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Western Hypocrisy About Airstrike Killings

The chemical poisoning of civilians in Syria has proved a boon and a blessing for the West’s militarists who energetically seek confrontation with Russia — and with China and any other countries that might pop up on their screens of raging aggression.  Nobody doubts for an instant that chemical agents are vile and that anyone using them offensively should be severely punished.  But the pseudo-sympathy of those who profess to be shocked — shocked! — by pictures of dead children, supposedly killed by chemical weapons, is obnoxious.

Trump declared “I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was.” His ambassador to the UN, a person with all the caring sensitivity of a manic rock python, waved photographs at the world and emoted that “we awoke to pictures, to children foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents. We saw rows of lifeless bodies. Some still in diapers. Some with the visible scars of a chemical weapons attack. Look at those pictures. We cannot close our eyes to those pictures.”  True enough.

And nor can we close out eyes to the fact that you are steaming hypocrites.

Where were the breast-beating child-lovers when US airstrikes killed some 200 civilians in a series of massive attacks in March?  There were no passionate presentations of photographs of devastation in which “at least 50 bodies could be seen, including those of pregnant women, children and new-borns.”  There were no displays of emotion about a four year-old girl who “was thrown through a window. She landed in the neighbors’ yard, bleeding and badly burned with shards of glass in her eyes. Her plastic boot had melted into her leg. She still can’t open her eyes and will need another operation to be able to see again.” She was maimed by US airstrikes which are still being “formally assessed”.

The hypocrisy goes back a long way in the wars waged and insurgencies supported by the West in the Crescent from Libya to Afghanistan.

On December 22 last year the government of Syria regained control of the city of Aleppo that had been occupied by brutal rebel forces since 2012.  As reported by the BBC, “The predominantly Sunni Muslim opposition is made of several rebel groups, many of whom have received financial aid from key opponents of President Assad, including the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

Following defeat of the US-supported insurgents, “Under a deal brokered  by Turkey and Russia, convoys of buses and cars have shuttled thousands of civilians and fighters out of Aleppo’s last rebel-held pocket toward opposition areas outside the city,” and peace was restored, much to the frustration and annoyance of some Western governments.  The Los Angeles Times noted that “a series of victory celebrations were held in Aleppo following the government forces’ victory, attended by large crowds. For the first time since the civil war began, Christmas was celebrated in Aleppo, with a tree lighting ceremony.”

When the rebels controlled the city there was persecution and slaughter of Christians, with the BBC recording that “in areas seized by the jihadist group Islamic State, Christians have been ordered to convert to Islam, pay jizya (a religious levy), or face death. In the Syrian province of Hassakeh in February 2015, hundreds of Christians are feared to have been kidnapped by the militants. Senior Christian clerics have also been kidnapped by unknown gunmen. Suspicion for the abductions has fallen on the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.”  You might imagine that the Christian West would have welcomed the freedom restored to Syrian Christians by the Syrian government, but there was barely a word about this aspect of victory over the Muslim fanatics.

On the other hand, immediately before the rebels were defeated the leaders of the West were vociferously critical of operations to take the city, with reports that “Theresa May has joined Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and the leaders of France, Canada and Italy to jointly condemn Russia over its role in the humanitarian disaster ‘taking place before our very eyes’ in Aleppo.”  There was saturation media cover of the joint statement that “The urgent need now is for an immediate ceasefire to allow the United Nations to get humanitarian assistance to people in eastern Aleppo. Only a political settlement can bring peace for people in Syria.”

If the situation had not been so appalling this would have excited derisive laughter because much of the West, along with the freedom-loving kingdom of Saudi Arabia (which forbids  the practice of Christianity) and the near-autocracy of Turkey, are the very countries that advocated rebellion in Syria rather than advocating a “political settlement.” They urged the violent overthrow of Syria’s President Assad, with Saudi Arabia declaring that he “cannot be part of a solution to the conflict and must hand over power to a transitional administration or be removed by force.”  Turkey’s Erdogan, himself intent on establishing a dictatorship, proclaimed that his armed forces intervened “to bring justice. We are there to end the rule of the cruel Assad, who has been spreading state terror.” And the hypocrites of the West cheered them on. They are determined that Syria’s President be brutally deposed by the vicious anti-Christian rebels who murdered civilians and laid waste to Aleppo.

300 miles away, the Iraqi city of Mosul came under control of Islamic State barbarians in 2014, since which time they behaved much as their soulmates in Aleppo, murdering opponents, destroying ancient buildings, and persecuting those whose religion differed from their own warped interpretation of Islam.  Last year it was decided to retake the city, and Iraqi forces launched a series of operations supported by a “coalition” of countries, some of which assisted the US in mounting hundreds of airstrikes on the city and its environs. Many of the rockets, bombs and missiles caused the deaths of countless civilians, but it was only on March 17 that the western media had to take notice, after particularly hideous attacks killed some 200 civilians in a Mosul suburb.

Then the damage control experts swept into action.  Not to alleviate the slaughter and destruction on the ground, of course, but to control the media as best they could.

US Central Command was forced to admit that “the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.”  Most western media then carried reports heavily slanted towards blaming Islamic State for the slaughter.

The commander of  “Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve,” US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, admitted to reporters that “our initial assessment … shows we did strike in that area, there were multiple strikes in that area, so is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it is possible. Because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it.”  But then he altered his tone and said that “We know ISIS were fighting from that position in that building  . . .  So that’s my initial impression, the enemy had a hand in this . . .”  This line was followed by the media, with, for example, the Washington Post commenting that Russian airstrikes had killed civilians and then, almost as an afterthought, that “Confusion still surrounds the [Mosul] incident: Iraqi military authorities are saying the casualties were caused by booby traps the Islamic State had planted in the house, or by a suicide car bomb that detonated nearby. There’s no question that the jihadists are using civilians as shields, forcing them to stay in homes that are used as firing positions.”

To give it its due, the Post ended by saying that it is “vital that US authorities determine as quickly as possible whether an American or coalition bomb [note the clever use of the singular “bomb”] caused the civilian deaths, and, if so, accept responsibility,” but we can be confident that Pentagon inquiries will not result in anyone accepting responsibility for this or any other atrocity, as indicated by The New York Times reporting on March 30 of the hardening official line that “ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won’t see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack.”

The Mosul airstrikes and many others killed over a thousand Iraqi civilians in March, and you might imagine that western leaders would be at least mildly disapproving of this horrible butchery, but there hasn’t been a word from any of them.

The governments of the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Germany were eloquent about the Aleppo airstrikes and lamented emotionally that “the images of dying children are heart-breaking.”  Then Trump and the rest of them waxed emotional about chemicals that killed “innocent children, innocent babies, little babies” — but none of them says a word about the hideous slaughter of innocent babies in Mosul.  It was just a collateral massacre.

Let’s remember Trump’s former policy about the use of chemical weapons, when he said last year that “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!’”  and declared  Iraq’s former ruler to be “a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”

What a bunch of sniveling hypocrites.

A shorter version of this piece was published by Strategic Culture Foundation on April 10.

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Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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