Moral Low Ground


Report: US Air Strike Kills 230 Iraqi Civilians, Mostly Women and Children, in Mosul

Fierce fighting for control of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, has killed or injured thousands of civilians there so far this month. (Photo: Democracy Now!)

In what could be the deadliest wholesale American slaughter of innocent civilians in decades, as many as 230 people, mostly women and children, have reportedly been killed in an air strike in a crowded residential neighborhood of besieged Mosul, Iraq.

On Thursday, the United Nations warned “the worst is yet to come” as some 400,000 residents remain trapped inside the Islamic State-controlled Old City of western Mosul, facing IS snipers, land mines, food shortages and mounting panic as US-backed Iraqi national forces fight to retake the city that has been under Islamist control for nearly three years.

The worst soon came for hundreds of terrified civilians sheltering in adjoining homes in the city’s Jadida neighborhood. According to witnesses, IS snipers took up positions in the buildings, with fighters holding the civilians there as human shields. The Telegraph reports a local resident, who documents life in the embattled city under the Twitter handle MosulEye, said one of the trapped civilians desperately phoned him Wednesday to plead for help, claiming he’d been without food or water for four days.

Instead of delivering help, the coalition delivered death from above on a staggering scale. The Kurdish news agency Rudaw reports 130 people were killed in one single home, while 100 more people perished in another. YouTube channel IR Shia — which may be associated with Islamic State — posted horrific video footage of what it claimed was the deadly attack.

The Independent reports a spokesman for US Central Command (CENTCOM) said Pentagon officials were aware of the loss of life and were “researching” the situation. Iraqi News reports Iraqi military media is accusing IS of fabricating civilian casualty figures and even murdering civilians and then blaming coalition forces. According to the outlet, Iraqi military officials denied killing any civilians, as US forces often initially do in similar situations.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” Islamic State and seize Iraq’s oil. “I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left,” Trump said in November 2015. “We’ll get Exxon[Mobil] to come in there and in two months… I’ll take the oil.” Trump also promised he would order the killing innocent women and children. “You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said in December 2015. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it was moving ahead with plans to make it easier for the military and Central Intelligence Agency to target enemy forces with drones, even if it means more innocent people will be killed. Changes include declaring more places “areas of active hostilities” and granting military and CIA forces greater autonomy to launch strikes without presidential approval in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. “Some of the Obama administration rules were getting in the way of good strikes,” a US official briefed on the changes told NBC News.

There has been an exponential increase in the killing of innocent civilians in nations targeted by America’s war against terrorism since Trump became commander-in-chief. This month alone, several mass casualty events have been reported, including 49 civilians killed when a US air strike hit a mosque in Aleppo province, Syria and 33 civilians killed in an air strike on a school sheltering families near Raqqa, Syria.

In the Trump administration’s first major ground raid, dozens of civilians — including an 8-year-old American girl — and a US Navy SEAL were killed in a botched assault on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. In February, at least 18 Afghans, mostly women and children, died in a US strike in Helmand province.

But it is in Mosul where US bombs have killed the most innocent people. Earlier this month, the U.K.-based monitor group Airwars said as many as 370 civilians have been killed in at least 11 coalition attacks in and around Mosul. Thousands of Mosul residents have died in the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of more displaced.

While it is extremely difficult to confirm how many people have died in coalition attacks, details from specific events have been corroborated. One of the deadliest incidents occurred when the IS-run Omar al-Aswad mosque, in the al-Faruq district of the old city center, was repeatedly bombed, destroying it as well as nearby homes. The mosque was being used as a shelter for families displaced by the fierce fighting. Ninevah Media Center reported more than 80 civilians were killed or wounded, while Mosul Eye put the number killed at “more than 50.”

Map showing forces in control of areas in and around Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. (Institute for the Study of War/Al Jazeera)

According to Airwars, on March 2, several outlets — including IS media — reported 20 civilians were killed in a coalition bombardment in the Shifa neighborhood of western Mosul, while another west Mosul strike, this one in the Nabi Sheet neighborhood, reportedly killed 14 civilians from three families. Two days later, coalition attacks in western Mosul’s Al Mahatta neighborhood reportedly left another 36 civilians dead, including numerous children. The deadliest reported incident in Mosul involving coalition forces prior to the Jadida massacre occurred on March 5 during an attack on a government compound in the Dawassa neighborhood in which as many as 130 civilians were reportedly killed. The following day, dozens of Iraqi police and security officers imprisoned by IS were reportedly killed in coalition air strikes near Mosul’s main train station.

The Pentagon has admitted its forces have killed hundreds of civilians since the US began bombing IS targets in 2014, but human rights and monitor groups accuse Washington of dramatically underreporting the number of Iraqi and Syrian civilians killed during the war. More than 15 years of endless US war in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have taken an extremely heavy toll on innocent life. Estimates of the number of people killed during the ongoing war against Islamist terrorism range from the low hundreds of thousands to more than 1.3 million. 

Since the end of World War II, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

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