FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Price of Liberation: Slaughtering Civilians in Mosul

Bombs do not have a conscience, however named, blessed or created.  They go, at least in a rough sense, where directed, and if the deliverer is ill disposed, confused or simply incompetent, disaster follows.  Between the ideological rants and principled feelings about killing the enemy, there is only one fact worth nothing: death and the ordinance used to cause it are intimately twinned.

The very concept of a moralised arsenal, or a principled form of humanitarian liberation, is always problematic.  An “arsenal for democracy” against the arsenal of a thousand year Reich, a theme dating from the Second World War, is symbolic rather than functional, based on discriminations artificially made. At the end of any war or battle, however intentioned, is a stocked grave.

The narrative on fighting Islamic State is this: good guys size up bad guys and the former will triumph in a dark-light narrative of childish simplicity.  But consequentially, it is always difficult to distinguish a Bomber Harris, architect of the Dresden bombing of 1945 that had no military value, from the camp commander who orders murderous gas for extermination camps. We can well draw distinctions about how wars begin, and regimes behind them, but the methods of war, including their outcomes, are also important.

Put the treacle-pudding guff of humanitarian virtue to the side, and what matters is the result, which usually involves fresh graves strewn over fields of dissolved hopes.  Politics tends to follow, patching such matters up with comforting cosmetics.  Islamic State is an enemy of certain cherished values, which is deemed more than sufficient in terms of getting onto a plane and unleashing a salvo on a civilian packed suburb.

All of this ties rather bloodily in the supposed liberation of Mosul.  The operation is not going according to plan.  That, of course, presumes a coherent plan to begin with, with neat objectives, spread sheet directives, and boxes to tick.

The Iraqi forces, packed with US coalition participation in terms of coordinated air strikes, has realised that fighting in urban quarters, ballasted by air support, is a costly affair.  It is a discovery that had already been made centuries before, and such fighters, it would seem, are none the wiser.

For the insurgent, the civilian is not merely a shield but a gold asset rich in dividends.  Guerrillas, liked or otherwise by the local populace, blend in the landscape of rubble and charred ruins, finding protection in shattered remains and broken families.

The whole point, in a sense, is to obliterate the distinction between guerrilla and civilian, a fact that the intervening voices duly answer by inflicting heavy casualties – on civilians. Be it the ubiquitous car bomb or the air strike with delusionary famed weapons of precision, the distinction of being a combatant or civilian is irrelevant.  If you are in Mosul, you either flee, die or chance your luck. Forget the official line, and believe no one.

The casualty rate amongst civilians in the Mosul operation has spiked for the obvious reason that all sides in this conflict wish to capitalise on immediate gains with minimal concern.  As Iraqi forces make the bloody advance into a city of half a million, with some 2,000 remaining Islamic State forces, US-led strikes have flattened entire blocks.

The attack on a Mosul block led to as many as 200 civilian deaths, though the response from Iraqi authorities was a steadfast demurral: Islamic State, it was suggested, was behind it with one of their murderous car bombs.  Account and counter-account have followed.

According to Amnesty International, hundreds have died in their homes or places of refuge, advised by the Iraqi government to stay put as the cavalry charge in for the rescue.  “Survivors and eyewitnesses in East Mosul said they did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.”[1]

In the newsrooms, civilian casualties are an embarrassment for the Coalition forces, though a confession to error made in good faith always goes down well for the home tax payers fronting the bills for such lethal adventures.  This is war, and war can be untidy and imperfect, despite immaculately filled spread-sheets and blueprints for victory.

Removing Islamic State forces from the city should remind the US personnel engaged about the disastrous operations run by the Coalition in Iraq from 2003.  Cluttered, dense, and unforgiving, warfare in the streets, where indiscriminate, opportunistically detonated car bombs meet air delivered weapons, can only mean more remorseless suffering.

The pity of war lacks sincerity when monopolised by those who claim the motivations of liberation.  Such positions start making combating sides look plain and similar: every warring outfit wants to know they are on the side of the angels when they massacre populations and put a city to the sword. They all ultimately did it for a “good” cause.

The only difference is the hypocrisy associated with those moralist warriors who still claim that God, the Responsibility to Protect, or some fantastic notion of shielding civilians before modern carnage is ever feasible.  In war, there is dull, inevitable, cruel death, and in the modern era, the civilian is a pawn to be idealised in terms of protection, and killed in terms of expediency.

Notes.

[1] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/iraq-civilians-killed-by-airstrikes-in-their-homes-after-they-were-told-not-to-flee-mosul/

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail