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US/Iraq Coalition Kills Hundreds More Civilians In Final Fight For Mosul

Some of the 20 civilians reportedly killed in June 1 coalition air and artillery strikes in the Zanjili neighborhood of West Mosul. (Photo: Iraq News Center)

Iraqi government forces and US-led coalition air strikes are killing large numbers of civilians caught in the crossfire in the final push to capture Mosul from the last remaining Islamic State fighters there.

The independent UK-based monitor group Airwars has reported between 179 and 314 civilian deaths in the West Mosul neighborhoods of Zanjili, Shifa and Borsa so far this month, with hundreds more civilians killed in incidents that could not definitively be attributed to the coalition or IS.

Some 100,000 Mosul residents remain trapped in the embattled city, where around 300 IS die-hards are fiercely resisting the coalition advance. Bruno Geddo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq, said on Friday that “these civilians are basically held as human shields in the Old City.”

There is hope for Mosul residents that the horror they have long endured will soon end as US-backed Iraqi forces launched a fresh offensive to capture Old Mosul over the weekend. “This is the final chapter,” Counter Terrorism Commander Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi said on Iraqi state television on Sunday. But al-Assadi added that the house-to-house fighting in crowded urban quarters is no “easy task.”

While Iraqi and US commanders see light at the end of the tunnel, Mosul residents are seeing intensified death and destruction. In one of the deadliest reported series of attacks, heavy shelling and air strikes in several Old Mosul neighborhoods on June 11 killed as many as 80 or more civilians, mostly women and children according to local media reports. As many as 80 civilians were also killed by air strikes and shelling in the heavily-bombed Zanjili neighborhood of West Mosul on June 8, according to Iraqi Spring Media Center. Fifty civilians were reportedly killed when a home in the besieged Shifa neighborhood was bombed on June 13, while another 20 to 33 civilians reportedly died the same day in separate attacks in the same neighborhood. The previous day, a dozen civilians all from the same family reportedly died in what was likely a US air strike on their home in the Borsa neighborhood of West Mosul.

Women, children and the elderly have been disproportionately killed in many coalition strikes. On June 1, air and artillery strikes on Zanjili killed at least 20 people, mostly women and children. On June 18, local media reported 18 civilians from four families died when coalition warplanes bombed their homes in the Borsa neighborhood.

Hundreds of Mosul civilians have also been killed by IS fighters, who often target those trying to flee its shrinking area of control. IS has also been widely accused of using civilians as human shields.

According to Airwars, between 10,883 and 16,100 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have reportedly died in coalition bombing since the United States and some of its allies launched their air war against IS in August 2014. Civilian deaths have recently spiked as coalition forces fiercely fight to capture Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS and “take out their families” — a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Since taking office, Trump, who has also loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians in the ongoing US-led war against Islamist terrorism, has presided over some of the deadliest US air strikes in modern history, including the March 17 US bombing of an apartment building in the crowded al-Jadida neighborhood of West Mosul in which nearly 300 people died.

United Nations war crimes investigators recently condemned what one called the “staggering loss of civilian lives” in the “excessive” bombing campaign. The Trump administration has been accused of ignoring the hundreds of men, women and children killed in recent months, with Defense Secretary James Mattis recently stating that more innocent people will die, and dismissing civilian casualties as “a fact of life.”

Estimates of the number of people killed as a result of the US-led invasion and eight-year occupation of Iraq, and the subsequent war on IS following the initial withdrawal of US and coalition troops, range from the low hundreds of thousands to over a million. Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan that ended World War II, the US military has killed more innocent foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth, by far.

Monitor: US-Led Coalition Killing the Most Syrian Civilians

F-15E Strike Eagles from the USAF 335th Fighter Squadron on a training mission. (USAF/Flickr Creative Commons)

For the second straight month, the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) killed more Syrian civilians than IS, dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces or Russian air strikes, according to a leading monitor group.

