• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Counting the Dead in Mosul

Photo by The U.S. Army | CC BY 2.0

“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.

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.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

May 28, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War on Arms Control and Disarmament
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Virtues of Not Eating Animals
Jeffrey St. Clair
Last Stand in the Big Woods
Jack Rasmus
Two Fictions of Mainstream Economics
Louisa Willcox
“What Are We Fighting About?” 9th Circuit Hears Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Case
Danny Sjursen
The Future of Forever War, American-Style
Steven Salaita
To Students and Teachers Targeted by the Israel Lobby
David Rosen
Silence=Death: Larry Kramer, RIP
Dean Baker
Restaurants in the Pandemic
Martin Billheimer
There is No Vacation Anymore
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Bold Responses to a Stark Crisis
Deborah Toler
Is Stacey Abrams Progressive?
Binoy Kampmark
Budget Cockups in the Time of Coronavirus
May 27, 2020
Ipek S. Burnett
The Irony of American Freedom 
Paul Street
Life in Hell: Online Teaching
Vijay Prashad
Why Iran’s Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Are Sending Shudders Through Washington
Lawrence Davidson
National Values: Reality or Propaganda?
Ramzy Baroud
Why Does Israel Celebrate Its Terrorists: Ben Uliel and the Murder of the Dawabsheh Family
Sam Pizzigati
The Inefficient and Incredibly Lucrative Coronavirus Vaccine Race
Mark Ashwill
Vietnam Criticized for Its First-Round Victory Over COVID-19
David Rovics
A Note from the Ministry of Staple Guns
Binoy Kampmark
One Rule for Me and Another for Everyone Else: The Cummings Coronavirus Factor
Nino Pagliccia
Canada’s Seat at the UN Security Council May be Coveted But is Far From a Sure Bet
Erik Molvar
Should Federal Public Lands be Prioritized for Renewable Energy Development?
R. G. Davis
Fascism: Is it Too Extreme a Label?
Gene Glickman
A Comradely Letter: What’s a Progressive to Do?
Jonathan Power
The Attacks on China Must Stop
John Kendall Hawkins
The Asian Pivot
May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail