts to foster a broad, unified national organization.

  15. What will they do with the captured ISIS fighters?

    • Replies: @El Dato
  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This one is an easy question.

    Because those who decide what the world is to be outraged at don’t think they need it to be, in the case in point.

  17. Lefties get concerned about civilian casualties – so concerned that they let it obscure all other considerations sometimes. The conservative press pays less attention to the problem, because its audience is less concerned, unless those civilians are unambiguously Our People. Righties aren’t necessarily unconcerned, it just isn’t as high on their list as with liberals. They make a little noise about Israeli civilians*, but mostly just Europeans and Anglosphere.

    *It’s a lot compared to other ME tribes, but still not much.

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The biggest reason for the lack of outrage is that Isis was seen as a uniquely evil movement that had to be defeated – whatever the cost in dead bodies to the people of Mosul.

    It is an understandable argument, but one that in the past has meant Iraq never finds peace.

    So ISIS is “uniquely evil”? Really? Mr Cockburn, you apparently don’t get around much at all. Nor do you read history books, apparently.

    Americans don’t care because … they don’t care. Nor do Africans care, or Asians, or Singaporeans, or Kuala Lumpurians, or Saudis, or Tibetans, or pretty much everybody else on Earth.

    What’s your point, Mr. Cockburn?

  19. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Because Americans fought a civil war 152 years ago and decided that once was enough. Solving your issues that way is idiotic, and we haven’t done anything like that since. Deep down, Americans tend to assume that if you get into a civil war, it’s your own damned fault because you refuse to behave like adults and sort out problems using peaceful means, and thus you get what you deserve.

  20. El Dato says:

    “Muahahaha” surely?

    Unless the fighter has money, then he is let go.

    It is said that Assad bussed them out of town with families, not sure what the status is on that.

  21. because of the media black out. ignorance is ignorance. what people don’t know they wouldn’t care. when it matters, it will be shown.

    that is why information control is so important.

  22. Fighting in the Middle East has been quite normal. It’s not interesting to people in the West.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
  23. MEexpert says:
    @Massimo Heitor

    Fighting in the Middle East has been quite normal. It’s not interesting to people in the West.

    Thank goodness the fighting in the Middle East is not interesting to the people of the West. Right now the West in the Middle East is being represented by, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Norway, Canada and scores of other countries in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, and Lebanon.

    Can you just imagine, if the West were really interested in fighting in the Middle East, what would have happened? The whole of Middle East, as we know it, would have been destroyed and the dream of “Greater Israel” would have been achieved. These pesky little Middle East countries, they just don’t know how to bow down to any body else but Allah.

    By the way, for your information, since you just came out of hibernation, all the problems in the Middle East are caused by the West.

  24. Under the Geneva Convention, you put civilians in harms way and they get harmed, as when you are using them as human shields, the blood is on your head.

    I note that the author offers no alternative, except surrender, or perhaps better still from his perspective adopting tactics more harmful to the people he blames for the problems.

  25. Anonymous [AKA "vince veritas"] says:

    The pro war pro global capitalist media has been using the false allegations and wildly speculative hypotheticals about Russia, Trump’s boorish behavior, bad manners, and malapropisms to hide from the public the horrors of the ‘merican and its allies wars [military, economic, and propaganda] in the middle east and Africa. This is a different path but the same continuum as the avoidance of coverage when slick talking con artist obamanothercountry and lady mcdeath were handling the reins. Nine years of obfuscation equals a dumb downed couldn’t care less population. Sad and sickening.

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