The independent Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reports 964 Syrian civilians were killed in May. US-led coalition forces reportedly killed 273 Syrian civilians last month, compared to 268 innocents killed by IS and other Islamist militants. Syrian regime forces and allied Iranian Shia militias are blamed for 241 civilian deaths, while Russian forces reportedly killed 13 people. Kurdish fighters killed 54 civilians. “International coalition forces have again killed more civilian that any other party,” SNHR said, noting 29 percent of all civilians deaths last month were attributed to US-led forces. The group added that “the actual number of victims is much greater than what is being recorded.”

In what was likely the deadliest incident in the nearly three-year US-led bombing campaign in Syria, more than 100 civilians — nearly half of them children — died in multiple coalition air strikes on central Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor province on May 25. Other mass casualty events last month included a May 14 air strike that hit a convoy of farm workers in Akayrshi, killing as many as 22 civilians, 12 of them women, and a May 15 air strike on an IS-controlled town near the Iraqi border that left 23 people dead.

Reports of civilian casualties have increased as US-backed Syrian fighters, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), advance deeper into IS-held territory in and around Raqqa. The independent UK-based monitor group Airwars has reported at least 140 and as many as 200 residents of Raqqa alone have been killed in just the first 10 days of June by anti-IS coalition forces. Airwars says a minimum of 3,962 to 6,187 civilians are likely to have died in coalition actions in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the anti-IS air campaign in 2014.

On Wednesday, United Nations war crimes investigators condemned the “staggering loss of civilian life” caused by US and coalition attacks in Raqqa. Also on Wednesday, the international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) voiced alarm over the use of incendiary white phosphorus munitions by US forces in densely-populated urban areas — a likely war crime under international law. “No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” HRW said.

Civilian casualties have soared since Donald Trump became commander-in-chief. Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters and “take out their families” while campaigning for president, actions that are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions and other laws. Since entering office, Trump has loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians in the war against terrorism. Speaking last month to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US is “accelerating the tempo” of the war against IS, in which the US is shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation.”

“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis asserted.

The vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during the country’s six-year civil war have died at the hands of Assad’s forces. However, in the wider war against terrorism waged incessantly by the US since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at least hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than 1.3 million people have been killed in more than half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations.

Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II, the US military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

UN War Crimes Investigators Blast “Staggering” Death Toll From US Bombing of Raqqa

Children killed in a reported May 9 US-led air strike on al-Salhiya village north of the de facto Islamic State capital of Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Amaq News screen grab)

United Nations human rights investigators on Wednesday condemned the “staggering loss of civilian life” caused by US-led air strikes in and around Raqqa, Syria.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry, noted in a speech to the world body’s Human Rights Council that “coalition air strikes have intensified around the city,” with many innocent civilians “caught up in the city under the oppressive rule of IS, while facing extreme danger associated with movement due to excessive air strikes.” Pinheiro added the “staggering loss of civilian life” due to US air strikes has forced some 160,000 civilians to flee their homes in and around Raqqa.

As US-backed forces advance in the battle to recapture the de facto Islamic State capital city of Raqqa, Syria, civilians trapped in the crossfire are being killed and wounded at an alarming rate. The UK-based monitor group Airwars, which gathers reports from local and international media and human rights groups, reports at least 140 and as many as 200 Raqqa residents have been killed by either US-led coalition air strikes or bombing and shelling by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies in June alone.

Among the deadliest reported incidents this month:

– June 10 coalition air strikes and/or SDF shelling killed as many as 36 civilians, including at least three children, in the area behind Al Barazi pharmacy on Al Nour street.

– On June 9, 21 civilians — most of them women and children —  died and 19 more were wounded in coalition air and/or artillery strikes on heavily populated residential areas of Raqqa. Local media reported the coalition used white phosphorus munitions. While the use of WP, which is primarily used by US troops as a smokescreen, isn’t prohibited under international law, its use in populated areas is forbidden. When used as an incendiary weapon, WP — which ignites on contact with air and burns at nearly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (815° C) — can horrifically maim and kill by burning flesh straight through to the bone, often causing a slow, agonizing death.

