(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed)— According to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to the Independent, a prominent U.K.-based news outlet, more than 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the nine-month long battle of Mosul.
The Independent claims these documents show that residents of Mosul were killed by Iraqi ground forces, as well as by air strikes and ISIS fighters.
According to Hoshyar Zebari, who until recently was a senior minister in Baghdad, many bodies “are still buried under the rubble.”
“Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the federal police, air strikes and Isis itself,” Mr. Zebari added.
The monitoring group Airwars recently estimated that at least 4,000 civilians were still buried under the rubble in Mosul, but we will likely never know the exact number. Up until a month ago, the U.S. only had two personnel investigating casualties in Iraq and Syria full time.
Zebari also emphasized that the “unrelenting artillery bombardment by units of the Iraqi federal police, in practice a heavily armed military unit, had caused immense destruction and loss of life in west Mosul,” according to the Independent.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the Trump administration bears a huge responsibility for these reported civilian deaths. It was Trump’s decision to give extraordinary scope to his military generals to call in airstrikes with very little oversight that has led to an increase in bombs and widespread civilian suffering. Giving the Iraqi army the ability to call in airstrikes is also somewhat controversial considering they have a history of committing human rights abuses. One of the airstrikes called in by Iraqi forces killed almost 300 civilians in a single bombardment.
According to the Independent, even though Zebari’s figure of 40,000 civilians is higher than any other previous reports, the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional government “has a reputation for being extremely accurate and well-informed.” Zebari also complained about the levels of corruption that have plagued the Iraqi government and its military. It is for this reason that some soldiers would rather throw ISIS militants off rooftops than hand them over to authorities, where they would allegedly be able to bribe their way out of custody.
Further, as Amnesty International argued in a recent report entitled “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq,” a lot of the damage to Mosul was done by artillery shells and rockets. The evidence compiled by Amnesty appears to show a greater and more indiscriminate use of firepower by pro-government forces over the past six months, which wreaked havoc across the densely populated areas.
Given the U.S. was leading this Mosul campaign, the responsibility is on them to do their utmost to protect civilian lives.
If Zebari’s figures are accurate, one has to question if the price of “liberating” Mosul from a terrorist group that could barely kill three U.S. soldiers last year – let alone 40,000 civilians in a nine-month period – is worth it.
If a military and its associated forces kill over 40,000 civilians in such a short period of time, perhaps they are the real terrorists. They are more than likely war criminals, too.
Reprinted under Creative Commons.