– On June 5, as many as 21 civilians were killed and 10 others wounded when US-led warplanes attacked a group of people preparing to escape Raqqa by crossing the Euphrates River in boats.

– Between 15 and 20 civilians died in June 3 air strikes near a public swimming pool.

According to the independent Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), US-led coalition forces killed more Syrian civilians in May than any other belligerent fighting in the civil war, for the second straight month. SNHR reported 964 civilian deaths last month, with 29 percent, or 273 people, killed by coalition bombs and artillery. IS is blamed for 268 civilian deaths in May, while Syrian regime forces and allied Iranian Shia militias reportedly killed 241 people. Kurdish fighters killed 54 civilians, with Russian air strikes killing 13 others, according to the group.

Also on Wednesday, the international human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the use of white phosphorus munitions by US forces in densely-populated urban areas. “No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” HRW said.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump, who vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS and kill their innocent families — a war crime — has loosened military rules of engagement meant to protect civilians. Civilian casualties have soared in recent months, although Syrian government forces are responsible for the vast majority of the more than 400,000 people killed in the six-year civil war. Airwars says a minimum of 3,962 to 6,187 civilians are likely to have died in coalition actions in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the anti-IS air campaign in 2014.

Speaking last month to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US is “accelerating the tempo” of the war against IS, in which the US is shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation.”

“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis asserted.

In the wider US-led war against Islamist terrorism, estimates of the number of people killed range from the low hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million. Since the nuclear war waged by the United States to end World War II, US bombs and bullets have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on the planet, by far.

Pro-Gun House Majority Whip Steve Scalise Wounded in DC-Area Mass Shooting

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC. (Gage Skidmore)

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), a staunch gun rights advocate, a legislative aide and two Capitol Hill Police officers were reportedly wounded in a mass shooting at a Wednesday morning Republican Congressional baseball team practice in Virginia.

ABC News reports five people were wounded in the incident at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Alexandria police said five people were taken to hospital, including the suspected shooter, whose identity has not been released. According to congressional and law enforcement sources, the shooting was apparently a “deliberate attack.” The gunman was reportedly armed with a rifle.

A senior member of the Republican leadership told ABC News that Scalise “was hit in the hip and should be OK.”

Lawmakers described a routine morning practice for a charity baseball game at a field they’ve used for years. “I was on deck about to hit batting practice on the third base side and I hear, ‘bam,'” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) told CNN. “And I look around and behind third base… I see a rifle. and I see a little bit of a body.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told CNN that without the police presence, “it would have been a massacre.”

“Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police,” Paul said. “We had nothing but baseball bats to fight back against a rifle with,” added Brooks. Flake said many shots were fired. “Fifty (shots) would be an understatement, I’m quite sure,” he told CNN.

Witnesses said Scalise dragged himself about 45 feet (14 meters) from second base, where he had been playing, and was lying on the ground until the gunman was neutralized. When it was safe, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), a physician, rushed to Scalise’s aid.

President Donald Trump issued a statement and tweeted about the shooting. “The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely,” Trump said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.” The president subsequently tweeted that “Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”

Scalise is the first member of Congress to be shot since Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head during a constituent meeting event in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011. Eighteen other people were shot in the attack; six of them died.

The third-ranking member of the House of Representatives, Scalise has been one of the strongest Second Amendment advocates in Congress, earning an A+ grade from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s leading firearms lobby. Scalise, who has represented Louisiana’s First Congressional District since 2008, has introduced highly controversial legislation that would make it easier for licensed gun dealers to sell guns to out-of-state buyers. He also served on Trump’s Second Amendment Coalition. According to his congressional website,

Scalise has sponsored and cosponsored legislation protecting citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. In the 112th Congress, Scalise introduced H.R. 58, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, which improves law-abiding citizens’ ability to purchase firearms. The bills Scalise has recently cosponsored include H.R.645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia and the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, H.R.822, which would ensure national reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders. Congressman Scalise’s pro-gun stance has earned him an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. A member of the Congressional Second Amendment Task Force, Congressman Steve Scalise will continue fighting to protect every citizen’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

In December 2014, Scalise gained some national notoriety when it was revealed he addressed a gathering of a white supremacist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke in 2002, but he denied any knowledge of the group’s neo-Nazi activities.

Scalise is married with two children.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 27,000 shootings so far this year in the United States, resulting in at least 6,865 deaths. There have been more than 150 mass shootings in 2017.

US-Led Forces Using White Phosphorus In Fight Against Islamic State

White phosphorus rounds fired by Israeli forces during the 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. (Photo: Dale Spencer/Flickr Creative Commons)

US-led coalition forces have apparently used white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of the two most important cities still held by Islamic State (IS) militants.

The Washington Post reports video footage and reports from human rights groups show white phosphorus (WP) rounds were used in the de facto IS capital of Raqqa, Syria as well as in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city and the most populous one still controlled by the Islamists.

While the use of WP isn’t prohibited under international law, its use in populated areas is forbidden. WP munitions are primarily used to create smokescreens. However when used as an incendiary weapon, WP — which ignites on contact with air and burns at nearly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (815° C) — can horrifically maim and kill by burning flesh straight through to the bone, often causing a slow, agonizing death. Water does not extinguish it.

On Thursday, the human rights monitor group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) tweeted video footage of what appear to be WP rounds exploding over eastern Raqqa, where US-backed Syrian fighters are advancing deeper into IS-held territory. US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the anti-IS coalition, would not confirm use of WP in Mosul or Raqqa but said American forces use it in “accordance with the law of armed conflict” for “screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures.”

“The coalition takes all reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of incidental injury to non-combatants and damage to civilian structures,” Dillon added.

WP and other incendiary weapons have been used by Syrian government and Russian forces fighting IS and other rebels in Aleppo and elsewhere during the course of the six-year Syrian civil war. US forces used WP during the 2004 battle for Fallujah and elsewhere in the ongoing 15-year war against Islamist terrorism. The US has also supplied key allies with WP, with Israel having been accused of war crimes in 2009 for firing WP rounds over densely populated areas of Gaza, including a United Nations school.

Tens of thousands of besieged civilians remain trapped inside Raqqa, including 40,000 children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Many are caught in the crossfire between advancing US-backed forces and well-entrenched IS holdouts. IS militants are killing civilians who attempt to flee areas it controls, while hundreds of civilians have been killed by US-led air strikes in and around the city.

Trump’s Heartlessly Hypocritical Response to Iran Terror Attacks

On Wednesday, Islamic State claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks against Iran’s parliament and the tomb of its former supreme leader that killed 12 people and wounded 42 others. The blood of the victims still hadn’t dried before President Donald Trump issued a press release offering backhanded, disingenuous condolences. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” Trump said, adding that “we underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” 

Hold it right there. First, there would be no Islamic State without the 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent eight-year occupation of Iraq. The overthrow of longtime dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime may have removed a brutal dictator from power, but it also upended decades of internal stability. The destruction of the secular Baath party opened the door for opportunistic politicians to stoke sectarian strife. Dissolving Saddam’s military left legions of battle-hardened officers and their troops out of work and seething. The US decision to favor Shiites, the country’s majority sect, and marginalize Sunnis further inflamed tensions. Meanwhile, the US-led war was claiming hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians’ lives, and the country’s once-thriving economy was devastated by years of war atop decades of deadly, crushing sanctions. Islamic State emerged from this cauldron of catastrophe, filling a vacuum created by Bush’s short-sighted policies and actions. While barbaric and even genocidal, IS was viewed by millions of beaten-down Muslims as their best hope for salvation.

I digress. My second point is that it is supremely hypocritical for Trump to suggest that Iran brought Wednesday’s terror attacks upon itself. Yes, the Iranian regime backs a handful of terror groups, mostly those fighting to liberate Palestinians from illegal Israeli occupation and colonization. But by its own legal definition, the United States is the world’s leading terrorist state, and one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism. While Iran hasn’t started an offensive war since the 1700s, the US has militarily attacked or occupied dozens of countries in 236 of its 240 years of existence, including every single year of this century.

While most Americans have been conditioned to not consider such actions “terrorism,” the law defines terrorism as “violent acts… intended to influence policy [or] to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction.” That, in a nutshell, describes nearly every US war in modern times. To the countless Afghan, Yemeni, Pakistani, Iraqi, Somali, Libyan, Syrian men, women and children who live and have lived in terror of US bombs and bullets, it doesn’t matter what we call it; they — and our own laws —  call it terrorism. Said the brother of a Pakistani killed in a US drone strike:

“Since the drone attacks have started, everybody is very scared and everybody is terrorized… People are out of business, people are out of schools, because people are being killed by these drone attacks… It’s brutality that we are undergoing and that needs to be stopped.”

If it kills like terrorism, maims like terrorism, disrupts like terrorism — if it terrorizes like terrorism, then call it terrorism. Since the nuclear terrorist attacks against Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States military has killed more innocent foreign men, women and children than any other armed force on the planet. It intentionally strafed refugees during the Korean war. It murdered, tortured and raped its way through Vietnam. It dropped more bombs on tiny, impoverished and non-combatant Laos than all the bombs dropped in World War II combined. It has killed hundreds of thousands in seven countries during its never-ending war against Islamist terrorism. As I write this US bombs are killing children throughout Syria and Iraq. America is fighting terror with even deadlier terror.

The US also prolifically supports the terror of others, and has for many decades. It absolutely boggles the imagination that Trump scolds America’s longtime NATO allies for not contributing enough to the fight against terror while lavishing praise — and weapons — upon Saudi Arabia, a brutal and tyrannical monarchy with one of the world’s worst human rights records and an ongoing history of supporting Islamist terror while visiting the terrors of the Earth upon the Yemeni civilians it is bombing with great ferocity. The US has also long supported anti-Iranian terrorists, including the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which has killed more than 15,000 people and is known for assassinations. MEK terrorists have been trained by US Special Forces in Nevada and have been embraced, mostly by Republicans, despite a history of murdering Americans. The US, along with Israel, has also been waging a covert war against Iran, especially its nuclear program, consisting mainly of terrorist bombings, sabotage, cyber attacks and the assassination of civilian scientists.

“Heartless” and “hypocritical” are words often used to describe Trump, but nowhere do they ring truer than in reference to his comments on Wednesday’s terror attacks. Yet perhaps Trump is right — but that would require acknowledging the US role in creating and supporting some of the same terrorist groups that later turn on it, as well as admitting that decades of aggressive, oppressive US policies and actions are a direct cause of anti-American terrorism — including the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. These are truths which the overwhelming majority of Americans remain utterly unable, or unwilling, to accept.

GOP Congressman Tim Walberg: ‘God’ Will Fix Climate Change, If It’s Real

Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record. Data sources: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. (Image: NASA)

A Republican US congressman told a town hall meeting of his Michigan constituents on Friday that he believes God will “take care of” climate change “if there’s a real problem.”

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) told the gathering in Coldwater, 130 miles (210 km) southwest of Detroit, that he thinks climate change is real but that humans do not have the ability to “change the entire universe.”

“I believe there’s climate change. I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time,” Walberg said. “Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.”

“Why do I believe that? Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us,” he continued. “And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

While there is no empirical evidence to support the existence of the Abrahamic deity figure who Walberg believes created and controls the universe, the international scientific community overwhelmingly concurs that climate change is real, that it is caused and exacerbated by human activity and that it poses a possibly irreversible and potentially existential threat to humanity. Fully 97 percent of climate scientists, as well as the national science academies of almost every country on Earth, agree. The Pentagon has warned that climate change is “an urgent and growing threat” to US national security that is “contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.” President Barack Obama declared in 2015 that “no challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Meanwhile, last year was the hottest ever recorded, as was the year before that, and the one before that.

However, President Donald Trump, who said he believes climate change is a “Chinese hoax,” is believed to be on the verge of withdrawing the United States from the landmark 2016 Paris climate accord, now signed by 192 nations. Trump has staffed his administration full of climate change deniers and skeptics, including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, who sued the agency he now heads 14 times when he was Oklahoma attorney general. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s leading carbon polluters — and a corporation which knew about human-caused climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences as early as 1977 but spent billions of dollars over the following decades on lobbying, misinformation and climate denial science.

Walberg isn’t the first Republican to invoke God when dismissing concerns about climate change. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who until January was chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, has repeatedly asserted that God, not humans, drives Earth’s climate. In 2010, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Economy, said only God can destroy the planet. “The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth,” he said during a congressional hearing. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”

Report: 200 Civilians Die as Coalition Air Strikes Pound Mosul

(Photo: mashleymorgan/Flickr Creative Commons)

Massive aerial bombardment carried out by US-led coalition or Iraqi warplanes killed “at least 200” civilians in besieged West Mosul on Tuesday, according to an Iraqi army officer and elected official cited by local and international media outlets.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reports dozens of homes in the Zanjili neighborhood of West Mosul were completely destroyed by the bombing, which lasted for several hours. Mosul City Councilman Mohammed Hassan said warplanes “carpet-bombed” the densely-populated urban neighborhood after Iraqi government troops failed to dislodge Islamic State (IS) militants from the area. Hassan lamented “the hysterical bombing of an entire neighborhood.”

An Iraqi army officer speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that more than 200 civilians died in the attacks. “It was not clear whether the aircrafts that carried out the airstrikes belonged to the Iraqi forces or the US,” the officer said. Most of the victims were reportedly women and children, many of whose bodies are still buried under the rubble. “The streets of Al-Jadeed, Al-Naseem and the old school are filled with smoke, and a number of houses have been leveled,” the army officer said. Journalist Othman Mukhtar tweeted of a “large massacre” with “bodies… everywhere.”

Hundreds of Zanjili residents, including many wounded people, streamed out of the neighborhood in the wake of the attacks. Many appeared to be severely malnourished; starvation has affected many Mosul residents, especially children and babies, as at least 250,000 civilians remained trapped inside the embattled city under the most dire conditions. While nearly 90 percent of Mosul has been captured from IS forces, the remaining Islamist militants are fiercely fighting against the US-backed Iraqi advance.

The situation could deteriorate further as the final push to retake Mosul accelerates. On Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis acknowledged that US forces are “accelerating the tempo” of the war against IS, in which the US is shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation.” He said further civilian casualties are inevitable. “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis — a retired Marine Corps general who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” while commanding the atrocity-laden battle for Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 — insisted, blaming militants’ use of human shields for many innocent deaths.

In the deadliest single US bombing incident perhaps since the Vietnam War, nearly 300 people died in a March 17 strike on a home in the Jadida neighborhood of West Mosul. US officials claim IS fighters used the hundreds of people sheltering in the building as human shields and booby-trapped the home to maximize death and destruction, however survivors vehemently deny the human shield claim. Many people blame the Iraqi government for instructing them to shelter in place during the fierce battle, others note that IS fighters are executing civilians who attempt to flee their areas of control.

While it is unclear exactly how many civilians have died during the battle for Mosul, the independent monitor group Airwars compiled casualty figures from media and monitors and says between 10,006 and 14,794 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have died in 1,415 separate reported incidents since the US-led coalition air campaign against IS began in August 2014. Of these, Airwars presently concludes that a minimum of 3,681 to 5,849 civilians are likely to have died in coalition attacks. There has been a sharp increase in the number of civilians killed and injured in both Iraq and Syria since Donald Trump entered office. During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters and kill their innocent families — a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Since entering office, Trump has loosened rules of military engagement designed to protect civilian lives, with disastrous results. He has also kept his promise to kill terrorists’ families — in one of the most recent, and deadly, US-led coalition strikes on Syria, at least 106 Syrian civilians, many of them relatives of IS militants, reportedly died in multiple attacks on Mayadeen. At least 47 children were among the dead. According to Airwars, US-led coalition bombing killed more Syrian civilians in the period April 23 to May 23 than air strikes carried out by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The previous month, US air strikes reportedly killed more Syrians than either IS or Russian forces, which have been fiercely bombing Islamist insurgents and innocent civilians alike in support of Assad.

The US has come under increasing criticism not only for the alarming number of civilians being killed but also for undercounting innocent deaths or denying responsibility for them. The Pentagon does not investigate most reported civilian casualties attributed to the coalition.

The vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during the country’s six-year civil war have died at the hands of Assad’s forces. However, in the wider war against terrorism waged incessantly by the US since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at least hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than 1.3 million people — the bulk of them Iraqis — have been killed in more than half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations.

Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II, the US military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

Mattis: More Civilians Will Die In US ‘Annihilation’ of Islamic State

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Trump administration was shifting from “attrition” to “annihilation” tactics in the fight against Islamic State. (Photo: USGLC/Flickr Creative Commons)

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US will escalate its bombing campaign against Islamic State, adding that civilian deaths are an inevitable result of the Trump administration’s policy of “annihilation” of the militant group.

Speaking on Sunday to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Mattis — a retired Marine Corps general who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” while commanding the atrocity-laden battle for Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 — said American forces are “accelerating the tempo” of the war against IS, in which the US is shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation.”

“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa,” Mattis said. “We’re not going to allow them to do so. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.” He warned that it would be “a long fight” and that innocent men, women and children would inevitably die.

“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis asserted. “We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can [to avoid harming civilians].”

Perpetrators of Islamist terror attacks have long cited US killing of innocents as a primary motivating factor. Salman Abedi, the leading suspect in the May 22 bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in Britain that killed 22 people, reportedly carried out the horrific attack to avenge the deaths of innocent people killed by US air strikes in Syria. Mattis referenced Manchester in his speech, but only as justification for keeping up the fight against IS.

Mattis insisted that “the American people and the American military will never get used to civilian casualties.” However, there has been little to no coverage in the US corporate mainstream media — especially on cable and network television news — of the dramatic increase in civilian deaths since Donald Trump became commander-in-chief. While campaigning for president, Trump vowed to “bomb the shit” out of IS fighters and kill their families, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Since entering office, Trump has loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians in the war against terrorism. As US forces assist Syrian rebels in the fight to capture Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria, and aid Iraqi allies in the battle for Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, civilian deaths and injuries have soared.

According to the independent monitor group Airwars, US-led coalition bombing killed more Syrian civilians in the period April 23 to May 23 than air strikes carried out by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The previous month, US air strikes reportedly killed more Syrians than either IS or Russian forces, which have been fiercely bombing Islamist insurgents and innocent civilians alike in support of Assad. In what is likely the deadliest incident in the nearly three-year US-led bombing campaign against IS fighters in Syria, at least 106 civilians, including 47 children, died in multiple strikes on the town of Mayadeen last week.

In Iraq, thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded by US-led and Iraqi air and artillery strikes on densely populated neighborhoods of Mosul and other cities and towns. At least 278 residents of the al-Jadida neighborhood of besieged West Mosul died in a March 17 air strike on home where hundreds of terrified civilians sought shelter from the fighting. As is the case in so many coalition air strikes, many of the victims were women and children.

The US has increasingly been criticized not only for killing large numbers of innocents but also for denying responsibility for some of its air strikes and for dramatically undercounting civilian casualties. Survivors of US-led bombings accuse the US military of lying about the number of civilians it kills. According to the Pentagon, air strikes have killed 352 Syrian and Iraqi civilians since the US-led coalition intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2014. This is far lower than the 3,681 to 5,849 Syrian and Iraqi deaths attributed to the coalition by Airwars. This disparity is partially explained by the fact that Pentagon does not investigate most reported civilian casualties attributed to the coalition.

The vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during the country’s six-year civil war have died at the hands of Assad’s forces. However, in the wider war against terrorism waged incessantly by the US since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at least hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than 1.3 million people have been killed in more than half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations.

Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II, the US military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

At Least 106 Syrian Civilians — Including 47 Children — Killed in US-Led Air Strikes on Mayadeen

Dozens of children and babies are among the hundreds of civilians killed in US-led coalition and Iraqi air strikes and shelling in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, mostly in and around Mosul and Raqqa. (Photo: Iraqi Spring Media Group)

In what is likely the deadliest incident in the nearly three-year US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria, 106 civilians — including 47 children — died in multiple strikes on a town in Deir Ezzor province.

The Los Angeles Times cites the independent UK-based monitor group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which reported US-led coalition air strikes pounded central Mayadeen, located along the Euphrates River about 27 miles (44 km) southeast of Deir Ezzor, on Thursday evening and Friday morning. Agence France-Presse reporter Maya Gebeily tweeted that 132 civilians died in coalition raids on Mayadeen over three days, with 15 people killed on Wednesday, 37 killed on Thursday and 80 killed on Friday.

SOHR director Rami Abdul Rahman told the Times the victims were relatives of IS militants residing in Mayadeen’s municipal building. A local activist said the strikes also targeted a nearby hospital converted into a residence by IS militants. “The forklifts are still removing the rubble and finding corpses in the area,” the activist, who identified himself only by his first name Khaled for fear of reprisals, told the Times. “The fire after the strike was so powerful that it spread to school buildings nearby. They only managed to put it out today.”

Rahman said the vast majority of victims were women and children. “In these two days alone, coalition airstrikes on the city of Mayadeen killed 47 children, and the rest of the victims… the vast majority were women,” he told the Times. “By what right does the coalition kill women and children, even if they are family of Islamic State fighters?”

While campaigning for president, Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit” out of IS militants and “take out their families” — a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Since Trump became commander-in-chief, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Syrian and Iraqi civilians killed in US-led and Iraqi air and artillery strikes as coalition forces engage in fierce urban fighting to recapture cities including Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest, and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria. According to the UK-based journalistic monitor group Airwars, US-led bombing killed more Syrian civilians than dictator Bashar al-Assad’s air strikes in the period from April 23 to May 23, the most recent studied.

The US military acknowledged bombing Mayadeen but as is usually the case Pentagon officials would not admit responsibility for the civilian deaths. “Coalition forces work diligently and deliberately to be precise in our airstrikes,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a US Army spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters. “Coalition forces comply with the law of armed conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”

Scrocca said the US goal “has always been for zero civilian casualties.” However, since the start of the anti-IS air campaign in 2014, Airwars says between 3,681 and 5,849 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have died in US-led or Iraqi government attacks, although the vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during the country’s six-year civil war died at the hands of Assad’s forces. In the wider US-led war against Islamist terrorism, death toll estimates range from the hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million. Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II, the US military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

The US has increasingly been criticized not only for killing large numbers of innocents but also for denying responsibility for some of its air strikes and for dramatically undercounting civilian casualties. Survivors of US-led bombings accuse the US military of lying about the number of civilians it kills. According to the Pentagon, air strikes have killed 352 Syrian and Iraqi civilians since the US-led coalition intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2014. This is far lower than the low-end death figure of 3,681 reported by Airwars. This disparity is partially explained by the fact that Pentagon does not investigate most reported civilian casualties attributed to the coalition.

The Mayadeen strikes came just hours after United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein strongly condemned the US-led bombing of civilians. “The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL (IS) are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates,” Al Hussein said. “Just because ISIL holds an area does not mean less care can be taken. Civilians should always be protected, whether they are in areas controlled by ISIL or by any other party.”

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